Art & Design

Apr 28, 2017

No one dunnit: Australia’s greatest art forgery was … a fake.

A jury’s verdict overturned, a Crown case in shambles and two men convicted of forging and selling Brett Whiteley paintings set free. There is a book in the works, and no doubt a movie will follow - freelance journalist Angus Smith explains what went wrong.

Art dealer Peter Stanley Gant and art conservator Mohamed Aman Siddique were found guilty in May 2016 of forging and selling Brett Whiteley paintings to the value of $3.6 million. But it turns out they didn't forge anything.

The Crown had previously argued that Gant had purchased a real Whiteley, View from the Sitting Room Window, Lavender Bay (“the Brown Painting”) in 2007, which the prosecution then alleged Siddique used as a template for creating the three forgeries -- Blue Lavender BayOrange Lavender Bay and Through the Window -- sometime after March 2007.

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5 comments

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5 thoughts on “No one dunnit: Australia’s greatest art forgery was … a fake.

  1. Lord Muck

    Not innocent, just not proven guilty. So, Angus, will all these paintings go back on the market?
    Selling paintings sight unseen to people with too much money may just be the perfect crime.

    1. Matt Hardin

      The presumption of innocence means that if you can’t prove guilt the person is innocent. Scotland did have a “guilty, not proven” verdict in the past but I don’t know if it is still used.

  2. John Newton

    There was a dissenting voice. The artist’s wife, who pronounced them clearly fakes.

    1. Lesley Graham

      I can’t understand why Wendy’s evidence didn’t count for much more than this. If she stated they were fakes then surely that should be enough to question the veracity of these paintings.
      There is also enough technology around to determine when they were painted even where they were painted & by whose hand they were painted by.
      Something doesn’t sit right here. Sounds to me like someone in the Crowns area of art forgery didn’t do their investigation particularly thoroughly.
      Even if Gant & Siddique didn’t do the forgery’s (which surely they would have been able to determine if they were) who did? If Wendy is claiming they are fakes.
      Unfortunately the problem with Whitely’s work is, he is probably (as I understand it) one of the easiest of modern artist’s works to forge.

  3. Xoanon

    I keep wondering about the jury. Why were they so dead keen on convicting when even the judge had warned them about the dodgy quality of the evidence? Was the fact that one of the defendants had a Muslim-sounding name a factor? In this current paranoid, scapegoating age, it could be; though I hope not. Oh to have been a fly on the jury room wall.

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