Russian art prize winner heckled for nationalism

Thu Dec 11, 2008 6:47pm EST
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By Amie Ferris-Rotman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's top modern art award has gone to a collection of unashamedly patriotic works, but the artist was promptly jeered by hecklers who accused him of fascism.

Alexey Belyayev-Gintovt won the main Kandinsky prize, worth 40,000 euros ($52,800), for a series of canvases named "Motherland-Daughter," featuring overt echoes of Russia's Soviet communist past as well as its Orthodox Christian heritage.

Despite the criticism, art experts praised the competition for the freedom it gave Russian artists to portray a wide range of political views and be explicitly critical of its rulers.

"I have only one theme, and it is the motherland," Belyayev-Gintovt told Reuters Television late on Wednesday after picking up his prize, which is in its second year and named after the Russian avant-garde artist Vasily Kandinsky.

"I will only focus on this and my art will always be about our great and beautiful motherland."

Born in Moscow in 1965, he described his work as mixing traditional Russian symbols by combining the styles of Russian Orthodox icon painting and Soviet art.

He often features the color red. One of the winning pieces showed an enormous three-dimensional red star mounted on a swathe of gold.

The audience members who heckled his acceptance speech included last year's prize winner, Anatoly Osmolovsky, who screamed "For shame!."   Continued...

<p>Russian artist Alexey Belyaev-Gintovt holds the Kandinsky Prize after winning in the main category in Moscow, December 10, 2008. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin</p>