Vladimir Putin was depicted wearing nothing but women’s lingerie on the painting presented at “The Rulers” exhibition in St.Petersburg, Russia. Modern day ruler known sometimes as a sex symbol of Russia for his sexy images published in glossy magazines definitely did not like the painting. The exhibition was raided, painting confiscated, and museum closed.
Usually Putin likes to pose as a macho wearing military uniform, flying with birds, swimming like Michael Phelps or riding horses like Yul Brynner in “The Magnificent Seven” movie, and he loves to show his muscled chest to public.
At the picture painted by Konstantin Altunin he is anything, but macho. His chest is open as well, but not in a way he likes it. Satirically depicted leaders of Russia, Vladimir Putin and his PM Dmitry Medvedev, wear nothing but women’s lingerie.
Controversial images of Russian and international leaders were presented at the opening exhibition of the newly formed Museum of Authorities in St.Petersburg, but after they were seen by Vitaly Milonov, scandalously famous co-author of a recent anti-gay law adopted in Russia, police came into the gallery and without any warrant confiscated four art works closing the museum. Though police tried to say that confiscated pictures were “violating existing law” they could not define which law and send paintings to be examined for extremism. Portrait of Mr.Milonov was also confiscated. Anti-gay politician was painted with the rainbow flag on the background.
The Museum of Authorities stayed open just for two weeks and was closed one week before leaders of G20 summit were scheduled to come to St.Petersburg.
“I don’t like when our homeland is insulted, and there are few things very insulting to our homeland here at the museum,” Mr. Milonov said to a local online newspaper. “I am very happy that our citizens can appeal to the government and be protected from such things.”
Protecting citizens from “such things” is becoming more and more popular in Russia, and “such things” might be interpreted as almost anything that differs from the mainstream. The last “protective” law that was written by the same Mr. Milonov discriminates against gays and lesbians claiming to save children from gay propaganda. But gays are not the only victims of “protective” laws in Russia.
There were few very disturbing incidents involving censorship of the art expression when artists were accused of blasphemy. One of the first incidences occured in 2003 in Moscow when six people stormed the “Be careful. Religion” exhibition and deliberately destroyed few of the art works presented there. Despite the vandalism, they were set free while the hosts of the exhibition later pleaded guilty for stirring up national and religious hostility.
Members of a Russian feminist protest group Pussy Riot were arrested and sentenced to a penal colony in 2012 for the performance they staged in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Though they were mocking Putin, officially they were charged for “inciting religious hatred”.
While censorship is prohibited in the Russian Constitution, in practice, artistic expression is often subjected to many interpretations of Russian Law allowing it to be suppressed. For example, one of the pictures confiscated at “The Rulers” exhibition was depicting the Russian Patriarch with tattoos on his bare chest and hands. This allusion to the prison traditions might be interpreted as “inciting religious hatred” and cause the author legal problems. Afraid for his freedom and safety, artist Konstantin Altunin has reportedly already fled Russia and plans to ask for political asylum in France, where he is known for his art work.
As to Vladimir Putin so satirically depicted with his PM wearing women’s lingerie, he in his own way continues the tradition of anther prominent leader of Russia – Nikita Khrushchev. The Soviet leader attended the first avant-garde exhibition in Moscow in 1962 and not being able to cope with modern art angrily exploded at the artists calling them “queers” and their work “dog shit”. Putin did not attend “The Rulers” exhibition himself, but one can easily imagine him being incited by the painting and attacking it physically. He is not wearing lingerie!
By Alsu Salakhutdinov