Photos of $1 million allegedly fake Brett Whiteley painting emerge during forgery case

This $2.5 million artwork, purported to be by Brett Whiteley, is now the subject of criminal charges.

More than 30 photos of artworks in the style of the late Brett Whiteley have emerged during a court case into art forgery in Melbourne.

The photos were taken between 2008 and 2010 by a man who was suspicious about the activities of Melbourne art conservator Muhammad Aman Siddique and reported him to police for suspected forgery in 2007.

Siddique was charged last year with gaining financial advantage by deception in relation to three Brett Whiteley paintings, worth more than $4.5 million, which are believed to be fakes.

Whiteley died in 1992, and the alleged fakes are believed to have been made between 2007 and 2010.

The Australian published some of the photos today, taken by Siddique’s colleague Guy Morel, after the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court approved their release.

They include a work known as Orange Lavender Bay, sold to Sydney car dealer Steven Nasteski for $1.1 million in 2009. After doubts emerged about its authenticity, Nasteski lodged a complaint with police, his money was refunded and no further action was taken.

The photos include a charcoal sketch which looks similar to the painting, taken in 2008, and another taken a week of the nearly completed work, with a Whiteley reference book beside it, as well as painting equipment.

Another Lavender Bay painting in doubt was sold to Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham for $2.5 million in 2007. Pridham took NSW Supreme Court action over the painting, but the matter was settled in 2013 without establishing provenance.

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 Australian says Morel told the Melbourne Magistrates Court he took the photos by peering over a wall into Siddique’s locked storeroom in Collingwood after becoming suspicious that forgery was taking place.

Both Siddique and Gant deny the charges against them.

Wendy Whiteley, the artist’s former wife, is set to give evidence today as the court considers whether the works are fake.

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