Wendy Whiteley OAM (she/her) is a cultural icon, guerilla gardener, designer and philanthropist. She has lived at Lavender Bay for more than 50 years, the first two decades with her husband, the artist Brett Whiteley, and their daughter Arkie.
Born Wendy Julius, she is the great-granddaughter of CY O’Connor and granddaughter of Sir George Julius, both influential engineers, and the great-niece of Kathleen O’Connor, a painter who divided her time between Perth and Paris. She attended the National Art School in Sydney before leaving Australia to accompany Brett in London, New York and then Fiji. They returned to Sydney in late 1969 and settled in Lavender Bay. Their home, both the interiors and the views outside, deeply informed the direction of Brett’s most popular work throughout the 1970s and beyond.
Following the deaths of Brett in 1992 and Arkie in 2012, Wendy turned her attention to the abandoned piece of bush in front of her home, gradually transforming it into one of Sydney’s most beloved green spaces. The NSW Government later granted heritage status to the Whiteley house and granted a long-term lease to secure the future of the garden, now known as Wendy’s Secret Garden.
She was the co-curator of the Brett Whiteley retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1995, one of the dozens of exhibitions she has curated both in Sydney and interstate, and continues to oversee both the garden and the Whiteley estate. In 2022 she announced major bequests to the Art Gallery of NSW and the National Art School, naming both gifts after herself and Arkie.