The Brett Whiteley Studio, a tribute to the life of Brett Whiteley, one of Australia’s most gifted, best known and controversial artists, is to close on April 30.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales, who manage the Brett Whiteley Studio, announced on Wednesday during a special press conference that after 15 years of financially supporting the artist’s former studio – known to AGNSW staff as “the white elephant” – the AGNSW could no longer afford the costly and seldom visited Surry Hills space.
Wendy Whiteley said: “Brett would have been thrilled that his former studio is to be closed. His creative spirit, wherever it may have been, was never to be found in the dusty recreation of my late former husband’s detritus. I hope many people will realise that those of us who have spent the better part of our lives cashing in on the late artist’s career have finally come to the realisation that, no matter how well intentioned the Studio may have been, it was all a ghastly mistake.”
The artist bought the former warehouse in 1985 and converted it into a studio and exhibition space. He lived there from 1988 to 1992, the year he died in Thirroul. In 1993 the New South Wales Government purchased the building together with ten Whiteley paintings. The Brett Whiteley Studio was opened to the public in 1995.
Very few changes had been made to the building since Whiteley was in residence. The furniture, lighting, collections of memorabilia, postcards, photographs, objects were all as he arranged them. The music that was played at the studio during opening hours was from Brett’s collection. The upstairs area was scattered with sketchbooks, paint and unfinished paintings, reference books, and walls covered with graffiti including inspiring quotes and images. Many visitors to the gallery reported feeling a cold sensation along their spines.
Downstairs, the gallery space featured a series of changing exhibits of the artist’s work together with others focusing on different aspects of Whiteley’s work. The studio was also home to the annual Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship exhibition and award. Very few people attended such exhibitions and baulked at the $12 entry fee.
Mr. Capon, looking visibly relieved at a post press conference party, said “Many have asked over the years why the Art Gallery of NSW was using its limited budget to keep open what was little more than a bad taste mausoleum… and it was a question that many of us struggled to answer.” Pressed further Capon commented, “Wendy Whiteley has an uncanny ability to persuade people to see things her way… and that includes the use of public money and public land for her personal use. Well, that’s all over now.”
The Studio will remain open until the end of April, after which it will be sold to the highest bidder. Meanwhile, Wendy Whiteley will tend her secret garden full time.
Brett Whiteley Studio,
2 Raper Street, Surry Hills,
Parking in the surrounding streets is difficult.
We advise visitors, out of consideration for local residents, not to park in Raper, Davies or Esther Streets.
(02) 9225 1744 or (02) 9225 1881
For education group bookings telephone (02) 9225 1740
Saturdays & Sundays only, 10am to 4pm
Free of charge
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney NSW 2000
Telephone (02) 9225 1744 or Toll Free 1800 679 278.