“Genesis Uruguay” with Mujica and Topolansky as protagonists, painting by Julio de Sosa / Galería Diana Saravia
This is another one of those stories absurdities that remind us that some things never change. A tight and ridiculous debate about what is artistic and what is legal was set up in Uruguay.
On 18 October 2016, this painting by Julio de Sosa, entitled “Genesis Uruguay” showing the former president of Uruguay, José Mujica, together with his partner, Senator Lucía Topolansky, depicted as Adam and Eve was taken down from one of the walls of Diana Saravia’s gallery in downtown Montevideo.
The canvas had been on display for four days in a group exhibition.
According to Diara Saravia’s account, a couple of policemen came to the gallery and asked politely that it be removed from the exhibition. They also asked for the details of the gallery owner and the author, and were summoned to testify the following day at the police station, which is less than 50 metres from the gallery.
“Order from above
The strange thing about this case is that the police had no court order and there was no complaint, so the police intervention and the request/order to remove the painting lacked any legal grounds.
Diana Saravia assures that the commissioner told them that there was no complaint but that they should not hang the painting again“out of courtesy, out of delicacy“. In an interview on Teledoce (Channel 12), she assures that she was told that, although there was no complaint, it was “orders from above“
The police version is very different, they said that they were summoned because of complaints from neighbours and that the gallery had removed the painting voluntarily.
The painter assured CNN in an interview that he did not intend to attack or mock the characters depicted, quite the contrary, that he admires Mujica, that it was a tribute and that the scene was inspired by a painting by the German painter Lucas Cranach (1515-1586)
Neither the author nor the gallery understand the mess that has been made and are still waiting for a response from the authorities to find out what the legal status of the matter is and to re-hang the painting.
The alleged offence
The protagonists of the painting did not take it very well, they stated that they were upset and that they had contacted a lawyer to find out if they could take any legal action. There is no news that they have filed a lawsuit.
Lawyer and criminal law professor Diego Camaño told El Observador that:
“Artistic or humorous manifestations can never constitute the crime of defamation”. And this “is very clear” in Article 4 of Law 18.515 (passed in June 2009), which modified Article 336 of the Penal Code.
In the same media, the lawyer Natalia Paladino said that it was an “unauthorised” representation of her image and therefore:
“it violates the right to the image, so it would be an illicit object and if it is violating the image, the honour or the repeutation, it is criminal”.
Senator Lucía Topolansky, also for El Observador, said:
“It’s all nonsense. A guy who painted a picture painted us in our balls, for exhibitionism. We put the matter in the hands of a lawyer to see what can be done.
“If they paint you with your partner in the balls, without consulting you and put you in a shop window, what do you do? Why didn’t they paint (former president Luis Alberto) Lacalle with (his wife) Julia Pou? When they get involved at that level, I don’t even want to make a statement”.
The former president, José Mujica, used fewer words to set limits:
“They have the right to earn a few pesos, but I think things have a limit”.
Interview with the painter on CNN