PAINTINGS OF BOYS THAT LOOK LIKE GIRLS, THE BAILEY BEQUEST AND IZIKO

So on the weekend Panga Management visited the ravesite of Sir Abe Bailey Bart (1864- 1940). PM certainly did not set out on the mini road trip with that destination in mind. PM was interested in Kalky’s fish and chips, but stopped on route to chat to the shark spotters. PM really wanted to see a shark, complete with jaws sound track and a bucket of blood. Alas no one had got eaten that day, damn! The shark spotter said the Muizenberg side had not received any sharky attention either. Double damn! So PM instead of accepting failure decided to go and view something else just as fishy. The “Ravesite” happened to be just next to the shark spotter’s enclosure so that made things easy. PM just hopped over the wall (the gate was locked) with a team of panga people in tow. There were 3 things of interest. The first was the G had been removed from the information board hence the ravesite. See image below.

Photo Credit: Eyelashes

Photo Credit: Eyelashes

Photo Credit: Eyelashes

The second was the view, which was quite spectacular, nothing much else to add on that point. The third was the epitaph on the tombstone of James Richard Abe Bailey “Loved Playmate” it said. PM was forced to rule out the playboy mansion, as PM did not think that James Richard Abe Bailey would have tickled Hugh Hefners fancy. None the less a ‘loved playmate” he apparently was.

This got PM thinking about the Baileys, which got PM thinking about the Bailey Bequest. The Bailey/ Iziko South African national gallery fiasco has made print in the local Western Cape dailys recently, click here. Panga Management forgives you if you have not grasped the story just yet. Beezy Bailey media/ocre artist (great-grandson or something along those lines, of Abe Bailey) has been complaining to the press, about the National gallery breaking the contractual agreement of the Bequest by not having any of the Bailey Bequest works up at the ISANG. The reason that you have not realised the tyranny of the ISANG’s decision is understandable,  though the headline mentions the news worthy element, the article is full of Beezy Baileys self promotion. To sum it up the story goes like this…. “It’s terrible what the ISANG is doing, but are you aware of my new exhibition, I’m so important that the ISANG should give me a solo show”. It’s at this point PM has to hold back a mouth vommie. Shame on you Beezy! Undermining this very serious situation for your own selfish interests. So PM is going to bring the debate to you -without Beezy’s sickening self promotion.

Thomas Gainsborough. Lavinia (The Milk Maid).

The Bailey Trust donated/ bequeathed to the ISANG a huge collection of works. This happened a long time ago. (Some very boring, though very precious sporting paintings) but the bequest also contained some of the most spectacular paintings ever, like the Gainsborough amongst others.

The Bailey trust pays for the restoration, care and storage of the bequest. The only thing Iziko has to do is place some of these works on the gallery walls. How hard is that, one has to ask! Granted the regular viewing public would get bored with seeing the same works up in the same way, but that being said the Bailey bequest has been the foundation for some of the most sophisticated and interesting curatorial exhibitions the ISANG has ever had.

There are people with limited intelligence, who wank on about the colonial aspects of the works, arguing that because of those aspects they should not be hung. These people are just stupid, and PM will scrape together some pity for them.

Yes there are colonial aspects of the works, and yes the works should not colonise half of the ISANG’S wall space in perpetuity, but to lose the bequest would be the hugest loss for the visual arts community of South Africa. Nowhere else in the country/continent can you see a painting like the Gainsborough. So that’s fine for the rich folk who can jet off to some first world country and see paintings like that whenever they want, but it’s pretty shit for the not so wealthy people who will then never get the opportunity to see paintings like the Gainsborough.

Secondly, now that PM is on a role. Why the fuck can’t the works from the bequest be curated into exhibitions that sophisticatedly interrogate the colonial aspect, or respectfully play a game with the sporting aspect? In fact let’s quickly unpack some interesting facts about the Gainsborough painting PM keeps mentioning. It called Lavinia (The Milk Maid) and for all inspection looks like a pretty little girl returning from milking the cows…. except it is not a little girl at all, the milkmaid is a little boy! It’s true!

So how about if a curator or artist conceptualised an exhibition using Bailey bequest works and contemporary works in a way that investigates gender and sexuality, that would be fascinating, no? PM could come up with like a trillion contemporary takes that would cleverly negotiate the Bailey bequest works, and guess what, the exhibition would not even be about the Bailey bequest works in particular, but they would be up.

Really panga people, Iziko is fucking it up again. Yawn. If the Bailey Bequest was expecting Iziko to pay for the upkeep of such valuable works PM would understand, but they are not. So it looks like Iziko is (again) advertising its mediocrity of mind. PM thought about using big words, and maybe a footnote or two, to communicate how the works could be recontextalised, and used as a bases for unpacking the colonial aspects of South Africa heritage, but PM knows how anything academically rigorous, creates mental rigor mortis for some decision makers at Iziko. Use a big word and you find them peeing themselves in a corner like frightened little stupid people. The tyranny of intelligence is out to get me, they scream! So there you have it panga people, that’s the story.

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