Russian ministry confirms ban on art for Louvre

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Russia on Wednesday confirmed that it had blocked the export of paintings by a controversial contemporary artist due to be shown at the Louvre in Paris because they could incite extremism.

The abstract works by artist Avdei Ter-Oganyan "could be seen as calls for a coup d'etat, or inciting national or religious hatred," deputy culture minister Andrei Busygin told the Interfax news agency.

Ter-Oganyan was due to send four works to the exhibition of Russian contemporary art, due to open in October.

The series of works consist of geometric patterns with provocative captions such as "This work urges you to commit an attack on statesman V.V. Putin in order to end his state and political activities."

Deputy culture minister Busygin told Interfax that it was debatable whether the works were a "joke" or "something that falls under the federal law on fighting extremism.

The culture ministry and a federal arts watchdog "expressed doubts about the advisability of exhibiting these works at the Louvre," he said.

Several major artists due to take part in the exhibition announced a boycott on Saturday in support of Ter-Oganyan.

"Counterpoint: Russian Contemporary Art" is scheduled to open at the Louvre on October 14 and run through to January 31, 2011. It is organised by two Moscow galleries, including the state-owned National Centre for Contemporary Art.

Prominent gallerist Marat Guelman on Wednesday slammed the ministry decision.

"In our country, by law there is no censorship. This is a disgrace," he told AFP.

Ter-Oganyan fled Russia for Prague after criminal proceedings for inciting religious hatred were opened against him for chopping Russian Orthodox icons with an axe during an art performance in 1998.

In 2007 the culture ministry refused to allow works including a photograph of two kissing policemen by art group the Blue Noses to be sent to an exhibition in Paris, calling them "pornography."

© 2010 AFP

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