Black Totem II
Brett Whiteley
cast steel, steel reinforcement bar and fibreglass
1100.0 x 45.0cm

Gift of Wendy Whiteley in memory of Arkie Whiteley through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2013. Assisted by James & Judy Hart and John & Valerie Ryan.. Newcastle Art Gallery collection


In 2012, when the Newcastle Art Gallery redevelopment looked as though it was certain to go ahead, the Foundation decided to support the acquiring of a sculpture for the forecourt of the new Gallery. This was going to be one of the 4 Icons that the Foundation was helping to fund to commemorate the much needed redevelopment.

In 2013, the acquiring of Black Totem II, became a possibility.

NAG was the first public Gallery to buy a Brett Whiteley painting (Autumn Abstract 1959, painted when Brett was only 20years old). The Gallery also commissioned Summer at Carcoar (1977) for the opening of the Newcastle Region Art Gallery in 1978. Black Totem 11, created by Brett Whiteley and completed by Wendy Whiteley OAM after his death, was considered a very fitting figurehead for the rebirth of a redeveloped Gallery and for the regeneration of Newcastle’s cultural precinct.

Black Totem II was residing at the end of Kent St, Walsh Bay, Sydney. The Newcastle community donated, through the Foundation, the monies needed for its relocation and on Saturday 2nd November 2013, at the opening of the exhibition Whiteley on Water, Wendy Whiteley gifted, in memory of her daughter Arkie, this magnificent work to the people of Newcastle.

Sadly the Redevelopment did not go ahead so Black Totem 11 now resides at the front of the 1978 built Gallery. However, at 11 metre tall, this 5 tonne steel and fibre glass sculpture looks perfect there and is much loved and much photographed.

It is a wonderful accompaniment to the many Brett Whiteley works in the gallery’s collection and is something of which Newcastle can be very proud.