One of South Africa’s most well-known documentary photographers David Goldblatt, the ‘featured artist’ of this year’s FNB Joburg Art Fair, opened his talk at the fair today by speaking out against the fair’s banning of one of the exhibiting artists’ paintings.
The painting by Ayanda Mabulu reportedly depicts South African President Jacob Zuma and is themed around last year’s police shooting of miners in Marikana.
Goldblatt – an outspoken defender of the democratic rights of free speech and freedom of expression in South Africa – previously protested against censorship of another controversial painting of Zuma, The Spear, by Brett Murray. It was exhibited, and defaced, at the Goodman Gallery last year.
The photographer says it doesn’t matter who or what a painting is depicting, nor its quality, but that art fair organizers shouldn’t be censors. “To me the important thing is you banned a piece of work. You can’t do that when you invite artists to exhibit their work … because it might offend someone … perhaps in government… That’s the cost of art,” Goldblatt told photographyanddemocracy.com
At a press conference on the matter, Ross Douglas, director of art-fair organizer Artlogic explained why Mabulu’s painting was taken down before the opening. Douglas said the attention the painting was getting was not in the art fair’s interest.
“Paintings of Jacob Zuma always get attention. We felt it’s not the attention that helps the FNB Joburg Art Fair at this point,” said Douglas. “I don’t want this to be the central issue of this FNB Joburg Art Fair. It should be about African galleries showing for the first time.”