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Third arrest after Zuma art attack

Jenni Evans

A third person was arrested for trying to deface the controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma in the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.

The Spear defaced. (Paul Botes, M&G)

He tried to spray paint the word “respect” on a wall, but only managed to get as far as “res” before he was stopped by a security guard and taken to the Rosebank police station.

There he joined two other people who earlier allegedly defaced the Brett Murray painting depicting President Jacob Zuma. The two were in custody on Tuesday at the Rosebank police station after they allegedly painted over the genitals on the artwork.

Meanwhile, both the City Press and Goodman Gallery are due to appear before the Film and Publications board to make submissions on their respective publication and exhibition of the Spear.
 
The FPB on Monday sent classifiers to the Goodman Gallery to assess whether the painting should be classified.
 
“Both parties requested a meeting with us before our report is finalised and we agreed to this. They felt as though they needed to make a submission so we will meet with them,” Mlimandela Ndamase, FSB spokesperson told the M&G.

According to City Press, the FPB announced on Tuesday that it has “acceded” to a request by the newspaper and the gallery to be heard before the body rules on whether the painting should be classified or not.

If the painting is classified as pornography by the board, it may only be exhibited in adult shops and the image of the painting would have to be removed from the City Press website.

Greg Palmer, attorney for the Goodman Gallery which is hosting the exhibition by the artist Brett Murray, said the gallery would lay charges of destroying private property against the men.

Earlier a television journalist working on a story about the painting, titled The Spear, told how she tried to stop the older man from damaging the work.

Iman Rappetti, eNews channel anchor, was in the Goodman Gallery in Rosebank, Johannesburg, close to the work when the man took out a pot of paint and marked an X across the genital area of the portrait.

She said she grabbed him, while shouting to gallery staff to come and help her. “It was surreal.”

Rappetti described the vandal as a completely “ordinary” looking critic wearing a tweed jacket.

Unbeknown to Rappetti the teenager was standing behind her with a large pot of black paint. The youngster started “going to town on the picture”, she said.

“I was screaming.”

Gallery staff apprehended both the man and the youth. The police arrived shortly afterwards and took them away.

Rappetti said the gallery staff told her the first man had identified himself as an Afrikaans journalist. He had visited the Goodman Gallery before.

“He did not sound Afrikaans to me,” she said. The public and reporters crowded outside the gallery, which closed.

Inside the gallery gate were three private security guards wearing bulletproof vests – with one guard carrying a rifle.

The painting was defaced as the court case in which the ANC sought to compel the gallery to remove the artwork began in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Eyewitnesses told the Mail & Guardian that two men painted a red “X” over the figure’s genital area and smeared the face and private parts with black paint. They were apparently locked in the guards’ hut before police arrived. The gates of the gallery were then locked.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said the court case would proceed regardless.

“Whether it is [defaced or removed] or not, it remains in the eyes of those who have seen it. This court case remains important,” he said. “And we have to make sure that people’s dignity is not degraded in such a way in the future.”

eNews footage of the vandalism

In the high court, meanwhile, the case was postponed until Thursday by judge president Phineas Mojatelo, who recused sitting judge Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane saying that a matter of such national importance required a full bench of three judges.

It was revealed at the hearing that Brett Murray had joined the Goodman Gallery and City Press newspaper as one of the respondents to the application by the ANC, President Jacob Zuma, and Zuma’s children. – Sapa

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