The Whiteley phenomenon – why a painter has impacted theatre, opera and film

Brett Whiteley is no longer exclusive to the visual arts, but has become part of Australian mythology. ArtsHub speaks with those involved in creating this landscape of memory, to ask: why now?

Brett Whiteley, Self portrait with reading specs, 1991 (detail) brush and black ink, 46.1 x 31.7 cm Brett Whiteley Studio Collection © Wendy Whiteley Photo: AGNSW

He died of a heroin overdose in a somewhat mediocre coastal motel, and yet his legacy thrives: on the walls of great art museums across Australia and beyond. More than just an artist, Brett Whiteley has become a legend.

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Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina