Cooee Art, Sydney, has been a member of the Aboriginal Art Association of Australia since its inception in 1999. We caught up with Managing Director and co-owner of Cooee Art, Mirri Leven, to get the inside scoop on their new Sydney art space.
Tell us about Cooee Art.
'Cooee Art was started by Adrian Newstead OAM back in 1981. It's Australia's oldest exhibiting Indigenous Art Gallery with an incredible network of collectors, industry contacts, communities and artists from across the globe.'
'Cooee Art specialises in exhibiting emerging artists alongside artworks from artists whose pieces have been valued and sold on the market before, known as the secondary art market. We consign artworks by the industry's leading Aboriginal Artists from private collections all over the world.'
What drives your passion for Aboriginal Art?
'I love what I do. I love working with artists, and it's a privilege to help showcase their art to the world. It's an ever-changing landscape in Aboriginal Art, so no day is the same, and it's that joy of discovery that drives me to work every day.'
'I remember when I first fell in love with Aboriginal Art. I'd been working at Cooee Art Gallery as a gallery assistant for about three months, and as I walked up the stairs in our Bondi Gallery, I saw a large black and white painting by the late, great, Gloria Petyarre. That one artwork opened my world to the depth and beauty of Aboriginal Art.'
'From that day forward, I was fortunate enough to work alongside Adrian, learning as much as I could about the Aboriginal Art Industry. In 2015, he made me his business partner and Cooee Art's CEO.'
What's a memorable achievement for Cooee Art?
'It has to be selling Emily Kame Kngwarreye's Earth Creation 1 painting for $2.1m in our first ever Indigenous Fine Art auction in 2017, breaking the record for the highest price achieved by an Australian female artist. This sale set Aboriginal Art firmly within the best of Australian Art.'
What exhibitions have you got coming up?
'We have a few exciting solo exhibitions planned for the second half of 2021, and we always participate in the Sydney Contemporary. It's an excellent opportunity to showcase Aboriginal Art alongside contemporary International and Australian galleries.'
What's the biggest challenge at the moment?
'The ever-changing global economic environment continues to create challenges, particularly for Australian Indigenous artists wanting access to safe, clean and ethical representation. We will continue to educate the next generation of art buyers so artists and the industry that supports them can continue to thrive.'
'I'm encouraged to see buyers choosing Art that's beautiful and ethically sourced. It's opening up a critical conversation, and with it greater exposure, that's seeing more people opening their homes to the beauty of Australian Aboriginal Art.
Who's your typical art buyer at Cooee Art?
'We're continually amazed by the ever-evolving demographic of visitors coming through our gallery doors. Despite the pressure Covid-19 has put on the industry, it's been encouraging to see increased engagement and sales through local and national Australian buyers.'
What's your advice to anyone looking to buy Aboriginal Art?
'Indigenous Art can seem like a daunting maze to the uninitiated, but it's easy to simplify. As with any art, the beauty of an individual piece attracts a buyer. Its financial value depends on how well known the artist is, the quality of the artwork and the documentation that accompanies the sale.'
Over the last 30 years, the most significant Indigenous artworks have increased in value markedly, but not all Art is considered 'collectable'. Prudent buyers seek the best advice before making a purchase, so they not only get an enormous amount of pleasure from living with a piece of the world's oldest continuous living culture, they can rest assured their investment is secure.'
To find out more about Cooee Art and their upcoming exhibitions visit www.cooeeart.com.au.