A Melbourne art conservator is facing four charges in Melbourne Magistrates Court over three Brett Whiteley paintings, worth more than $4.5 million, which are believed to be fakes.
Two of the paintings have been part of long-running disputes over their authenticity, including a blue painting of Lavender Bay sold to Sydney Swans Andrew Pridham for $2.5 million in 2007. Pridham previously launched NSW Supreme Court action over the painting, but the matter was settled last year without the provenance of the painting being established.
Art conservator Muhammad Aman Siddique, 62, has been charged with gaining financial advantage by deception over that work, as well as a $1.1 million painting titled Orange Lavender Bay, and a $950,000 work titled Through the Window Lavender Bay.
The paintings were allegedly painted by Whiteley in 1988, four years before his death, and police allege the offences occurred between 2007 and 2010.
The Orange Lavender Bay painting was sold to Sydney car dealer Steven Nasteski in 2009. Doubts about its authenticity emerged a year later and Nasteski lodged a complaint with police and his money was refunded before the matter progressed any further.
Art dealer Peter Gant is also facing fraud offences over the paintings, with police alleging Siddique produced the artworks for Gant to sell as authentic Whiteleys.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Crown prosecutor Tom Gyorffy, QC, alleged in court yesterday that said Siddique “manufactured” the paintings at his Collingwood premises.
Police had searched Siddique’s properties in Collingwood and Templestowe in March, seizing a number of paintings by Australian artists such as Charles Blackman, Arthur Streeton, Fred Williams and Howard Arkley.
Some of the paintings were subsequently returned. Another, by Arkley, who died in 1999, is being tested for its chemical composition to determine if it could be a fake.
Siddique has launched Supreme Court for damages over the police raids.
This latest matter is due to return to court in mid September.
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