Giant phallus stunt wins Russian ministry prize

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Radical art group Voina won a major art prize founded by the Russian culture ministry for painting a giant penis on a bridge in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg, organisers said Friday.

Voina won the prize for best work of visual art at the annual Innovation awards, a spokesman for the state-funded National Centre for Contemporary Arts in Moscow confirmed to AFP.

The prize, which has previously been won by acclaimed artists including Andrei Monastyrsky and the Blue Noses group, was founded with the approval of the culture ministry, the centre says on its website.

The street artists painted a 65-metre phallus on Liteiny Bridge, a drawbridge opposite the headquarters of the FSB security service that is one of Saint Petersburg's tourist attractions, just before it was raised.

The artists been awarded 400,000 rubles ($14,000) for the performance last June, titled "A cock captured by the FSB," which drew international attention as photographs circulated on the Internet.

The artists skipped the award ceremony at the Garage arts centre in Moscow on Thursday evening and it was not clear whether they would accept the cash prize.

At the ceremony at Garage, founded by tycoon Roman Abramovich's partner Darya Zhukova, art expert Andrei Yerofeyev announced the award, to chanting of the word "cock" from the audience, Moskovsky Komsomolets tabloid reported.

"There is nothing to brag about, for us it's secondary," Leonid Nikolayev, one of the organizers of the bridge stunt, told AFP in an email.

Another artist, Oleg Vorotnikov, told the Sol website that the money would be given to political prisoners, without elaborating.

Several of the group's members have spent time in jail for their stunts.

Nikolayev and Vorotnikov spent three months in pre-trial detention earlier this year for another stunt that involved tipping over police cars with officers sleeping inside.

They were released after British street artist Banksy contributed $21,000 to cover their bail. The artists still face up to seven years in prison if they are convicted of hooliganism.

Last month three of the artists were detained again after they threw bottles of urine at police at an opposition rally.

Previous performances by the artists include an orgy next to a stuffed bear in Moscow's Biological Museum, titled "Fuck for the Bearcub Heir", ahead of the election of President Dmitry Medvedev, whose name derives from the word bear.

The National Centre for Contemporary Arts was established by the Russian Ministry of Culture in 1994 to support contemporary artists. The jury for the Innovation prize includes art critics, curators, and museum workers.

© 2011 AFP

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