Kandinsky art prize plays with politics

Fri Nov 7, 2008 2:18pm EST
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By Amie Ferris-Rotman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Faked photographs of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin cavorting naked on a sofa with U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, a giant styrofoam throne and pins in rubber erasers are vying for Russia's top modern art award.

The display of heavily politicized art by finalists competing for the Kandinsky Prize is considered a knock against Western critics who say freedom of expression has been curtailed by the Kremlin, though Russia's deputy minister for culture, Pavel Khoroshilov, sits on the prize's council of trustees.

"There is no censorship today and everyone can participate, Russian art is very open, there's a fair chance for everybody," Friedhelm Hutte, director of global art at Germany's Deutsche Bank, which is a partner in the prize, told Reuters TV.

One of 32 first prize finalists will win the top prize worth 40,000 euros ($51,180). Twenty nine other finalists are in the running for a young artist or media project of the year award. Russian insurance and financial group IFD Capital are the sponsors of the awards.

Siberian art duo Blue Noses are in the running with their video installation that includes photographs of posed naked male and female models whose faces have been replaced by those of Russian and world politicians.

An enormous white styrofoam "Throne" bearing Russia's double-headed eagle symbol by Sergei Shekhovtsov, is meant to show a link between the head of the Russian state with the country's Tsarist past. Security cameras and a crown are attached to its top, which is bathed in a swathe of pink light.

It was first shown to the public on the day of Russian presidential elections on March 2 of this year -- a nod at Western criticism that the election of Dmitry Medvedev as president was neither free nor fair.

Sewing pins in rubber erasers make up the outline of Putin's face in Diana Machulina's 'Rubber Soul'. A diagram shows how to use the rubbers to brand the image onto human skin.   Continued...

<p>A visitor passes by Vitaly Pushnitsky's sculpture 'Son' displayed at an exhibition during an independent national Russian award in contemporary art Kandinsky Prize at the Central House of Artists in Moscow, November 6, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov</p>