Sculptor Michael Elion, who created the artwork Perceiving Freedom on the Sea Point Promenade in Cape Town, has laid criminal charges against three fellow artists he claims are threatening him on Facebook.
“There’s no place for violence whether it’s pointed at me or my sculpture,” Elion said in response to what he claimed was a ‘threat on his life’ by artist Hermann Niebuhr.
Earlier today, Elion laid criminal charges against Niebuhr for his post on fellow artist Candice Breitz’ Facebook page.
Niebuhr wrote: “Tell that charlatan Michael Elion, we’re sending a Joburg street fighter Stephen Hobbs down to settle this.”
Elion’s sculpture, Perceiving Freedom, has been slammed by the art world this week for being overtly commercial. The work was sponsored by Ray-Ban and takes the form of a giant pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses.
Another criticism has been that Elion exploited the hardship of former President Nelson Mandela who wore a similar pair of sunglasses while incarcerated on Robben Island, while working in the lime quarry which caused him to develop cateracts.
Although Niebuhr wrote the post, Elion has laid a complaint of incitement to violence not only against Niebuhr but against Hobbs and Breitz too.
The complaint was laid at the Sea Point Police Station this afternoon.
It is unclear, however, why he has laid charges against the other two artists as Hobbs appears to have done nothing more than be mentioned in Niebuhr’s comment, and Breitz’s Facebook wall hosted the argument.
Hobbs said yesterday evening that he had no idea what was going on.
“This is a soap opera,” he said.
Elion, who in an interview on Cape Talk this afternoon compared the recent controversy surrounding his sculpture with the Rwandan genocide, sounded shaken on the phone at around 6pm.
“I’m not saying it equates similarly (to the Rwandan genocide) but it’s this base instinct, this mass hysteria that fans the flames of a work that was meant to unite people.”
For Elion, the threats have brought back memories of another incident of public art hysteria during which sculptor Paul McCarthy was attacked at the Place Vendome in Paris while installing his Tree sculpture last month.
“You don’t know what angry masses can do. When I walk around and shake peoples hands my head plays tricks on me, I ask are people talking about me?” Elion said.