(AFP) – Sep 20, 2012
MOSCOW — Backers of the Russian Orthodox Church disrupted the opening night of an art exhibit in Moscow devoted to the punk rock band Pussy Riot.
Access to the show "Spiritual Battle" at the Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art was briefly blocked after a group of roughly 20 protesters threatened to disrupt the event.
The exhibition, by Russian artist Yevgeniya Maltseva, includes around 10 paintings, some of them styled on religious icons and others featuring hooded faces reminiscent of Pussy Riot members.
"It's a good project, not intended to insult anyone," said one of the show's organizers, Viktor Bodarenko.
But outside the gallery, one activist declared: "Such art is an insult to the basic values of Russia."
The word "Free" is written on one of the works, which features three faces. It appears to be a reference to the "Free Pussy Riot" slogan seen at a string of demonstrations protesting the detention of several band members.
A Moscow court last month jailed three members of Pussy Riot to two years in a labour camp for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.
In February, they staged a performance in Moscow's Church of Christ the Saviour -- a "punk prayer" in which they called on the Holy Virgin to drive Russian President Vladimir Putin from power.
Their appeal is scheduled to begin on October 1.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, a self-confessed ally of Putin, has denounced the stunt as "blasphemous" and the issue has divided public opinion in the country.
His spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin denounced the art show as a humiliation for the symbols of Christianity, the Ria Novosti news agency reported.
Their plight has attracted support from both inside the country and abroad, with a string of international musicians and other figures lining up to support them.
Yoko Ono, the artist and widow of Beatles musician and songwriter John Lennon, is due to bestow a peace award in the couple's name to Pussy Riot in New York on Friday.
The biennial Lennon-Ono Grant for Peace will be given to Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of jailed Pussy Riot member Nadia Tolokonnikova, said the global rights group Amnesty International.
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