BEST Presents: Tim Fry


Understanding Australian Indigenous Art at Auction

Contemporary Australian Indigenous visual art has been growing in terms of both market share and critical acclaim since its naissance as an art movement in the mid-1930s. Indigenous art began to be recognized as a significant art form in the 1950s and in 2015 a stand-alone collection at Sotheby’s London was sold for AU$2 million reflecting the now global interest in this market. While the movement is defined in terms of the ethnic origin of the creators (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples) the styles of the artwork vary greatly from the traditional watercolours of the Hermannsburg School to the ‘dot’ paintings of the Papunya Tula artists of the Western Desert, among others. This talk represents our journey as a research team to better understand Australian Indigenous art that is offered for sale at auction. Using a database constructed from the Australian Art Sales Digest and publicly available data on Australian Indigenous artists covering the period 1969 to 2014 we apply empirical modelling techniques to seek to better understand why such artworks sell and, if so, what factors are associated with the “hammer price”. The talk is based upon four articles. It is non-technical and will focus on the roles played by pre-sale information (what is known about the artwork and the market prior to sale), the characteristics of the artist (including gender and language group), the characteristics of the auction itself and patterns over time. I will conclude by highlighting future research avenues for empirical, qualitative and experimental methods to broaden and deepen the understanding of the auction (secondary) market for Australian Indigenous artworks.

Note: this talk is non-technical and so is designed to be accessible both to practitioners, students and academics.

Further information available here [PDF]


Professor Tim R.L. Fry graduated with an honours degree in Econometrics from the University of Kent at Canterbury and a Masters degree in Econometrics from the University of Manchester. After some time in advertising research and market modelling in London, he returned to the University of Manchester to undertake a Ph.D. in Econometrics and has since pursued an academic career. He joined The School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University in 2003 as a Professor of Econometrics and was the Head of School between 2013 and 2019. Tim is particularly interested in applying statistical techniques to problems in microeconomics broadly defined. His recent work has been in consumer demand (allocation) models and in cultural economics. He specializes in the analysis of cross section and longitudinal survey data, compositional data analysis, measuring advertising effectiveness and micro-econometrics. Since joining RMIT, Tim has been a chief investigator on 5 Australian Research Council projects and has received research funding from industry and VicHealth to work on a number of research projects to build models to understand markets and/or to aid the decision-making process.


Location: QUT Gardens Point, Z Block, Level 10 Boardroom
Start Date: 28/08/2019 [add to calendar]
Start Time: 10.00am
End Date: 28/08/2019
End Time: 11.00am
RSVP By: Tuesday 27th of August 2019
Cost: No Charge - Sponsored by BEST Centre
Organiser: BEST Centre
Enquiries: To register, please email Annita Nugent (