Russians convicted and fined over Forbidden Art show

Yuri Samodurov June 15, 2004 In 2004, Mr Samodurov demonstrated against an earlier trial

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Two men who organised a controversial art exhibition in Moscow in 2007 have been found guilty by a Russian court of inciting hatred.

Andrei Yerofeyev and Yuri Samodurov had set up the Forbidden Art exhibition at the Sakharov Museum in Moscow.

The show provoked condemnation from the Russian Orthodox Church, among others, for artworks that included a depiction of Jesus Christ with the head of Mickey Mouse.

Both men were ordered to pay a fine.

The exhibition featured several images of Jesus Christ. In one painting of the crucifixion, the head of Jesus Christ was replaced by the Order of Lenin medal.

There was also a spoof ad for Coca Cola with the slogan "This is my blood" that visitors looked at through peep holes.

Mr Yerofeyev, an art expert, and Mr Samodurov, the former director of the Sakharov Museum, said they organised the exhibition to fight censorship of art in Russia.

But prosecutors opened an investigation after an ultra-nationalist Orthodox group filed a complaint against the show.

Apology

The court fined Mr Samodurov 200,000 rubles (£4,300) and Mr Yerofeyev 150,000 rubles (£3,200).

The trial began in April 2009 and was fiercely criticised by rights activists and artists.

Start Quote

If you like expressing yourself freely, do it at home, invite some close friends”

End Quote Oleg Kassin Council of the People

Last week, 13 renowned Russian artists published an open letter to President Dimitry Medvedev, asking him to stop the trial. They said a guilty verdict would be a sentence "for the whole of Russian contemporary art".

Amnesty International issued a statement last week, saying a guilty verdict against the curators would "further undermine freedom of expression in Russia".

In letter send to the Russian Orthodox Church last month, Mr Yerofeyev apologised if the show unintentionally offended Christians.

'Provocation'

But the Council of the People, the group that brought the complaint, defended the legal action.

A representative of the organisation, Oleg Kassin, told the AFP news agency that he had been disgusted by the exhibition which contained "anti-Christian" images.

"If you like expressing yourself freely, do it at home, invite some close friends," Mr Kassin said.

"But from the moment that such an exhibition takes place in a public space, and especially if it contains insults, it's no longer art but a provocation," he added.

Mr Samodurov has been convicted of inciting religious hatred before. He was fined in 2005 for an exhibition called Caution: Religion! at the Sakharov Museum.

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