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Film highlights 'enfant terrible' of Australian art world

Brett Whiteley film explores wild life of internationally acclaimed artist

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Brett Whiteley's painting "Opera House" is pictured after a Sotheby's media preview in Sydney in 2007.   © Reuters

SYDNEY -- Internationally acclaimed Australian artist Brett Whiteley died alone from an overdose of drugs, including heroin, in a seaside motel 70km south of Sydney in 1992. Coming to fame in the hedonistic 1960s, Whiteley painted Bob Dylan and shared a New York building with Janis Joplin. He lived and worked with fierce energy in wildly different parts of the world -- Italy, England, Fiji and Australia among them.

Actors Campbell Greenock and Jessica White as Brett and Wendy in a scene reconstructed for the documentary "Whiteley." (Photo by David Dare Parker)

Despite the abrupt end of his colorful life at the age of just 53, Whiteley left behind a huge body of work -- from sensual pen-and-ink nudes and delicate studies of birds to the huge art installation "The American dream," which includes a visually violent representation of a nuclear explosion. His best paintings now sell for millions of dollars, and his art has been acquired by major galleries around the world. In 2013, his painting "My Armchair" was sold in Melbourne to a private collector for just under 4 million Australian dollars ($3 million).

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