“Nelson Mandela: The Artist” brings 34 works by Mandela to the city, nine for the first time. On view at Long-Sharp Gallery (24 West 57th Street, Suite 606) from October 19 – December 15, the drawings and signed lithographs will offer a timely reminder of the international peacemaker’s efforts—his message is particularly urgent during this fraught time for our nation.
Beginning in 1964, Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in jail for protesting South Africa’s apartheid government. For 18 years, he lived at the Robben Island prison in notoriously dreadful conditions. He created the works on view, many of which reflect on his hope and strength during his incarceration, from 2001 – 2004. Long-Sharp Gallery will exhibit “Hand of Africa,” a lithograph of Mandela’s handprint with a white shape like that of Africa in the palm. The work led a source for The Times to proclaim, “It is almost as if the continent is imprinted on his soul.” Five one-of-a-kind pastel drawings, never before seen in New York, will also be on view. One of these untitled works features a swallow, which Mandela said was the only free creature on Robben Island (as both prisoners and guards were bound in their own ways). Mandela’s “Struggle Series,” lithographs of hands in both chained and liberated positions, will further explore themes of captivity and freedom.
The Cause Collective, a public art group, will present “We Are Not Yet Free” within the exhibition. This short film, featured in Tribeca Film Institute’s 2014 “The Power of Words” initiative, presents five filmmakers' interpretations of Mandela's quote: “The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed.” “We Are Not Yet Free” uses footage from the Cause Collective’s ongoing project, “In Search of the Truth (The Truth Booth).”
Gallery owner Rhonda Long-Sharp envisions the exhibition as a catalyst for dialogue about contemporary issues of violence and racial inequity. The gallery will host programming throughout the fall and become an incubator for discussions on how to promote and enforce the artist’s ideas about peace and reconciliation. “In light of recent events in our country, it is my hope that we can learn from Nelson Mandela’s example,” she says. “His artworks and the essays he wrote to accompany them will be available to see and absorb. I hope they will serve as a step toward peaceful dialogue. Local and government groups who wish to reserve the gallery space for meetings to discuss this topic are welcome to contact us.”
The exhibit is presented in partnership with Belgravia Gallery (Mayfair, UK). Gallery owners Anna Bonham-Carter and Laura Walford worked with Mandela on this project during his lifetime. Bonham-Carter will speak about the work and their relationship during the opening on October 19. The drawings, Bonham-Carter says, “show a man who is determined that his art would reflect his personal philosophy of showing grace and conciliation, while not forgetting the past.” Some of the artwork exhibited will be available for purchase. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Sebastian Hunter Memorial Trust, which helps eradicate poverty in South India, and the Cause Collective.