The former wife of artist Brett Whiteley was in Melbourne Magistrate Court this week, testifying that two artworks attributed to her husband are fakes.
Melbourne art conservator Muhammad Aman Siddique and art dealer Peter Gant are facing fraud charges over three paintings, which police allege Siddique painted for Gant to sell as authentic Whiteleys. Both men deny the charges.
Photos emerged this week during the preliminary hearing, allegedly taken in a locked storeroom used by Siddique, showing two of the paintings being produced.
One, titled Orange Lavender Bay, sold to Sydney car dealer Steven Nasteski for $1.1 million in 2009. He had his money refunded after the authenticity of the work was questioned.
Another painting in doubt, Big Blue Lavender Bay, 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.
The third painting, Through the Window, Lavender Bay, was offered as collateral on a $950,000 debt.
The Age reports that in court yesterday, Wendy Whiteley told the court “these are not Brett Whiteley pictures.”
“He didn’t paint these pictures. Whether Brett did a bad hair day-painting or was too stoned and it was a dead painting, they still didn’t look like there,” she said of the blue and orange Lavender Bay works.
Whiteley said she viewed the Pridham painting at his home in 2008 and had her doubts, and instantly concluded the orange painting was a fake when she saw it in the back of a truck. The paintings were “stiff, dead, wrong” and lacked the spontaneity of her ex-husband’s style she said. Even when high on drugs Whiteley’s “bad paintings” were not like that, said his ex-wife, who separated from the artist four years before his death.
Whiteley died from a drug overdose in 1992, and the alleged fakes are believed to have been made between 2007 and 2010.
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