Johanna Leggatt reviews 'Whiteley on Trial' by Gabriella Coslovich

Johanna Leggatt reviews 'Whiteley on Trial' by Gabriella Coslovich

Whiteley on Trial

by Gabriella Coslovich

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.

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Johanna Leggatt

Johanna Leggatt

Johanna Leggatt is a Melbourne-based writer and journalist. She has a master of arts from the University of Queensland and was a former online health editor on London’s The Daily Telegraph and sub-editor on The Guardian. She has also previously reported on court cases for Australian Associated Press (AAP) and was a news and features journalist on The Sun-Herald in Sydney.

Published in November 2017, no. 396