The conservator who created fake Brett Whiteley paintings that sold for millions of dollars was also an art sleuth who helped his clients uncover fraudulent works. Mohamed Aman Siddique helped prove a work was wrongly sold by an auction house as a Eugene Von Guerard painting.
In a character reference to the Victorian Supreme Court, which will sentence Siddique for fraud offences this week, Mr Bleasel, a former head of the Australian Antarctic Division, told how Siddique helped him chase a refund from the auction house.
Despite his doubts about the painting, Mr Bleasel had bought it after the auction house and two art dealers confirmed it as an authentic work by Von Guerard, a colonial landscape artist.
The painting needed cleaning and repair so Mr Bleasel sent it to Siddique. “He said that as he had strong doubts about the authenticity of that painting, he had started cleaning around the signature. That cleaning revealed that the signature had originally read ‘after Eugene Von Guerard’ but the ‘after’ had been painted over to make the painting more valuable.”
Mr Bleasel received a refund, but said the incident helped form his view of questionable practices in the Australian art industry.