Friday, July 22, 2005

Activism's Easy...Art is Hard

Former president of South Africa Nelson Mandella is embroiled in an art scandal, involving his own art no less. Well, perhaps "art" should be contained in quotes here.

I'm not being snobbish. The case centers on a series of lithographs that Mandella originally agreed to lend his name and reportedly his hand to (although there are indications that he had significant help) in order to raise money for two of his charities: the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. But how much his handiwork is involved in the prints is not the controversy (Hirst, Koons, etc. etc. anyone?). Rather, how the sales of the prints were being handled (mishandled) has led Mandella to sue his long-time confidant and lawyer Ismael Ayob and the publisher of the prints, Ross Calder.

In a nutshell, Mandella claims prints are being sold that bear forged signatures. With the works going for up to $10,000 a pop (with editions of 500, plus 50 artists proofs), that's some serious money. Mandella's new lawyer, George Bizos, claims up to $6 million is unaccounted for and the charities have yet to see any money at all.

The lithographs are based on simple drawings or collages of a photograph of the prison Mandella was incarcerated in, plus some added hand-drawn elements. The
Art Newspaper noted:

The South African publisher admits that Mr Mandela was “tutored” by Varenka Paschke, the granddaughter of Apartheid Prime Minister P.W. Botha, who ultimately released Mr Mandela from prison in 1990. An examination of the prints suggests a professional hand at work: the colouring is bold and freely applied. Most amateur artists would have done the job more neatly, by adding the colour right up to the edges of the black outlines, although this would have been less effective.
The South African online news site suggests the case might emerge as essentially a "he said - he said" affair, with Mandella misunderstanding the deal he had signed, but arguably everything about it being legal. The SA courts are sorting it out.


Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Man, the Dali debacle rears its ugly head again. People fall for fake limited editions like they fall for Republican propaganda. You just can't trust these things. I wouldn't spend a dime on one I didn't purchase from the artist.

Bill Gusky

7/22/2005 10:28:00 AM  

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