(Detail from Refusal of Confession, by K. Altunin)
This one has been widely reported:
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 painting of Putin and Medvedev (in which Medvedev has also been given a woman’s body) is now being gleefully reproduced around the internet, but less attention has been given to the other seized paintings:
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.
The artist, Konstantin Altunin, uploaded the portrait of Kirill to his Facebook page during June; he has given it the title Refusal of Confession, in reference to a painting of the same name by Ilya Repin. The Patriarch is depicted posing bare-chested, and the tattoos – which also include a Madonna and child – are of the sort that feature in Danzig Baldaev’s Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia. In 2004, the BBC posted some photos taken by Baldaev; some include the word “Bog“, which means “God” but is also an acronym for “I shall rob again”, and one is a religious image. According to the BBC:
Religious images remain popular among Russia’s criminal fraternity, although they rarely reflect the piety or zeal of the wearer. Some icons are badges of honour, oaths of vengeance or even symbols of devotion to the art of thievery. Others, include the Virgin Mary, are often talismans supposedly protecting the wearer from the police or rivals.
Kirill was previously the target of satire in June last year; this was when a comedy award ceremony organised by a radio station made fun Kirill’s expensive Breguet wristwatch, which had come to wide notice after a botched attempt to photoshop the timepiece out of a photo on the church’s website. Inevitably, several MPs called for the law to be amended so that the organisers would to be sent to prison for inciting religious hatred, although no action appears to have followed.
As for the other pictures seized by police: Vitaly Milonov co-authored an anti-gay ordinance in St Petersburg, and attempted to have the singer Madonna arrested when she gave a concert in the city; Mizulina was recently profiled by the AP, which described her as “Vladimir Putin’s new morality crusader, spearheading efforts to curb gay rights, punish online cursing and impose a tax on divorce.” Altunin’s painting of her “erotic dream” depicts a woman (not sure if it’s Milonov herself) engaged in fellatio, and can be seen here (NSFW, obviously).
A notice posted to Altunin’s Facebook page last night has confirmed reports that the artist – perhaps wisely – has relocated to Paris.
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