Whiteley on Trial
by Gabriella Coslovich
Pub Date 02 Oct 2017
It was a cause célèbre: the biggest case of alleged art fraud to come before the Australian criminal justice system, a $4.5 million sting drawing in one of the country's most gifted and ultimately tragic artists, Brett Whiteley, a heroin addict who died alone in 1992.
It started with suspicions raised about artworks being produced in the style of Whiteley in a Melbourne art restorer's studio. Secret photographs were taken as the paintings took form.
A jury finds two men guilty of faking Whiteleys, but a year later the appeal bench sensationally acquits them. The paintings are returned to their owners, leaving the legitimacy of the artworks in limbo. Whiteley on Trial investigates this remarkable case and exposes the avarice of the art world, the disdain for connoisseurship and the fragility of authenticity.
Gabriella Coslovich is a Melbourne journalist with more than 20 years experience, including 15 years at The Age newspaper
where she specialised in arts writing and developed an extensive
network of contacts in the arts world. She was writing about the three
dubious Whiteley paintings five years before the case reached the
criminal court system. Art dealer Peter Gant sued The Age for
defamation for her efforts—the case was resolved confidentially. She was
also the first journalist to gain an exclusive interview with Tasmanian
art collector and gambler David Walsh, and revealed his plans to create
the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart.