Brett Murray the third artist vandalised this year

2012-05-23 00:00

VANDALISM of art is not unique to South Africa, although at least three South African artists have recently been victims — Brett Murray, whose depiction of President Jacob Zuma was defaced yesterday; Durban artist Andries Botha, whose elephant statues in Warwick Triangle were daubed in red paint on Saturday; and Angus Taylor, whose public artworks in Stellenbosch were severely damaged in March.

Toby Orford, the lawyer representing Botha, said he had been notified about the damage, which marked yet another case of eThekwini failing to meet its obligations in terms of the protection of public art in the city.

The artwork was commissioned at a cost of R1,5 million as part of city beautification for the World Cup. However, construction was halted after the ANC said the elephants symbolised the Inkatha Freedom Party. Botha is still owed R250 000 by the city council.

Other prominent works to be targeted over the years include Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, which was severely damaged in 1956 when the lower part of the painting was doused with acid.

The painting, which is now behind a protective layer of thick glass at the Louvre in Paris, was also sprayed with red paint in 1974 by a hadnicapped woman protesting about the Tokyo National Museum’s policies about disabled people when the painting was on show there.

In 1970 the Cleveland Museum’s version of Rodin’s The Thinker was irreparably damaged by a pipe bomb.

Rembrandt’s Night Watchat the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has been vandalised on several occasions. In 1911 an unemployed navy cook tried to cut it with a knife, and in 1975 an unemployed school teacher cut dozens of zig zag lines in the canvas. The painting was restored but traces of the cuts remain. Then in 1990 a man threw acid at the work.

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen has been damaged and defaced many times. In 1964 the statue’s head was sawn off and stolen by politically orientated artists.

It was never recovered and a new head had to be made. Paint has also been poured over the statue several times and in 2006 a dildo was attached to the hand.

Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, was targeted in 1974 by a Tony Shfrazi, who sprayed “Kill Lies All” in red paint on the work.

He was ostensibly protesting Richard Nixon’s pardon of William Calley for the latter’s actions in the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War.

Michelangelo’s La Pieta, which is housed in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, was attacked in 1972 by a mentally disturbed geologist named Lazlo Toth, who attacked the statue with a hammer while yelling: “I am Jesus Christ”.

He chipped the Virgin Mary’s left eyelid, neck, head, veil and left forearm. The sculpture is now protected by bulletproof glass. — Wikipedia.

• arts@witness.co.za

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