Riason Naidoo, director of Iziko South African National Museum, and his team are busy removing and packaging the Tretchikoff exhibition at the South African National Gallery. Picture: Greg Maxwell

Shanti Aboobaker

THE Tretchikoff exhibition, which drew record numbers to the Iziko National Gallery, has ended in acrimony as critics have slated the National Gallery and curator Andrew Lamprecht for hosting it.

Although final numbers will only be determined at the end of this month, it is estimated that at least 28 000 people visited the gallery since the exhibition began.

“An academic recently stated that Tretchi’s paintings ‘represent the worst kind of prejudice, voyeurism, crass racial stereotyping, sexism, cultural paternalism and white colonialism’ and I heartily concur,” art critic Lloyd Pollak said.

“His images of blacks are patronising, paternalistic and ethnographically inaccurate, and the artist’s female sitters are consistently turned into available sexual objects. One is thus forced to ask why on earth Iziko saw fit to glorify a fifth-rate artist and retailer of the most invidious colonialist bigotry, with a retrospective at the National Gallery,” he said.

Pollak’s comments come in the wake of a talk on Tretchikoff at the National Gallery on Tuesday.

Pollak was one of the speakers. He said yesterday he wanted to put paid to the myth that Tretchikoff was a gifted draughtsman.

“He was not. He was full of technical shortcomings and faulty anatomy, exceptionally clichéd and other (South African) artists painting during the 1950s painted African and coloured people with sympathy,” he said.

“(The exhibition) has resoundingly vindicated the judgment of the critics of the 50s and 60s who dismissed Tretchi’s work as excruciatingly vulgar and beyond redemption. The general consensus is that his style was crass and without technical or artistic address and his content vapid and maudlin. The ideas underpinning his paintings are of a heart-breaking banality and his work has no intellectual significance whatsoever.”

Lamprecht, the curator of the exhibition, said Pollak had interpreted Tretchikoff’s work based on assumptions. “His (Tretchikoff’s) work should be viewed in context. It should be viewed in the context of the time (it was produced). It is less racist than comparable South African artists.” he said.

Riason Naidoo, director of the gallery, said Pollak’s comments were “mischievous”.

Naidoo said Pollak’s presentations were meant to be “provocative”.

He said the artist’s work from the 1940s and 1950s was “quite strong in terms of painting”. “And his work was quite strong quite academic, and when I say academic, I refer to it being good draughtsmanship.” – Independent Cadet News Agency

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