Russian artists threaten Louvre boycott over censorship

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Russian painters threatened Monday to boycott an exhibition of contemporary Russian art at the Louvre over the removal of works deemed offensive to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a gallery owner said.

"Seven artists have declared that they won't participate in the exhibition in solidarity with Avdei Ter-Oganyan whose works were censured by the culture ministry," prominent Moscow gallery owner Marat Guelman told AFP.

The ban covers Ter-Oganyan's abstract works that include sometimes provocative notes by the artist.

One work, a black rectangle on a red background, bears the inscription: "This work urges you to commit an attack on statesman V.V. Putin in order to end his statist and political activities."

The Russian culture ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.

The boycott of the exhibition at the Louvre opening next month "will draw attention to this absurd conflict between art and the authorities. My works were created for this purpose and demonstrate the idiocy of idiots," Ter-Oganyan wrote on his website.

The "Counterpoint: Russian Contemporary Art" is scheduled to open at Paris' top museum on October 14 and run through January 31, 2011.

Ter-Oganyan fled Russia for Prague, where he still lives today, after criminal proceedings were opened against him for smashing Russian Orthodox icons during an art performance in 1998.

In July, a Russian court fined art experts nearly 6,500 dollars for inciting hatred with a provocative 2007 art exhibition, judging their had been criminal intent to insult the feeling of religious believers with works such as a print of Jesus with the head of Mickey Mouse.

© 2010 AFP

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