ANC turns to court to have painting removed

Johannesburg - The ANC has launched an urgent court application to try and stop the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg and the City Press newspaper from displaying a painting of President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.

“The African National Congress has tonight served court papers to Goodman Gallery and the City Press newspaper respectively,” ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.

Artist Brett Murray's The Spear has offended the ANC. Image: Courtesy of the Artist and the Goodman Gallery. Credit: Artist and the Goodman Gallery

“These court papers are seeking to interdict both parties from displaying and exhibiting on their website or any other platform including the online channels the offensive and distasteful so-called portrait.”

The hearing would be held at the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday, said Mthembu.

“We resorted to this urgent court application because our plea to both the parties... of removing this offensive so-called portrait fell on deaf ears.

An urgent application to the High Court was then the last resort,” he said.

The 1.85m-high painting titled “The Spear” is part of Cape Town artist Brett Murray's “Hail to the Thief II” exhibition at the Goodman Gallery.

On Thursday, the ANC sent the gallery a lawyers' letter demanding its removal.

Gallery spokeswoman Lara Koseff said its lawyers had responded that the picture would stay until the show was over.

“We feel it is censorship to take the image down,” said Koseff. She said Zuma had not been to see the work.

The ANC also wanted the newspaper to remove the picture from its website, but it also refused and said it would leave this to a court to decide.

Mthembu said the removal of the painting would ensure that the violation of dignity, reputation and integrity of Zuma would stop immediately.

“It is our view that the continued display and exhibition of this so-called portrait will continue to be an affront to the dignity and the privacy of President Zuma in all his capacities.”

He said Zuma's right to human dignity and privacy was protected and guaranteed by the Constitution.

The painting was widely condemned on Friday by, among others, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, the presidency, the Congress of SA Trade Unions, the African Christian Democratic Party and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union. - Sapa