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SOUTH AFRICA. Goodman Gallery resists attempts at censoring the Brett Murray’s exhibition "Hail to the Thief II"
24/05/2012 09:26:11

Established Cape Town based artist Brett Murray returns to Goodman Gallery Johannesburg with Hail to the Thief II. This body of satirical work continues his acerbic attacks on abuses of power, corruption and political dumbness seen in his 2010 Cape Town show Hail to the Thief. In this sequel show, Murray’s bronzes, etchings, paintings and silk-screens form part of a vitriolic and succinct censure of bad governance and are his attempts to humorously expose the paucity of morals and greed within the ruling elite.

The Goodman Gallery Johannesburg has received a letter of demand from attorneys acting on behalf of the ruling party in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC), to take down the artwork titled The Spear, threatening a court application. The Gallery's attorneys have written to the ANC rejecting this demand.

Goodman Gallery Director Liza Essers comments that: "It is a sad day for South Africa when creative production is being threatened with censorship from our ruling party. While the views expressed by our artists are not necessarily those of the Gallery, we support our artists’ freedom of speech and expression and encourage them to show work that challenges the status quo, ignites dialogue and shifts consciousness."

The Goodman Gallery has a long history in South African art and has, from the outset, supported and encouraged artists to exhibit their works and express their views, despite the strictures of apartheid. It was involved in the seminal Art Against Apartheid exhibition in 1985 and held shows that spoke out against the repressive apartheid regime. Central to the gallery’s vision is the building and promotion of cultural activism and social commentary. South African artists developed a distinctive mode of artistic production during the era of resistance art and this ethos has continued into post-apartheid democracy, with contentious issues of current social injustice being powerfully confronted by both older and new generations.
Brett Murray has always been an artist who uses satire within his work to convey particular messages about socio-political conditions. For decades he has recontextualised familiar images and phrases in order to challenge perceptions and trigger dialogue. He began challenging the status quo during in the 1980s, when he was a vociferous critic of the apartheid government, and continues to do so. "We feel that Brett’s depictions of our country’s president and ruling party – in artworks that are typical of his oeuvre – are thought provoking, and have certainly stirred a dialogue in South Africa in the week since his exhibition opened," Goodman Gallery Director said.

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Image:  Brett Murray. The Spear, 2011. Acrylic on canvas, 185 x 140cm. Photo courtesy

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