Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A serious row about art

After years of sailing very close to the wind for my political outspokenness - first as an opponent of apartheid, then of the ANC's ineptitude and corruption - little did I know that the most vitriolic attacks on me in the media would come as a result of my views on, of all things, fine art. As noted in earlier postings of my media clippings, a concerted campaign to undermine my freedom to express my views on art as a reviewer, was waged by certain art academics. Now, six years later, it is quite interesting to reflect on a chapter in that sorry saga. It started with a small review buried on the arts pages of the Herald in Port Elizabeth on April 7, 2006 . . .  (To read these articles, hold down shift and left click and they come up larger. Click again on the image and it gets larger still.)

My review of the Biennial Exhibition at the NMM Art Museum, which caused all the trouble

This review of a book on San art appeared in the Herald's TGIF supplement on July 7, 2006

Maureen Quin, one of the Eastern Cape's foremost sculptors, had this letter published in the Herald on July 13. I don't think I have ever met her and this was totally unsolicited by me

I was doing these reviews in the mornings, since my work as a sub-editor and paginator on the Herald meant I only started my day job (which was a night job) at 3.30pm. Tossie Theron, owner of the then Cuyler Street Gallery, was a hard task master. She arranged exhibitions fortnightly, and I did my best to both preview and review them, as I did most of the other shows in the city. This one appeared on July 20. I was blissfully of what was around the corner

Encountered earlier in the NMM Art Museum newsletter (see earlier postings), Jeanne Wright, a local academic, took out the cudgels again and laid into me with this letter in the Herald of July 26, 2006

Well, it seemed to blow over, and another exhibition at Tossie's gallery was reviewed. This appeared on August 3, 2006

Then again, out of the blue, came this lengthy letter from the former director of the King George VI Art Gallery (now the NMM Art Museum), Clayton Holliday, which appeared in the Herald on August 11. Again, this was totally unsolicited. The headline reads: Reviews help readers assess own response to art. The piece continues below 

The concluding part of Clayton Holliday's article

Then this from the gallery's then spokeswoman, Sandy Thackeray, on August 16

And so, the excitement over, I got back to reviewing. This appeared in the Herald on August 17

I even ventured back into the NMM Art Museum. This also appeared on August 17

This appeared on August 31

And this on September 14, 2006

This appeared in the Herald on September 28. It concludes below

The final part of the review of the Hepburn show. 

I kept writing reviews until about the end of 2010, at which point I was ousted by new leadership on the paper. I don't know if they resented paying me the small amounts I earned for writing this stuff (which barely covered petrol costs) or whether they succumbed to pressure from what I can only call a feminist lobby desperate to ingratiate themselves with the new political elite, as self-serving and inept as they might be. Where has that left art in PE? Well since I stopped previewing and reviewing art, very little now appears in the paper. Wright has produced a handful of reviews which are generally bland and boring. Hardly the stuff to get people off their butts and into the galleries. 

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