LONDON – The United Kingdom’s capital saw on Wednesday the presentation of an exhibit dedicated to artist-activists who have contributed to the struggle for social and political rights in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.
London’s Saatchi Gallery is set to feature influential Russian artists such as Pussy Riot, Blue Noses, Oleg Kulik, or Pyotr Pavlensky in this temporary exhibit entitled “Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism.”
Freedom – the display’s main theme – is not something bestowed by a government, but rather “something we should be fighting every day for it to exist,” Maria Alyokhina, a member of the feminist protest punk-rock band Pussy Riot, told EFE.
“I think this exhibition is a good opportunity to familiarize oneself with the context surrounding Russia in the past 20 years, after the Soviet Union,” Alyokhina added.
In 2012, five Pussy Riot members were sentenced to two years in prison for a provocative performance inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior protesting Orthodox Church leaders’ support for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Of course our actions have had an impact on Russian society,” Alyokhina said, explaining that it was important to use protest art as a medium to show people an image of Russia that countered the official one.
The exhibit, which is set to last until Dec. 31, is divided into five galleries, each of them dedicated to a different artist.
Curator Marat Guelman told EFE that the exhibit’s aim was to showcase Russian artists who faced significant hurdles when it came to developing their talent in their native country.
“This is an exhibition about heroes,” Guelman added. “They aren’t biblical heroes, they’re more like comics. Heroes, but fun people. This gives us the chance to talk about what’s happening in Russia. I hope that after this exhibition, the London public will understand more about our country’s art.”
He said that an event of this kind would be impossible in Russia given the current political climate.
“Maybe 10 years ago we could pull it off, but the changes arrived with Putin. Museums don’t usually touch these topics. The people who back Putin seem to think they don’t need freedom or this type of art,” Guelman opined.
The exhibit is set to include, as a separate item, the play “Inside Pussy Riot,” which tells the band’s story after the 2012 arrests.
The performance, staged by the company “Les Enfant Terribles,” can be seen until Dec. 24.