Fake Aboriginal artwork from Indonesia

In October 2018, a company called Birubi Art was fined by the Federal Court of Australia for selling fake Aboriginal artworks that were actually made in Indonesia.  Between 2015 and 2017, more than eighteen thousand (18,000) units of boomerangs, bullroarers, didgeridoos and message stones were sold to retail outlets around Australia by Birubi Art falsely labelled as “Aboriginal Art”, genuine” and “Australia”.   The Federal Court of Australia confirmed Birubi Art had “breached the Australian consumer law” and fined them AUD$2.3 million. This was an unusually large penalty due to the “serious cultural harm” to genuine Aboriginal artwork,“not just direct economic loss but a weakening of the value of the authentic products”. The belief is these were imported, perhaps smuggled into Australia from Indonesia.

Fake art in Indonesia is unfortunately well known. The Indonesian Fine Art Lovers Association (PPSI) concedes that replica art is acceptable as long it does not display a forged signature of the original artist or have the blessing of the artist’s family.  To address this issue, PPSI published a booked titled Melacak Lukisan Palsu (Tracing Fake Paintings) to address art forgery in Indonesia.  Renowned Indonesian artists such as S.Sudjojono, Hendra Gunawan and Lee Man Fong are among the most widely forged in Indonesia.