Mandela disowns a London exhibition

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JOHANNESBURG — Nelson Mandela has distanced himself from a London exhibition of disputed lithographs bearing his signature, his lawyer said Friday.

JOHANNESBURG — Nelson Mandela has distanced himself from a London exhibition of disputed lithographs bearing his signature, his lawyer said Friday. Bally Chuene said the Belgravia Gallery had scheduled a party and exhibition of artwork purported to be drawn by Mandela for Thursday — two days before the elderly statesman’s 91st birthday. He said the artwork was part of ongoing litigation between Mandela and his former lawyer in South Africa. "He (Mandela) did not sign those artworks," he said. "It is important to tell the public that they are being deceived." Chuene said he wrote to the gallery last week asking it to "desist immediately" with its actions, but he had not had any response. The gallery was contacted by the Associated Press on Friday, but managers did not respond to requests for comment. The gallery has an exhibition "Mandela at 91" listed on its Web site running from July 13 to 31. Last year, a similar exhibition was halted after Chuene wrote to the gallery warning against it. The dispute dates back to a limited series of artworks Mandela did in collaboration with an artist. The series included sketches of Robben Island and the cell, where Mandela had been imprisoned during apartheid. Subsequent series were based on Mandela’s hand print. The original signed works were snapped up by foreign celebrities when they were issued at star-studded launches in 2002 and 2003. Proceeds went to AIDS and educational charities associated with Mandela. However, Mandela’s lawyers went to court when it emerged that unauthorized reproductions had been made and were being sold, allegedly to the benefit of Mandela’s charities. Chuene said these unauthorized reproductions were part of the artworks being advertised as part of the London gallery’s exhibition as well as some "unseen" works done by Mandela. "They are being very opportunistic," he said. "The purported artwork does not have Mandela’s blessing." ______ AP Photo/Taurai Maduna Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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