From the Archives, 1993: What Whiteley Wanted

Arkie’s former friend, Mr Christopher Kuhn, said the only traces were remnants of the tape he and Brett used to hide it.

The 1991 will allegedly left money to his mother, Beryl, and sister, Mrs. Wendy Hopkirk; paintings bequeathed to his old school, Scots College, Bathurst, and to Miss Spencer; providing funding for a bursary for young artists; and left the remainder of his estate “in its entirety” to Arkie.

Janice Spencer leaves court.

Janice Spencer leaves court.Credit: peter rae

However, the 1989 will stipulated that his studio at 2 Raper Street, Surry Hills should be made a museum and ordered that the remainder of his estate be divided into 20 shares. Twelve were for Arkie, three for Mrs. Hopkirk, three for Mrs. Beryl Whiteley, and two for Miss Spencer.

Arkie yesterday claimed the museum was a “divorce tool” set up by Whiteley to stop his former wife from getting his paintings. She said it was the idea of ​​his divorce attorney, Miss Carol Foreman.

When he visited her in London at Easter 1990, her father informed her that the museum would not open, Arkie said.

Whiteley’s former accountant, Mr Anthony Clune, said the artist told him in November 1991 that he had “changed his will again”. When Mr Clune suggested at their meeting that a lawyer look at the document, Whiteley replied forcefully: “I hate lawyers. They’re always kidding you.”

Set up as a museum... Brett Whiteley in his studio.

Set up as a museum… Brett Whiteley in his studio.Credit: Gerritt Fokkema

Ms Hopkirk said there was competition between Arkie and Janice. When she saw him on her farm near Orange, two months before his death, “he was exhausted, he was lonely, he was besieged by … relationships with the women in his life”.

Miss Spencer, who accompanied Whiteley to the farm to celebrate his birthday, said Brett told her at the time that Arkie and Wendy were “very hostile” towards her. “They really hate you and I have to deal with that animosity.”

He allegedly promised her, “If anything happens to me, you’ll be taken care of.”

Miss Spencer said she had a key to Whiteley’s studio in Surry Hills, as did Mr Kuhn.

Judge Powell asked if she had ever seen an envelope taped under the drawer in the kitchen. No, she didn’t.

I assume you didn’t take the document with you? – That’s right. I did not.


Mrs Beryl Whiteley heard after the death of her son that there were stories of another will involving Mr Kuhn. But to her, “it felt like the two were out together on a drunk night.”

The hearing continues today.

Although it was never restored, Judge Powell considered the 1991 handwritten will the one that best expressed his wishes, and consequently the big winner was daughter Arkie, who became a multimillionaire on May 14. The big loser was Miss Spencer, who received a single painting – a nude of hers entitled ‘Afternoon in Surry Hills’. Arkie Whiteley died of adrenal cancer in 2001. Janice Spencer died of a heroin overdose in 2000.

Justin Scaccy

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