Taking Photos, Copying & Appropriating Aboriginal Art

We get a lot of emails at info@kateowengallery.com asking permission to use images and symbols on our website, teachers asking about painting Aboriginal inspired artworks with children and artists who are inspired and wish to collaborate with Aboriginal artists! We’ve created this page as some general advice to follow, but we highly recommend doing your own thorough research and contacting appropriate agencies.


Artists Julie Nangala Robertson, Alma Nungurrayi Granites & Chantelle Nampijinpa Robertson painting at Kate Owen Gallery during an artist in residence program in 2015

Taking Photos

You will find most galleries have pretty tight guidelines when it comes to taking pictures of artworks. Due to the sensitive nature of some pieces, flashes need to be turned off so if you are unsure, please ask a staff member. Here at Kate Owen Gallery, we have carefully photographed every artwork in the gallery and have high resolution images on file so please don’t hesitate to contact us. When we have our artist in residence programs, it may also be tempting to take photos of the artists painting. Again, we ask that you please check with staff first – some of the artists are shy, or just really don’t want their picture taken while they’re painting!

Copying Aboriginal Art

As it states EVERYWHERE on our website – copyright for artwork images on this website belongs to the artists or their estates. Images may not be reproduced for any reason without express permission from the artist.

If you are a student wishing to use an image for an assignment or presentation, please get in contact with us.

Appropriating Aboriginal Art

Appropriation in art is essentially the intentional borrowing, copying and alteration of pre-existing images and objects.  It has existed in Western Art for a very long time, but when Aboriginal art and cultural images entered the contemporary art arena back in the 1970s, it brought up a lot of debate as to whether this was in fact ‘appropriation’ or ‘theft’. It still remains a very sensitive and hotly contested issue to this day. Non-Indigenous artists need to tread carefully when making use of Aboriginal culture, and do plenty of research on the topic.

Being Aboriginal is a lot about relationships; there is a certain way you deal with people. First and foremost, you show respect.  In any appropriation or collaboration project, make sure you show respect, sensitivity, and ensure that the benefits and rewards of the project are equal for both parties.

Class Activities

We get so many emails from primary school teachers and parents wanting to introduce their kids to Aboriginal art and culture which is great! A lot of Aboriginal Art is storytelling, and every community has a story to tell. We always recommend checking with your council if there is a local land council or cultural centre who may run fun activities, or if there may be some elders who would be happy to share their stories.


Artist Alma Nungurrayi Granites with visitors at the gallery during an artist in residence program at Kate Owen Gallery, 2015

Related Topics:

Sorry Business
Skin Names
10 Facts About Aboriginal Art
Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories - Jukurrpa