A CONTEMPORARY work of art can provoke outrage disproportionate to its artistic merit. In Russia it can also herald a change in the course of history. In 1962 the then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev famously denounced and banned an exhibition of avant-garde artists in Moscow, saying his grandson could paint better. This marked the end of the short post-Stalinist thaw and ushered in the period of “stagnation”. Khrushchev himself was deposed two years later.Read the rest here.
Nearly 50 years on, Russian prosecutors are demanding a three-year jail sentence for the organisers of a contemporary-art exhibition in Moscow. The verdict, expected on July 12th, could have an impact far greater than the exhibition itself and determine the balance of power between ultranationalist religious radicals and secular pragmatists in Russia.
The exhibition, called “Forbidden Art”, was organised three years ago by Andrei Yerofeev, a contemporary-art curator, who put together works barred in recent years from other exhibitions. Symbolically, it was shown at the Sakharov museum and centre, a bastion of human rights named after the late Russian physicist and dissident, Andrei Sakharov. Its director, Yuri Samodurov, is a co-defendant.
To highlight the censored nature of the show, the works were concealed from public view by a fake wall and could be seen only by climbing onto a stool and peering through small holes. Photography was banned to prevent the dissemination of the images and people under the age of 16 were warned to stay away. One picture showed a Russian general raping a soldier with the caption “Glory to Russia”; another placed an Order of Lenin medal in place of Christ’s head.