The Guardian reports on the controversy over South Africa’s National Gallery and the decision to take down some Gainsboroughs and Reynolds paintings by director Riason Naidoo, the first non-white director in its 139-year history:
Naidoo, who grew up in a township and is of Indian descent, believes the hostile reaction to the five-month show, an overview of a century of South African art,, could in part be racially motivated. “The art world in South Africa has been largely white,” he said. “Cape Town is known to be quite colonial. So apart from being a new director, I’m also the first black director in a museum where there have never been black curators. […]
Naidoo, who was appointed last year, endured a withering review in the influential Art Times. He added: “The Art Times has a specific agenda, whatever that is. But I did get feedback from many elderly white women from affluent areas who come to the gallery regularly and congratulated us on the show.”
Controversy centred on the Sir Abe Bailey bequest, one of the biggest collections of British sporting art. Bailey, a British-educated South African mining magnate and politician, donated more than 400 works to the gallery, where they went on display in 1947, on condition that some were always on show. About 80 were hanging in two rooms, including many images of horses and hunting in 19th-century Britain, when Naidoo got permission from the Sir Abe Bailey Trust to take them down. “I think they saw the light,” he said.