Dozens of Russian Artists Investigated by Kremlin’s FSB Secret Service

0 20

In a move that has shocked Russia’s art community, the Kremlin-controlled FSB secret service has begun investigating the country’s contemporary artists who are known to make politically-motivated work. The FSB have reportedly searched at least 30 artists’ homes and studios across at least eight cities, including at least seven artists in St. Petersburg and around six in Moscow.

Among those targeted were members of feminist punk collective Pussy Riot, members of the art activist project Party of the Dead, Yav Art Group members, and renowned conceptual artist Anatoly Osmolovsky. The house of Nailya Allakhverdiyeva, the director of the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art, was also searched. In some cases, equipment like phones or computers were seized or the artists were taken away for questioning.

The investigations began just ahead of voting in Russia’s multi-day election, which started today. Some believe the investigations are meant to thwart any artistic disruptive actions. It is said to be the largest Russian secret service operation against contemporary artists since the fall of communism, according to a report in the Austrian news outlet Die Presse.

The operation is thought to have been triggered by charges of treason against the Russian-Canadian artist and activist Pyotr Versilov. He has long been known to authorities for his association with Voina, a performance collective known for organizing provocative public protests. He was also married to Nadya Tolokonnikova, co-founder of the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot, for which Versilov was an unofficial spokesperson. He was imprisoned by the Russian state in 2012.

Pussy Riot and Tolokonnikova did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

In October, Versilov claimed to have joined the Ukrainian army, an act of treason in the eyes of the Kremlin. He is no longer living in the country, but has been sentenced to eight and a half years in a prison camp in absentia by a Moscow court (the case was sent back for retrial by Moscow City Court on Monday). His mother’s house was allegedly also searched by the FSB.

It is not yet known exactly how the FSB selected artists to investigate but many of those chosen so far said they had been designated as witnesses in the treason case against Versilov, despite having no affiliation with him. Mediazona, an independent news platform founded by Versilov, has been reporting on the activities of the FSB. It claimed “there is reason to believe that this investigation is just a pretext for putting representatives of contemporary art in fear and to drive them out of the country.”

Some of the artists who were investigated, including Osmolovsky and Olga Kurachyova from Pussy Riot, where also detained and questioned. The St. Petersburg apartment of two artists, Katrin Nenasheva and Natasha Chetverio, was also searched and Nenasheva was apparently taken away in a car without license plates. She has since been released. A friend of the exiled street artist Philippenzo was also reportedly taken away by the FSB.

The political performance and installation artist Denis Mustafin was among those investigated. He has been openly critical of Putin and was already taken from his home and detained for anti-war activism last year.  He is now hoping to secure asylum in France and renounce his Russian citizenship.

“When I left the detention center, I began to look over my shoulder,” he told The Moscow Times in June 2023. “Every time, leaving the entrance to my building, walking to my house, I look around like a spy… Are they waiting for me, is it an ambush, are there any strangers…it’s a kind of PTSD.”

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.