Artist Konstantin Altunin has called for the return of satirical portraits that were recently taken by Russian police Monday. The confiscation of the portraits were said to be at the request of lawmaker Vitaly Milonov, known for issuing a ban on promoting homosexuality among minors. The lawmaker was also featured in one of the paintings.
Another portrait features President Vladimir Putin—wearing a pink nightgown—doing the hair of Dmitry Medvedev, who is dressed in a bra and panties. Other pieces of art confiscating include one of lawmaker Milonov which was a rainbow-colored, the “Erotic Dreams of Lawmaker (Yelena) Mizulina” and a black and white sketch of Patriarch Kirill with prison tattoos of skulls, Lenin, and Stalin.
The portrait of Putin and Medvedev was on display at St. Petersburg’s Museum of Authority “Rulers” exhibit. With the confiscation came the closing of the exhibition. Altunin issued an open letter via the museum’s VKontakte—a Russian social networking site—page, “I demand the return of my paintings, which were stolen from the Museum of Authority by an organized criminal group led by lawmaker Milonov.”
Altunin went further requesting that President Putin “abolish censorship in art, because any Russian nationals who want to create at will and express their opinion could find themselves in my position.” This is in reference to recent instances where both the Orthodox Church and politicians had artwork pulled and the artists prosecuted. The artist also requested that influential international leaders attending G20 next month to “mention the topic of censorship in personal conversation with Putin and ask him to return my paintings seized from the Museum of Authority.”
When asked about the reasons for removing the paintings, the police stated that it was because of a complaint issued by Milonov as the artwork could “violate existing legislation.” St. Petersburg police also mentioned that Altunin committed no crime in this instance even though there is a law on the books that deem “insulting representatives of authority” illegal.
The police didn’t go into details about the exact reason why the paintings were removed, but it looks to be a situation where everyone knows exactly why given the cracking down on artistic expression and LGBT activities in recently.
St. Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov’s law against the “promotion of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors” comes with a fine that could hit 500,000 rubles ($15,000 U.S) and was written into law in March 2012. This law among other anti-LGBT legislature and the persecution of those who have protested against these laws have led to some gay activists and groups to call for either a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi or moving the Games altogether.
The confiscation of Altunin’s artwork for mocking officials is simply the most recent instance. He is expected to continue calling for the return of his portraits, but this doesn’t look like a case where the squeaky wheel gets the grease is proven valid.