Gallery cancels 'shocking' exhibit

2011-11-29 10:42

Cape Town - The exhibition of a student artist has been pulled from a Franschhoek gallery after she posed nude and tore pages from a Bible, The Cape Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Celeste Coetzee shocked onlookers by going naked as part of her art installation at the Unisa Final Year Student Exhibition at The Gallery at Grande Provence in Franschhoek. Coetzee, who was making a statement about the suffering of women in a patriarchal society, had also used the exhibition to criticise evangelist and Faith Like Potatoes author Angus Buchan.

Coetzee refused to comment on Monday, saying she would respond to e-mailed questions within a few days.

The Gallery's curator, Carina Bekker, decided to remove Coetzee's work from the exhibition, saying the information the artist gave her about her work "didn't relate to what she did".


It had been agreed that Coetzee would pose inside her installation, bare-breasted and wearing just a skirt. She instead arrived for the opening dressed in traditional Voortrekker clothing.

Bekker said Coetzee had intended to look vulnerable, but looked "scary", and distorted the meaning of the work.

On Wednesday and Thursday last week she had posed nude inside the installation.

"She went from the one opposite to the other opposite."

It was because of these "inconsistencies" that the installation had been cancelled, Bekker said.

Negative feedback

Photographs show Coetzee seated on a stool, wearing a traditional Voortrekker style hat and stockings with her hands clutched in her lap.

She appeared to be seated in an old-fashioned kitchen, among potatoes, with messages on the wall behind her. One such message read: "Wives, respect your husbands, submit to your husbands."

She also tore pages from a Bible. "I am completely against tearing pages out of the Bible. I will not tolerate that she tore pages out of the Bible," Bekker said.

The gallery had received a lot of "negative feedback" from members of the public.

"As a gallery, that's not the message we want to portray. She's very negative to the old Afrikaner, Christian patriarchal system. She was trying to be the vulnerable woman suffering under the system. But women are not under that system anymore."

Bekker said it was women who had been offended by Coetzee’s installation.


  • Mac - 2011-11-29 10:50

    Eish the boerewors curtain.... when will it fall

      Dirk - 2011-11-29 11:52

      She looked quite pathetic and was an embarrassment to herself and her family. She should know that the words she was supposedly protesting against, was not Angus Buchans

      werner.smidt - 2011-11-29 12:03

      Says the man from Boksburg . . .

      Dirk - 2011-11-29 12:40

      Not Boksburg, but certainly not poefter Cape Town

      Shistirrer - 2011-11-29 14:07

      Dirk, we bow to your superior knowledge about where the poefters are. I suppose you call it "research" when caught?

      Marni - 2011-11-30 09:14

      @Dirk, please take your head out of your behind. Three things: 1)TheSlip was commenting on Mac's comment, not yours. 2) the "curse" of homosexuality has actually been proven not to be a curse, but a blessing to society. "Poefter(s)" don't rape kids like the "decent heterosexual men" that you refer to do and they don't breed for the sake of breeding. And 3) What on earth does this woman's "art" have to do with the homosexuals in Cape Town? Maybe you should try and focus a bit more before you start calling people perverts for the sake of it. Or you should just get rid of the chip on your shoulder - Shakespeare siad "the lady doth protest too much..."

      vernon.wolf - 2011-11-30 14:20

      hmmmm Dirk... rather keep your low income white trash trap shut, before you embarrass yourself and your small minded flock any further...

  • VaalDonkie - 2011-11-29 11:00

    Is this what passes for "art" these days? We truly live in a post-modern world.

      John - 2011-11-29 13:31

      Typical bloody rubbish that passes for art. By these bozo's saying they are offended by her nudity or tearing pages from the bible have given her the fame, this pathetic excuse for art could not have given her.

  • IJust - 2011-11-29 11:08

    Miz Bekker, you need to read books like End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation and wake up. Religion is not the opiate of the masses, its the placebo of the masses. Hate-mongering, human self-retardation :)

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-29 11:18

      You need to read something that is not written by bitter old men.

      Colin - 2011-11-29 11:21

      and atheism has evolved into just another religion without any of the redeeming qualities any of the other religions have

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-29 11:52

      Yup. They even have a symbol now.

      Ry Short - 2011-11-29 12:02

      @Colin, atheism is not a "new religion", my friend. Atheism is simply the courage to admit that we are responsible for ourselves and the ability to judge right from wrong without some "imaginary person" sitting on our shoulder. How many wars has Atheism started? Or how many lives affected by HIV can be attributed to Atheisms stance on condomising? If you want to recognise Atheism as a "new religion" that's fine. Just remember that it will always be a more honourable institution than any contemporary, mainstream religion.

      Ry Short - 2011-11-29 12:05

      Also, name one redeeming quality of Christianity..

      IJust - 2011-11-29 12:07

      No one ever heard of a non-scientist, or a non-astronomer. The term Atheist shouldn't even exist. Its like a name for someone that doesn't believe in Santa. @vaaldonkie, you need to read something that hasn't been passed off as the true and moral word of a loving God...(one that condones slavery, murdering your wife to be and selling your daughter off to slavery)

      Dirk - 2011-11-29 12:42

      Dont confuse courage with stupidity

      Ry Short - 2011-11-30 12:07

      @Dirk, I cannot tell whether you're arguing for or against Athiesm with that one?? Because if you're arguing that taking responsibility for your own actions is "stupidity".. Well then, there's not much hope for our species, is there?

  • Bryan - 2011-11-29 11:15

    Nothing wrong with freedom of expression..!!

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-29 11:17

      Nothing wrong with freedom of association (or it's inverse).

      Colin - 2011-11-29 11:22

      something wrong with 53 year old naked ladies

      Grant - 2011-11-29 12:25

      Was she 53?? Yeah, then I'm all against it!! If she was a hot 18 year-old, it would be GREAT art! :)

  • nakkiran - 2011-11-29 11:17

    "I am completely against tearing pages out of the Bible. I will not tolerate that she tore pages out of the Bible," Bekker said. <- Err, which part of the exhibition making a statement about women's suffering in a patriarchal society did she not understand?

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-29 12:45

      Yes, because "patriarchal" refers to women of authority.

  • Kobus - 2011-11-29 11:18

    Great Ms Bekker. Very few will have the guts to do what you did. Christians salute you!

      Go - 2011-11-29 11:29

      you on something ??

  • Kobus - 2011-11-29 11:22

    Wonder what the Muslims would do if she sits naked tearing pages from the Qur'an?

      Barefoot - 2011-11-29 11:28

      Something would be burning- should you even write such a comment?

      richard.hipkin - 2011-11-29 11:32

      Are you normally stupid or just on News24?

      Dirk - 2011-11-29 12:07

      No, you are living in a state being devoured by a ravenous pack of hyhenas

  • Barefoot - 2011-11-29 11:27

    "Bekker said it was women who had been offended by Coetzee’s installation" and he only got offended when she started tearing pages from the bible

  • Gerda - 2011-11-29 11:30

    Clearly a potential customer for an mental institution.Coetzee - please use You Tube for your kind of statement where only those that WANT to see such rubbish can do so.

  • Driekie - 2011-11-29 11:44

    If will be wonderful if people can understand that submission to your husband doesn't mean you are his foot stool, it means just respecting him for the person he is. It might be good for the student to speak to Angus and understand what he is saying, before she makes a statement without grounds. Congratulations to Bekker for taking a stand!!! Drix

  • Pierre - 2011-11-29 11:46

    Angus Buchan is an idiot. Go Celeste !!!

      Dirk - 2011-11-29 12:03

      Pietie- I would like to nominate you for bravery, for not hiding behind a ? and shouting insults to others from under cover of cowardice.Did he touch a chord that makes you and your little tree friends so excited? Maybe what is left of a conscience?

      Johnny - 2011-11-29 12:36

      @Pierre: - and why would you say that ?

      Pierre - 2011-11-29 13:14

      Women should not be excluded.

      Phil - 2011-11-30 11:41

      I dislike Angus Buchan as much as I dislike self righteous bigots... Oh wait!

  • markTburgess - 2011-11-29 11:49

    This is fantastic. I salute Celeste for being brave & controversial. SA needs art that can stir the mediocrity & let people start talking. It's art FFS. & yet no one seems to have a problem with Angus's ideology? Ideology is dangerous... Art changes the world. Well done - wish I could see it!

      Deirdre - 2011-12-01 08:12

      So if I put on a display in a an installation in an Art Gallery, where I deliberaltely killed someone, or maybe everyday I sliced a piece of them off, and I called it art, would you still call it art? or woudl that be murder? Once again, where's the line between controversial and P-ing people off deliberately.

  • Cameron - 2011-11-29 11:52

    its art, I would think that we've all seen some pretty random art in our lives, so what if she did what she did, if its her idea of art then so be it, my word people and their insecurities. like what I've said or not, ART is still ART in any shape form or style.

      Kobus - 2011-11-29 12:00

      If she wants to vomit up such rubbish and call it art, she can go to a dark hole where you will probably find sickos turn on by her vomit. And they can then all say AHHHH

      Lauren - 2011-11-29 12:42

      Er, what Kobus? Sense. You do not make it.

      Kobus - 2011-11-29 12:56

      Let me help you then Lauren. You get an old base old woman past her sell buy date that has never made a name for herself (who ever heard of her before?) and now she exposes her old parts for the world to see tearing a bible (knowing it would disgust many) for extra effect. And now you get the braindead that views it as art. Does that help you at all?

      Lauren - 2011-11-29 13:38

      Or, she could just be a person who has certain beliefs and decided to express it (strongly). You see it as controversial/ attention-seeking. I see it as a person making a statement and now has people talking about it. Now that's art.

      Lauren - 2011-11-29 13:39

      Might I also say, thanks for the explanation there, Kobus. It appears that you put (a little more?) thought into it.

      Kobus - 2011-11-29 14:22

      I try Lauren, I try. Thats just the way her cookie crumbles. ;)

      Deirdre - 2011-12-01 08:15

      So if I put on a display in a an installation in an Art Gallery, where I deliberaltely killed someone, or maybe everyday I sliced a piece of them off, and I called it art, would you still call it art? or woudl that be murder? Once again, where's the line between controversial and P-ing people off deliberately.

  • VaalDonkie - 2011-11-29 11:55

    Ironically, it is exactly the Christian, patriarchal tradition of the Western civilization that has allowed her to run around naked, tearing pages out of a Bible, without being thrown in jail. I'd like to see her try that either in the middle east, or protesting some secular communist asian country.

      IJust - 2011-11-29 12:12

      Erm, you are a tad mistake on that? The "Christian, patriarchal tradition of the Western civilization" would have had her burnt at the stake for that back in the day. Its only due to changes from social pressure over the course of history, not changes to the big black story book.

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-29 12:49

      1. It was the Catholic church who burnt witches at the stake and tortured heretics. 2. It was the Protestant Reformation (protesting against the catholic church) that led to the birth of the Western World as we know it today, complete with religious freedom, freedom of speech, universal democracy, etc. 3. It's not a book, it's a collection of books. Ignorance if history makes one's head soft.

      IJust - 2011-11-29 15:44

      And being raise to believe something is the absolute truth doesn't make the head soft? I'm not going go into the entire history of things, religious is the issue, not what flavour of stupidity you sw(f)ollow.

  • clarie.attwell - 2011-11-29 11:57

    I actually saw the installation, on Saturday. Art is supposed to ask questions, make you think start and internal dialogue. If it offends or makes you question your self and your opinions, is part of the interaction between the artist and the viewer. Whether her installation was removed due to the negative response or the inconsistencies is really the point. I’m not defending this particular artist or her specific installation, but it is worth a thought.

      Kobus - 2011-11-29 12:03

      And if she had a great poo there, would people be just as fascinated admiring and discussing the shape thereof? There is a thin line between being artistic and being trashy.

      clarie.attwell - 2011-11-29 13:27

      Art in itself is very subjective, and is open to multiple opinions. That’s all I was saying. I’m not really commenting on what is or isn’t art. That is a very open ended discussion.

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-29 15:02

      Art is not subjective at all. Art is what you do when you have totally mastered a discipline. Take for instance the playing of a musical instrument: when you are playing do-re-me, you are NOT an artist, you are a student. When you are smashing your guitar against an amplifier, you are not an artist, you are a highly-strung little b*tch. When you are Carlos Santana, Slash, Jimi Hendrix or somesuch, you are an artist. The same goes for every other medium of expression: when you have matured BEYOND the medium and have MASTERED it to the point where you no longer feel trapped by the technique, you are an artist. That is why I consider modern architecture an art-form. It is also why I consider the guy who designs Ferrari's an artist, while the guy who does BMW's is simply a great engineer.

      clarie.attwell - 2011-11-29 15:38

      Subjectivity: a subject's PERSONAL perspective, feelings, beliefs, desires or discovery, as opposed to those made from an independent, objective, point of view

  • felican - 2011-11-29 12:11

    This actually amuses me that there is not more outrage over the desecration of The Bible and that the painting was 'only pulled out of the exhibition'. If this had been the Koran being desecrated WHAT an 'ontploffing gemors' there would have been. But then dear hearts it is ONLY The Bible which is part of the Torah in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament which relates to The Messiah Jesus!

      Sam - 2011-11-29 12:53

      Exactly, it's only a bible. A book. So what? Does your god need you to protect him if someone destroys a mass printed book that turns up a great profit for its publishers and drives Christian consumerism?

      Kobus - 2011-11-29 13:04

      Sam, so then the Qu'ran is then also just another story book and it will be ok to tear pages from it? Somehow I dont think you would reckon thats ok????? MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM ?

      Sam - 2011-11-29 13:46

      Kobus, two things: 1) Why wouldn't I be okay with that. As I said, it's just a book. 2) Turn your caps lock off and try to let go of the M key.

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-29 15:04

      I don't care what people do to a bible. It's their business. What I DO care about is whether or not I will have to endure viewing an unstable person getting her 15 minutes of fame.

  • Cameron - 2011-11-29 12:15

    aaaah yaaaa here we go again, the same old boring crap story about people getting offended by people, aaagh shamepees, like I said earlier on ART is ART, give it a break for petes sakes lol's if its artwork then people should be allowed to express themselves in whatever manner they damn well want to, so what if she tore up a bible? what if she tore up a Quran or one of the other religious scripts that the religious nuts of the world perve over? huh people have managed to come up with over a 1000 different religions over the years of mankind, and I have little doubt that a few more will be sucked out of some other thumbs. I really dont know what the hoo haa is all about these days. I really would have liked to see her art work (notice people when I say ART WORK) it is afterall simply art, and another great way for one to express their freedom of expression

  • reinhard.pettenburger - 2011-11-29 12:54

    So much for free expression!!! This is an atists work what right do you have to take it down regardless whether you like it or not. You all complain about the lack of freedom of speech/expression but as soon as you dont like it you happily remove it in case it offends! Bunch of cowards!

  • Charlotte - 2011-11-29 14:25

    we are all missing the point here. What she told the gallery she was going to do, and what she actually did, was different. Yes, it offended people, maybe if she stuck to what she agreed on doing, things would have turned out different.

  • alistairjames - 2011-11-29 14:44

    Grand Provence comes across to be an almost conservative right wing establishment; totally parochial and provincial at best. Surely as an aspirant gallery wanting to be taken seriously in the art world they realise art is no longer about pretty pictures, and sometimes the work may also be about the artist/curator/gallery relationship - and may therefor include some subversion thereof. So, even if Mz Coetzee's work was substandard, surely she was vetted by the seemingly verkrampt Mz Bekker in the first place? Screaming and shouting and performing and saying things like "I will not tolerate that she tore pages out of the Bible" makes it obvious that Mz Bekker does not really understand the industry in which she finds herself. There is nothing wrong with being a seller of pretty pictures and items you buy to match your curtains, but don't pretend to be an art institution in the academic sense. I don't usually write any responses to articles, but this sort of media coverage just reaffirms South Africa's position as firmly in the dark ages which irritates me and does an injustice to those who are striving to change that. The American trend of the fine wine/fine art combination is taken very seriously and their standards are high. This sort of behavior just makes Grand Provence look like a bit of a joke, a wine Disney World. If I was Grand Provence, I'd scrap the gallery and make wine, they will be taken more seriously if that is what they want.

  • alyn.adams - 2011-11-29 15:01

    Don't mess with the magic book! The sky fairy might make you fall asleep for 100 years!

  • Greg - 2011-11-29 15:29

    Hey, great to see that someone can get people excited about art! For all the haters: maybe you should consider the theme. Oppression and abuse aren't pretty topics. I'd say they're shocking, and that is reflected in the art. Sure, Botticelli's Venus looks nicer but then again it's an idealized depiction of a woman painted by a man. The real Q is what does the artist's bizarre depiction tell us about her theme?

  • Naretha Pretorius - 2011-11-29 21:55

    Coetzee is doing what artists are supposed to do: deliver meaningful comments on social injustice, whether current or past issues.  I am fascinated by the Curator’s comments when she stated: “As a gallery, that’s not the message we want to portray. She’s very negative to the old Afrikaner, Christian patriarchal system. She was trying to be the vulnerable woman suffering under the system. But women are not under that system anymore.” I am curious to know where this story will go, what the critical conversations will be.  Here we sit with a sensitive issue of an artist delivering her comment, possibly driven by her own experiences, and a curator that decided to silence her voice, reinforcing how women (and artists) are often silenced.  Is this issue really something of the past?  Read the marriage sacrament of the Reformed Church and you will see that it is not ( see ‘formuliere’).  In my opinion and from my own experiences as a woman in a ‘new’ South Africa, gender inequality, whether governed by religion, politics or policies still live in most of our environments; our professional, educational, political and personal and domestic spaces and that it is not limited to Afrikaner communities.  We should have more artists like Coetzee that has the courage to expose herself as she did (literally and metaphorically), it takes guts to do what she did, and I congratulate her for raising her artist’s voice! I hope to see more from Celeste Coetzee, and that this incident will drive her to produce more of her meaningful work. Naretha Pretorius

  • francoisengelbrecht1 - 2011-11-30 12:07

    It seems the point that everyone is missing is that Celeste Coetzee misled the gallery. "The Gallery's curator, Carina Bekker, decided to remove Coetzee's work from the exhibition, saying the information the artist gave her about her work "didn't relate to what she did". " She supplied them with information about her installation, based on which they agreed to exhibit it. Once she was in the gallery she proceeded to deviate from what the gallery was led to expect. That's just devious and the gallery was within their rights to refuse to exhibit her work.

  • barb.magill - 2011-11-30 12:12

    what is wrong with people today? why isn't proper art displayed and appreciated like it used to be instead of all this modern art stuff, which on the whole does not impress art lovers! she obviously is a sad person and doesn't know what true art is??

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