PhD Scholarship in ‘Authenticity and Trust in the Valuation of Australian Indigenous Art’

Quality of fine art works is important to the valuation of art as reflected in market prices; however, this attribute cannot be precisely measured.

This project will explore how authenticity and trust impact the market valuation of Australian Indigenous art.

Value and duration

$32,000 (plus fee waiver) per year for up to three years.

Number of scholarships available



To be eligible for this scholarship you must:

Other eligibility criteria:

  • completion of an honours or a postgraduate qualification in a business-related area is desirable but not essential.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates are encouraged to apply.
  • a minimum of 2-3 years of relevant experience in the arts sector is preferred.

How to apply

Submit your application including the following documents to Dr Janneke Blijlevens at

  1. A detailed CV;
  2. Certified copies of relevant academic transcripts from your undergraduate studies and postgraduate studies where applicable;
  3. Copies of any published or submitted papers where applicable;
  4. Proof of English proficiency if you are an international candidate;
  5. A research proposal outlining synthesis of relevant literature (see Additional information document (PDF 97KB 4p) for details), proposed research design and analyses techniques, and your unique contribution to this project;
  6. A separate document addressing the following key selection criteria:
    1. Excellent analytical skills and experience in applying methodological rigour in a field relevant to the project which may include: economics, marketing or another relevant social science.
    2. Understanding of Indigenous culture including awareness of relevant protocols.
    3. A minimum of 2-3 years of relevant experience in the arts sector is preferred.

Open date

Applications are now open.

Close date

Applications close 8 September 2017.

Terms and conditions

RMIT's standard research scholarship terms and conditions (PDF 327KB 10p) will apply to this scholarship. However note the allowances for this scholarship are specifically $32,000 (plus fee waiver) per year for up to three years and the additional allowances stated in the terms and conditions (PDF 327KB 10p) are not applicable.

Further information

This project will explore the impact that trust and authenticity have in terms of the valuation of Australian art works by Indigenous artists. The Indigenous art market represents a particularly relevant application for this type of study given copyright violations of Indigenous art and designs and also recent high profile cases concerning the attribution of art works by noted artists including Rover Thomas and Emily Kngwarreye that served to erode trust and which resulted in the development of an Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code of Conduct.

As a further consideration that informs this project is the appreciation that different systems of value underpin the creation of Indigenous art which may stand at odds with the established art market convention and social norms that influence value. For instance in art markets the reputation of an artist and the perceived authenticity of an art work’s attribution are vital signals in establishing a work’s credibility and its market value, yet in many traditional Indigenous communities a communal system of values informs behaviour including artistic practice and creation which can result in complexity identifying the artist (or artists) associated with a particular work. In order to explore the role that authenticity and level of trust buyers of art perceive in the art market and consider how this impacts the market value for art, the research is designed in three phases. Phase one involves art sales modelling using hedonic and repeat sales techniques. Phase two involves consumer culture theory and anthropological techniques. Phase three involves an economic experiment to investigate what factors influence trust in the Indigenous art context and how trust affects consumers’ valuation of art works.

Read the Additional information document for a full description of the project and key accountabilities (PDF 97KB 4p).

Seminal papers that may assist as a starting point for potential candidates to understand key literature that inform the project are as follows:

From a cultural economics perspective

  • Bonus, H. and Ronte, D. (1997) Credibility and economic value in the visual arts. Journal of Cultural Economics. 21:103-118.
  • Grampp, W. D. (1989) Pricing the Priceless: Art, Artists and Economics. Basic Books: New York.
  • Hodgson, D. J. (2011) An analysis of pricing and returns in the market for French Canadian paintings. Applied Economics. 43(1):63-73.
  • Van den Bosch, A. (2005) The Australian Art World: Aesthetics in a Global Market. Allen and Unwin: Australia.

From a consumer culture theory / anthropological perspective

  • Belk, R. W. and Groves, R. "Marketing and the multiple meanings of Australian aboriginal art." Journal of Macromarketing 19.1 (1999): 20-33.
  • Berta, P. "Constructing, commodifying, and consuming invented ethnic provenance among Romanian Roma." Museum Anthropology 34.2 (2011): 128-141.
  • Geismar, H. "What’s in a price? An ethnography of tribal art at auction." Journal of Material Culture 6.1 (2001): 25-47.
  • Steiner, C. B. (1995). The art of the trade: on the creation of value and authenticity in the African art market. The traffic in culture: Refiguring art and anthropology, 151-65.

From an experimental economics perspective

  • Berg, J., Dickhaut, J. and McCabe, K. (1995). Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History. Games and Economic Behavior. 10:1, 122-142.
  • Bianchi, M. (2015) Willingness to believe and betrayal aversion: the special role of trust in art exchanges. Journal of Cultural Economics. 39:133-151.


Contact Dr Bronwyn Coate for further enquiries.
Tel: +61 3 9925 1309