Whiteley on Trial
Melbourne University Press, $32.99 pb, 360 pp, 9780522869231
It was the late Robert Hughes who said that ‘apart from drugs, art is the biggest unregulated market in the world’. Journalist Gabriella Coslovich quotes him in her account of the 2016 Whiteley art fraud trial, repeating the line to one of the accused, art dealer Peter Stanley Gant, as he complains to Coslovich about the ramping of certain artist’s prices, the avaricious nature of the art world, and his belief that its chief enthusiasts are tone-deaf in their tastes and wholly obsessed with making money. Never mind that it was a business Gant himself was routinely profiting from, as Coslovich points out to him.
Whiteley On Trial is Coslovich’s detailed and impeccably researched investigation into the Victorian Supreme Court prosecution’s attempt to prove that Gant and Melbourne conservator Mohamed Aman Siddique were engaged in a fraudulent enterprise. The pair was convicted in 2016 – in defiance of a Prasad direction from the trial judge to find the defendants not guilty – but later acquitted when the prosecution with-drew the case on the eve of the appeal.