Atlanta artist’s ‘Preaching Pimp’ painting triggers protest in Macon

It isn’t a new painting. It’s part of 18 in a series completed in 2008.

It isn’t the first time the artwork has been been displayed, either. The piece was included in a 2012 exhibit featuring Atlanta artist Alfred Conteh’s work at Macon’s Tubman Museum. Conteh later donated the “Preacher Pimp” to the museum.

But when the painting was included in a current exhibit at the African-American museum, artwork got the attention of local religious leaders, who demanded the piece be taken down.

Despite protests at the museum, the museum’s board voted unanimously to leave the piece in the display.

“I’ve had people have reactions to the other pieces, but this particular piece is the only one that has caused people to organize that energy and and show their collective disdain,” Conteh told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday.

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Conteh’s “pimp” series features a variety of people and their wrong-doings to others. Among those included are the “Athlete Pimp,” “Property-Owning Pimp” and “Mother Pimp.” The series highlights the dark side of how we interact with others and treat them, Conteh said.

“Preacher Pimp” reflects the religious leaders whose actions are unethical but isn’t representative of all of church leaders, Conteh said.

“I’m not defaming the cloth. I’m not trying to defame Christianity,” Conteh said. “This couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Still, some Macon-area religious leaders have spoken out against the painting, including Rev. Ronald E. Terry, who called the piece “distasteful,” The Telegraph reported.

“The artist, since he talks about everything bad that’s black, maybe he’s the real pimp,” Terry told the newspaper. “He who talks about my hair is really worried about his hair.”

Despite protests outside the museum, leaders don’t plan to remove “Preacher Pimp” from the display.

“It’s no longer my piece,” Conteh said. “But I would hope that any museum that would put work out would keep it out regardless of the opposition.”

Conteh said those speaking out against the painting could accomplish more through service in the community.

“This is nonsensical,” he said.

The Tubman Museum is at 310 Cherry Street in Macon. Other works by Conteh are on display at Atlanta’s ZuCot Gallery.

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