Authentic indigenous art a key drawcard for Spirit Gallery
In the search for authentic indigenous Australian souvenirs, finding a retailer where the artwork, handicrafts and instruments can be traced back to their creator is rare and special.
Spirit Gallery in The Rocks Centre is one of Sydney’s most trusted and reputable champions of indigenous Australian culture, working directly with the artists and Aboriginal community art centres to source high-quality, original artworks that are certified authentic. In many cases, products are sold with a photograph of the artist and even shots of the work-in-progress.
And while artwork ranging in size from massive canvases to smaller paintings dominates the floor stock at Spirit Gallery, the business has another equally impressive claim to fame as the one of the world’s leading retailer of high-end didgeridoos.
Spirit Gallery manager Reno Safarian says the store stocks around 300 authentic termite hollowed eucalyptus didgeridoos, hand-made by some of the most highly regarded didgeridoo makers in Australia. Orders and enquiries come from around the world for Spirit Gallery’s stock, which varies in price from $200 up to around $2,500 for professional-style instruments.
“We get a 50-50 mix of locals and tourists buying our didges,” he says. “We ship worldwide and of the ones that go overseas, the majority are bought by players from North America and Western Europe.”
Safarian – who has taught himself how to play the didgeridoo after more than a decade running Spirit Gallery – is kept busy updating the website with new stock, providing photographs and audio samples for prospective buyers to browse.
“It’s not like when you stock an item that you photograph once, upload and leave online indefinitely. Our didgeridoo and artwork stock is constantly moving and we document each one,” he says.
The store also stocks a wide range of boomerangs, t-shirts, bags, jewellery, books, music, ceramics and other assorted indigenous arts & crafts and indigenous-themed gifts. Almost all of the stock is either made or decorated in Australia, with links back to indigenous community centres.
Safarian became interested in Aboriginal artwork and craft via a souvenir store run by his mother in The Rocks. That evolved in 2002 into an indigenous crafts store called Spirit of Down Under, and then into Spirit Gallery in about 2005. It has been based in The Rocks Centre ever since.
The artwork ranges from $50 up to about $6,000 and covers traditional work from desert areas, as well as more contemporary, urban-influenced styles.
“We’re not a high-end art gallery, we stock from affordable up to mid-range,” Safarian says. “We provide certificates for our art and information about the artists, and encourage buyers to do a bit of research on Google, to ensure they are genuine. “One thing I have learned is that in this space, people want a guarantee of authenticity and to know that the item was ethically sourced. We work hard to tick those boxes.”
Shop 8, The Rocks Centre
Cnr Playfair and Argyle Streets
(02) 9247 5961