Sunday, July 06, 2008

Mandela Takes Legal Action on Exhibition in London

Mandela takes legal action on exhibition

Nelson Mandela has distanced himself from a gallery in London selling artworks associated with his name, his lawyers said on Friday.

Mandela had instructed law firm Chuene Incorporated to make it known that he disassociated himself from an exhibition of artwork to be exhibited at the Belgravia Gallery in London on July 15, Bally Chuene said in a statement.

"Furthermore Mr Mandela has given us instructions to take urgent, appropriate steps against Belgravia Gallery to stop any marketing, distribution and selling of artwork associated with his name," the statement read.

Chuene said a South African court had granted a court order in 2005 to prevent the gallery from marketing, selling or distributing any artwork under Mandela's name. In particular these artworks were lithographs which formed part of the Robben Island series.

He said the action was taken because there were concerns that the proceeds of sales of artwork would not be given to charities and that his signature may have been forged.

The lithographs were also no longer attributed to Ross Calder, the publisher of the project.

The gallery agreed to abide by the order. However, Chuene said it had recently been learnt that it planned to hold an exhibition of the artworks under his name, which was in contravention of the court order.

He said Mandela had at first agreed to sign a limited number of these lithographs, but had subsequently reconsidered his decision.

"Mr Mandela decided to stop the sale under his name because they refused to account to him," said Chuene.

Managing Director Anna Hunter of Belgravia Gallery in London said she was not aware of the impending legal action.

"I didn't know anything about it," she said. "What I can say is that all the items which are available in the gallery are owned by Belgravia Gallery and were purchased long before any dispute between Mr Mandela and his lawyers."

She said all the works that were on display were identical to those which were on display at a press dinner on Robben Island in February 2003.

"At the dinner Mr Mandela spoke about his joy at making the sketches and I spoke about the historical importance to the art history of South Africa."

Hunter and her daughter visited Mandela's home in Johannesburg in December 2002 when he signed about 400 works in pencil.

However, despite Hunter not being aware of the legal action, she said she had enormous respect for Mandela.

"We, all of us from the gallery, were at the Mandela concert last week in London and I have the utmost respect and admiration for the world's greatest statesman," she said.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said Chuene was Mandela's personal attorney.

"He is dealing with a longstanding legal issue," said the foundation's chief executive officer, Achmat Dangor. - Sapa

Published on the web by Cape Argus on July 6, 2008.

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