Black Totem II sculpture stands on shaky ground

SPOTLIGHT: The Black Totem II sculpture by Brett Whiteley.

SPOTLIGHT: The Black Totem II sculpture by Brett Whiteley.

THE Black Totem II sculpture is back in the spotlight after Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon raised the matter in Federal Parliament last week.

She is concerned by the lack of agreement between the three major accounting organisations involved in the donation of the sculpture to Newcastle council by Wendy Whiteley.

Ms Claydon said PricewaterhouseCoopers, acting as consultants to the council, determined that the transaction recommended by art taxation specialists Lowensteins, was likely in breach of the national Cultural Gifts Program.

The transaction led to the dismissal of two senior council staff, including the gallery's director Ron Ramsey.

"It's an issue that may have broader implications for the Australian arts community," Ms Claydon said.

"The position taken by Newcastle City Council, acting on PricewaterhouseCoopers' advice, has effectively undermined the validity of Lowensteins' advice to both Mrs Whiteley and the Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation, and effectively questions the integrity of the broader Cultural Gifts Program."

She said only the Australian Tax Office could resolve the matter and called on the Commissioner to determine the issue as a matter of urgency and to make a public determination.

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