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CIAF 2022 Comeback a stellar success

[by Pip Miller]


The award-winning Lockhart River Dancers giving their first performance at CIAF 2022's opening ceremony held last month at Cairns Convention Centre. Image: Blueclick Photography

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair’s (CIAF) return in July 2022 has achieved new art sales and attendance records along with a series of qualitative outcomes, heralding a bright future for Queensland’s quintessential celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture.


Within the larger and more user-friendly surrounds of world-class festival hub, the Cairns Convention Centre, visitors converged in their tens of thousands to enjoy the predominantly free program of events considered integral in the overall and record-breaking success.


Including satellite events and exhibitions held at arts and culture venues across Cairns, the highest ever attendance of more than 60,000 visitors was tallied between Wednesday 6 July and Sunday 10 July, up by 16.78 per cent compared to CIAF’s previous record of 45,410 visitors in 2019. 


Showcasing independent artists, galleries, art centres and market stalls, the Masters of Country themed Art Fair and Art Market, was a major contributor to art sales exceeding the one-million-dollar mark for the first time with a combined figure of $1,015,029 significantly surpassing the previous record of $924,000, also set in 2019.  


Added to this, CIAF’s Collectors and Curators group, comprising some 50 plus members, was responsible for acquiring several special works that will join the collections of museums, institutions and galleries across Australia including the Art Bank Australia, Art Gallery of NSW, National Gallery of Victoria and Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland Museum and Queensland Children’s Hospital.


In releasing CIAF’s sales and attendance figures today, General Manager Darrell Harris said that while numbers provide valuable information in terms of event programming and relevance, Queensland’s Indigenous artists and art centres rely on strong commercial outcomes for the industry’s survival and future sustainability.


In CIAF’s 13-year history, an IER report commissioned and published in 2021, estimated the broader annual in-scope benefits spanning both economic and social value amounts to be $10.9 million for Queensland and $8.3 million for Cairns.  In the organisation’s history, total art sales have exceeded $9 million; the majority of which has been returned to the state’s thriving arts and culture community.


“For artists and communities situated in the remote Cape York and Torres Strait Islands region CIAF is a significant event on the annual calendar that people look forward to and work towards.


“And while CIAF means different things to different people, it is the way it brings everyone together to celebrate culture and identity that makes us feel good and proud of what we do,” Mr Harris said.


Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch congratulated the CIAF team on the success of the 2022 event.


“The record attendance and art sales achieved at CIAF 2022 demonstrates the strong demand for First Nation arts and highlights the opportunity that Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games presents in celebrating First Nations arts on the global stage,” Minister Enoch said.


“The Queensland Government has supported this significant First Nation arts and cultural event since its inception to grow the sale and distribution of First Nations art and raise Queensland’s profile as an exciting destination for exceptional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and cultural experiences.


“Our Creative Together 2020-2030:A 10-year Road for Arts Culture and Creativity in Queensland, with a priority to elevate First Nations arts, outlines a clear strategy to strengthen First Nation arts in Queensland and acknowledges the critical role events such as CIAF play in connecting artists to markets and delivering vibrant cultural tourism outcomes in Queensland communities,” she said.    


CIAF Marketing and Communications Manager, Jack Wilkie-Jans said among the events in this year’s program, he cited the Symposium, Art Fair and We are Masters of Country fashion performance as memorable highlights.


According to Mr Wilkie-Jans, from start to finish, CIAF 2022 proved there is an increasingly strong appetite for immersive First Peoples arts and culture experiences. 


“What we have here in Queensland is so distinct from other states and territories because in terms of diversity we span both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.


“With so much new and exciting work coming through, the Art Fair was one of the best ever and with exhibitors like Simone Arnol, Bernard Singleton, Teho Ropeyarn and Wujal Wujal’s Bana Yirriji Art Centre literally selling every piece of artwork on their stand – well, you don’t get much better than that,” Mr Wilkie-Jans said.


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