Mandela painting stolen from SA-born artist in New York

The Johannesburg-born Mccreedy told the Mail & Guardian that 31 pieces of his artwork worth more than R2-million were also stolen, calling it "a bizarre" incident.

"It makes me very unsettled that this piece would go missing at this time, it's completely bizarre," he said referring to the fact that former president Nelson Mandela is fighting for his life in hospital. "It is sad that I can never re-paint an original."

Mccreedy, an artist and entrepreneur, arrived in New York last month to take part in Frieze Art Week, a large contemporary art fair.

Thieves broke into a private storage at the gallery and stole pieces that include Mccreedy's Mandela portrait worth R100 000, which he had already sold to a collector. The collector's insurance had the painting insured only if it was stolen in South Africa and not in transit. Mccreedy has since refunded the buyer.

Interpol has declared the Mandela artwork "priceless" until returned to the owner. It took him four years to complete the painting.  

The perpetrators left in their place a number of personal archives which included original photographs of famous musicians, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Mick Jagger. There are also images of the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. The New York Police Department is working with Interpol to trace the artwork.

"I have also hired a private investigator to speed up the process," said Mccreedy from New York.

Mccreedy is the youngest artist to have held a solo exhibition at the National Arts Club in New York City. A chance meeting with comedian Chris Rock's uncle got him an introduction to the president of the National Arts Club, where he later held a solo exhibition.

Mccreedy recently stirred up controversy with his "African Shack" Installation. Named the Mccreedy Mandela Shack, it uses the original fencing from Robben Island Prison, where Nelson Mandela remained for18 of his 27 years in prison. The controversial shack is on display this summer in Southampton, New York.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, art and cultural property crime is a booming criminal enterprise with estimated losses of the billions of dollars annually in the United States.

Mccreedy was last year rumoured to be dating American socialite and actress Paris Hilton. The two have been seen together in New York. He declined, however, to comment on this.

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Khuthala Nandipha
Khuthala Nandipha is a journalist for the Mail & Guardian. This involves writing about various social issues that develop and change on an hourly basis. Her interests are, in a nutshell, how South Africa and the world’s revolution affect the person on the street: “the forgotten voting citizens”, as she calls them. She loves writing, and taking photos as a way to complement her stories. She grew up on the south-east coast of East London in the Eastern Cape. She studied journalism at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. She is not new to Jo’burg, having spent the first eight years of her journalism career working for various newspapers and magazines there.

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