Art auction raises thousands for Gerhard Marx vs BMW court case

#46. Head to Fordsburg for an art auction. With news that Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang didn’t jump but was pushed and replaced by Barbara Hogan (see my previous post) and that the health of the country was now in capable hands, it was time to leave the comfort of home. We headed to the Bag Factory also known as the Fordsburg Artists’ Studios last night for an auction of South African art to raise money to support the case of local artist Gerhard Marx vs BMW.

Marx has accused the car company and their ad agency of copyright infringement, of having “borrowed” his trademark artistic style without acknowledgement for use in an advertisement. (Gerhard Marx’s work and the BMW ad can be viewed here.) And the local art community has weighed in behind him with the establishment of the David&GOLIATH trust, which aims to give financial support to artists to fight against “copyright infringement and commercial exploitation”.

We crammed into a small exhibition space with about 150 art collectors and artists and lots of clinking wine glasses to view the 68 works that had been donated to the cause by South African artists — including William Kentridge, Deborah Bell, Stephen Hobbs, Sam Nhlengethwa, Santu Mofokeng and of course Gerhard Marx. Kentridge, SA’s greatest contemporary artist, sat in our row, oblivious to the adoring stares from all his admirers (okay, from me). He even purchased one of the artworks – a signed puzzle by Kim Lieberman. In his usual understated style, he told AP’s Celean Jacobson: “”As an artist I wanted to support the project. As an art buyer I wanted to support the project.”

A unique CD containing the music from Kentridge’s “I am not me The horse is not mine” composed by the brilliant Phillip Miller – a long-time Kentridge collaborator – and signed by both of them fetched R18 000. It was bought by gallery owner Warren Siebrits – his gallery represents Marx – who looked ready to take on BMW, dressed as a Cold War East German operative. That’s one cd he won’t forget to put back in the correct box.

The auction raised around R400 000 — one of Marx’s works, Father Father Mother Mother, fetched the highest price of R38 000 – which should pay for a few hours of legal fees when the case heads to the High Court on October 9. Interestingly Marx will be represented by Owen Dean who won the landmark case against Disney on behalf of the family of Solomon Linda who wrote the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.

The event was supported by a number of Joburg galleries including The Goodman and Jan Smuts Avenue’s uber-contemporary Art Extra as well as design studio Tonic – based in Rosebank and beyond, in the more affluent suburban heart of the city. So hosting it in the edgier urban territory of Fordsburg was an interesting choice. SA’s art scene is flourishing, with galleries cropping up across the city and just about weekly openings. Thursday night was a choice between Lucian Freud’s etchings at Everard Read Gallery and the auction.

Outside the night air was warm and the call to prayer rang out from a nearby mosque that was beautifully illuminated against the dark sky. The streets of Fordsburg were alive, and brightly lit, the many Indian and Pakistani restaurants in the area open for business, and I couldn’t help thinking about the city life so many people in this place don’t see as we drove back across town.

* The Bag Factory is at 10 Mahlatini Street, Fordsburg. To see a bio of Gerhard Marx, go here.

4 thoughts on “Art auction raises thousands for Gerhard Marx vs BMW court case

  1. Its great that Gerard stood up and fought back. And now that his case is settled, he is forming a David and GOliath trust to help other artists in a
    similar situation.
    Regarding the CD, Warren Siebritz probably won’t be playing it in his car stereo either!

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