MOSCOW, August 27 (RIA Novosti) – Police confiscated a satirical portrait of Russia’s president and premier clad in women’s underwear – along with paintings depicting arch-conservative lawmakers and the Moscow Patriarch with prison tattoos – from a provocative museum in St. Petersburg, its owner and the police said Tuesday.
The seized oil on canvas portrait by painter Konstantin Altunin depicts President Vladimir Putin in a pink-white nightgown touching the hair of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, clad in nothing but a push-up bra and panties. The portrait was displayed at the Museum of Authority’s “Rulers” exhibition that opened in Russia’s second-largest city less than two weeks ago, the museum’s owner Alexander Donskoy said.
Police confiscated the canvas along with a portrait of local lawmaker Vitaly Milonov titled “Rainbow Milonov,” a painting named “Erotic Dreams of Lawmaker [Yelena] Mizulina” and a portrait of Moscow Patriarch Kirill wearing prison tattoos with skulls and profiles of Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin, Donskoy said.
“Museum property was forcibly seized without any warrants,” Donskoy told RIA Novosti. “The rest [of the exhibition] has been sealed, we have no access to it.”
St. Petersburg police said four paintings were “withdrawn” from the museum because they might “violate existing legislation,” according to a statement posted on the Internet on Tuesday. The police did not say which laws may have been broken, although Russia does have a law against “insulting representatives of authority.”
A visitor looks at an artwork representing Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev by Russian artist Konstantin Altunin
Donskoy said police arrived in the museum late Monday following a complaint from St. Petersburg lawmaker Milonov, who has authored a bill making “promotion of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors” in St. Petersburg punishable with fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($15,150). The bill was adopted in March 2012 and was a precursor to similar federal legislation that Putin signed into law in June.
Mizulina, a lawmaker with the Just Russia Party, lobbied for a law that levies fines for dissemination of “non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. The law has attracted international condemnation, with some gay activists calling for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics in response.
Prominent news website Rosbalt.ru claimed at the time that Mizulina also called for a ban on “propaganda of oral sex.” She said that claim was slander and threatened to sue. Mizulina, who also heads a parliamentary committee on families, women and children, has also pushed for a legislation to restrict abortion in Russia.
Museum owner Donskoy said the picture named after Mizulina’s alleged “erotic dreams” is a “fantasy on oral sex themes.”
“The author had a message that Mizulina is a transsexual who is engaged in oral sex both with men and women,” Donskoy said.
Donskoy, a former mayor of the Arctic city of Archangelsk, received a suspended three-year jail sentence for abuse of power and was fined for using forged documents in 2008. He claimed that the charges against him were concocted after he declared his presidential ambitions in 2006, Russian media reported.
He currently owns two other unusual attractions – the "G-Spot" sex museum and a "USSR Museum" in Moscow that displays a “breathing mummy” of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin.
The incident is not the first time artists in Russia poking fun at the authorities have incurred their wrath.
Marat Guelman, the head and founder of a controversial Russian museum in the city of Perm, claimed in June he was fired after opening an art exhibition which ridiculed the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, President Vladimir Putin’s pet project.
Two members of the Pussy Riot female punk rock band were sentenced last August to two years in jail for their unsanctioned “punk prayer” against Putin at Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral.
Several criminal investigations have been opened against artist Artyom Loskutov for allegedly inciting religious hatred with his “icons” on T-shirts and billboards that portrayed Pussy Riot members as Holy Mary and Orthodox saints.
In 2010, two art curators in Moscow were convicted and fined for organizing a 2007 art exhibition that included images of Jesus Christ depicted as Mickey Mouse and Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. The exhibition was closed after Orthodox activists stormed in, damaging some of the exhibits.
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