Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a probe into an art exhibition dedicated to punk band Pussy Riot over concerns it could incite religious hatred, the committee said on Tuesday.
The "Spiritual Abuse" exhibit of paintings of jailed Russian punk rockers Pussy Riot by artist Yevgenia Maltseva opened in late September at the Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow.
The show immediately drew criticism from the Russian Orthodox Church and sparked protests by religious believers, as large-scale paintings combine Orthodox imagery with Pussy Riot slogans and their infamous balaclavas.
As part of the probe, Maltseva and Viktor Bondarenko, the project manager, have been summoned for questioning.
Orthodox Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin told RIA Novosti last week that the works, featuring scandalous musicians, jailed for two years for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, could insult the holy image revered by Christians.
The Moscow Patriarchate press office described the exhibit as a “cynical attack against Russian culture” which has nothing to do with art.
The organizers of the show insist, though, that these are works of modern art aimed at freeing icon-painting from its “historical chains” like dogmatism, obscurantism and ignorance.
The opening of the exhibition on September 20 was disrupted by a crowd of Orthodox activists and Russian Cossacks blocking the entrance to the gallery.
Nine protesters were arrested and later released.
Despite the continuing protests, the owners of the gallery refused to close the exhibit.