WHITELY ON TRIAL – Gabriella Cosnovich

Whiteley on TrialWhen I receive new books (8 so far this week!) I usually read a couple of pages, flip through the book and then, if I feel I would like to read the book and follow up with an interview, I put it aside to be read closer to the date of the interview.

However, when I started reading Gabriella Cosnovich’s WHITELY ON TRIAL I just couldn’t put it down and kept on reading until I had finished…of course, making my usual copious notes as I read. I knew it would be several weeks before Gabriella was able to be interviewed and… to my horror… in the meantime, I have misplaced the book!!! And of course, all my notes!

I confessed this to her before we spoke on air and, fortunately, she seemed to find it flattering and has offered to send me a replacement signed copy!

This was a trial going back several years in which it was alleged that a Melbourne art dealer and another man had planned to paint several artworks following the theme of Whiteley’s Lavender Bay series and pass them off as genuine Whiteleys. These of course would have worth a small fortune!

A curious and observant employee spotted these paintings and other tell-tale items in a store room, which was usually locked. He shared this information and a second person took photographs (which appear in the book) of the paintings and the surroundings. (There are a number of interesting photographs of the characters involved, including a splendid one of Wendy arriving at the court dressed as though she were a guest at a Palace ball!)

With this evidence, and the positive assurance of Wendy, Brett Whiteley’s widow, and of other art dealers, that the works were certainly not his, the matter went to court, with a jury to hear the evidence.

Now this what I loved about Gabriella’s book… she was in the courts every day of the trials, faithfully recording the evidence and the reactions, not as an objective news reporter, but as a passionate art journalist. We share her head shaking and her eye rolling and her dismay at some of the evidence and the responses from the judge and the defence lawyers. She also pursued witnesses and others involved out of court and met them over coffee and conversation and, in every way, became deeply involved herself. (As we do in the reading!)

We agreed during our conversation that she had to be very careful.. and still must be .. about what she says that might be regarded as challenging legal opinions.

Those on trial were found guilty after the jury had voted that way, they were jailed for a short time, but then the case was returned to court, the judge overturned the jury’s decision ( a most unusual happening) and the men
concerned were judged to be not guilty. Case closed………

I thoroughly enjoyed both our interview and Gabriella’s book and promise you a highly entertaining and somewhat controversial read!

Ann Creber
The Good Life on 3MDR 97.1 FM, streaming on http://www.3mdr.com Live to air every Monday 3.00 -5.00 P.M.




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