South Africa’s governing ANC party is to take legal action to remove a painting from an exhibition that ridicules the party and the president with graphic imagery.
Brett Murray’s sculptures and paintings, in an exhibition at a major Johannesburg gallery entitled 'Hail to the Thief II', are an “abuse of freedom of artistic expression,” said ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu.
ANC lawyers will go to court to force the Goodman Gallery to remove a painting of President Jacob Zuma from the exhibition and from its website.
Mr Murray one of the country’s best-known artists, noted for provocative and political work, said through the gallery that he would have no comment.
The painting that most angered Mr Mthembu is a black, red and yellow acrylic on canvas priced at 120,000 rand (€11,342) called 'The Spear'.
In a style reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s brightly coloured Marilyn Monroe portraits, it depicts Mr Zuma in a suit and what could be a codpiece accentuating his genitals.
Some observers say it depicts Mr Zuma exposing his genitals.
Other work in the show recalls Soviet-era propaganda posters, and twists political slogans to acerbic effect. In an essay accompanying the exhibit, curators say the work forms “part of a vitriolic and succinct censure of bad governance and are (Mr Murray’s) attempts to humorously expose the paucity of morals and greed within the ruling elite.”
A silkscreen in the show has the silhouette of a machine-gun toting guerrilla with Mr Murray’s own version of the well-known last words of Solomon Mahlangu, an ANC militant who was hanged by the apartheid government in 1979: “Tell my people that I love them and that they must continue the struggle for Chivas Regal ... and kick-backs.”
Visitors can take away posters with the ANC spear-and-shield logo and two phrases: “For sale” and “Sold.”
Mr Murray’s criticism of the ANC echoes commentary that has appeared in newspaper articles and editorial cartoons and been debated on talk radio in South Africa.