Two men have been found guilty of selling forged paintings supposed to be made by renowned Australian artist Brett Whiteley for $3.6 million, which is now considered the biggest art fraud committed in Australia.
Peter Gant, an art dealer, and Mohamed Aman Siddique, an art conservator, have allegedly pursued a business venture wherein they created paintings in the style of the late painter, who died of a heroin overdose in 1992.
The Whiteley artworks that Siddique painted in his studio at Easey Street, Collingwood in 2007 are “Blue Lavender Bay,” “Orange Lavender Bay” and “Through the Window.
Gant then sold these paintings to unsuspicious buyers and passed them off as original 1988 Whiteley paintings, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Sydney Swans chairperson Andrew Pridham bought the Blue Lavender Bay painting for $2.5 million the same year it was painted, while luxury car dealer Steven Nasteski purchased the Orange Lavender Bay painting for $1.1 million.
As for the third painting “Through The Window,” the Crown claimed that Gant offered it for sale for $950,000.
During their month-long trial, Whiteley’s former wife Wendy attested that she sensed that something was amiss when she saw the Blue Lavender at Pridham’s Mosman home in April 2008.
Ms Whiteley noted that the Blue and Orange Lavender Bay paintings were inconsistent with the works of her late former husband, explaining that she saw that the latter painting lacked spontaneity, wit and spirit.
Gant’s defence counsel Trevor Wraight countered that it was possible that Ms Whiteley would be unfamiliar with some of her husband’s work because they lived separately between 1987 and 1988 while she went to London to go to rehab for a heroin addiction.
Wraight added that his style changed since their divorce. But Ms Whiteley, who holds the copyright for the late artist’s works, that her knowledge of her husband’s works never faded even after they split up.