Arts Organization Shuttered
Published: March 13, 2013 (Issue # 1750)
Photographer Andrei Kezzin’s modern interpretation of ‘The Last Supper’ has raised the specter of censorship in the arts.
On March 7, local officials shuttered new arts and performance venue Morye (Sea) on its opening day, citing a review of management procedures.
In a report by local website The Village, the founders of the venue claim that inspectors let slip that the real reason for the closure was a planned exhibition by Andrei Kezzin titled “Leningrad 2012.” Apparently, officials objected to the artist’s take on da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” in which Jesus, Mary and the apostles are all dressed in police uniforms. Organizers say that they will open the exhibition as soon as they receive all the required documents to allow them to use the space legally.
“Our landlords haven’t liked us for a long time,” said Daria Shcherbinina, a spokesperson for the venue, to The Village. “People with an old-school mentality don’t really understand what sort of concerts we organize here. And once they heard that we were opening an exhibition, they said ‘Okay, we’ll come have a look.’ They came and found Kezzin’s [work] rather provocative, and immediately discovered a lot of violations that would force the space to close. The official reason given was fire safety violations. We will reapply for the required documents again and the exhibition will be opened anyway.”
“Leningrad 2012” is merely the latest in a series of exhibitions recently affected by a new wave of censorship in St. Petersburg. In May 2012 an image of a crying President Putin was removed from Danish artist Lars Crammer’s exhibition “Crying Icons” at the Art re.Flex gallery, though gallery director Diana Brat later admitted she had done this as a precautionary measure.
In October, the Rizzordi Art Foundation asked Marat Gelman to delay his exhibition “Icons” because of an “extremely unfavorable atmosphere” in the city. The curator cancelled the exhibition outright and has changed venues so that local audiences will have a chance to finally see the exhibition.
Due to open on March 29 at the Tkachi arts center, “Icons” will be supported by a series of lectures, round table discussions and workshops for children and adults, to help visitors better understand the exhibition and issues surrounding the presentation of contemporary art in Russia.
The chilling atmosphere is also being felt by theaters. Theater Alliance’s satirical production “Devil Citizens” was canceled not because of “technical problems” as cited by the theater’s owners, but rather for political reasons, according to the troupe. Meanwhile, a solo performance of “Lolita” by Leonid Mozgovoi at the Erarta Museum was canceled by the artist because of threats he says he received by letter shortly before the performance.
Even the State Hermitage Museum came under fire last December for mounting an exhibition by British art duo Jake and Dinos Chapman titled “End of Fun,” which attracted complaints from conservative elements over the exhibition’s provocative use of religious imagery, resulting in the State Prosecutor’s Office opening an investigation into the exhibition.
The Hermitage’s director Mikhail Piotrovsky was steadfast in his defense of the museum’s right to mount exhibitions it considered worthy of attention, branding the investigation “a sign of the cultural degradation of Russian society.”