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A 45-minute wait at the entrance of the Goodman Gallery ended in disappointment for a Waterkloof couple when they were asked to leave after two men defaced the painting representing President Jacob Zuma with exposed genitals.
Dennis Hamer, a Pretoria businessman, and his wife, Linette, were in the front of the queue waiting to enter the gallery when the two men struck. “We could see there was a commotion inside the gallery and then one security guard yelled at the other: ‘They have paint. How could you have missed it?’
“The security guard looked confused. We were not too sure what was happening but expected it had to have something to do with the painting. It was only when a security guard dragged a man to the entrance that we realised that something had happened to the painting,” Linette said.
The Hamers had decided to visit the gallery on Tuesday to see the painting and see “what the fuss was about”. While waiting to enter the gallery, they found themselves among locals, foreigners and visitors from across the country – all wanting to see the controversial painting known as The Spear.
“There was a couple from Austria and Italy in the queue. The Austrian couple said they had been to the gallery before and wanted to visit it again because it was such an exceptional exhibition,” she said.
Hamer said a security guard searched every visitor, and only two visitors were allowed in at a time.
“It was only when the security guard dragged one of the men outside that I realised he (the suspect) had been standing in front of us in the queue. The two men were standing next to each other.
“The security guard tied the man’s hands behind his back and dragged him to the guard house next to the gallery. The man looked a little bewildered and the security guard grabbed his genitals and gave them a squeeze. A few minutes later security dragged another man to the guard house,” she said.
Hamer said the doors of the gallery were closed immediately and they were asked to leave.
The gallery could not be reached on Wednesday via telephone or e-mail.
The Spear was defaced on Tuesday when one of the men drew a red cross across Zuma’s face and another across his genitals. The second man stepped in moments later, smearing black paint – with his hand – across Zuma’s face and upper and lower body. The two men, aged 58 and 25, were arrested and charged with malicious damage to property.
The gallery – which has been in the spotlight over the past week for exhibiting The Spear – opened 32 years ago. It was established by Linda Goodman in 1966 and, according to its website, its aim was to encourage contemporary SA artists to exhibit their work, despite the strictures of apartheid.