Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny and his wife, Yulia, made a guest appearance at Moscow’s Winzavod Contemporary Art Centre yesterday to attend the opening of a new exhibition about the anti-Kremlin protests that have rocked the capital since 2011. Russian Baroque, an exhibition by artist Sergei Kamennoy, comprises a series of photographs and sketches of protesters clashing with police at Bolotnaya Square. Among the drawings is one of Navalny himself while another is of Ilya Varlamov, a popular blogger and photographer.
Speaking about the exhibition, Russian-born, Paris-based Kamennoy said: “The baroque style was designed to celebrate and promote the power of government, the nobility and the church. In this project, the focus is on the main characters — the victims of police brutality.” A statement from Cultural Alliance, the gallery of curator Marat Guelman, where the exhibition was held, said it was “devoted to all street protests from the past, the present and the future”.
The theme of the exhibition chimes with the events of the past week, which saw anti-corruption campaigner Navalny sentenced to five years in jail for embezzlement, an accusation he has denied since the start of his highly controversial trial. He was consequently released on bail pending an appeal following protests against President Vladimir Putin near the Kremlin. The 37-year-old emerged as a leader of the mass protests against Putin in 2011 and 2012, using his LiveJournal account and other social media to reach a wide audience. As he awaits the outcome of his appeal, he is pushing ahead with plans to run for Moscow mayor in an election this September.
Guelman, curator of the exhibition, is no stranger to controversy himself. In June, he was removed from his post as the head of the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art in Siberia following an investigation into the budget of the month-long White Nights festival of arts, which he helped organise. His dismissal coincided with the closure of four of the festival’s exhibitions including one that poked fun of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Another featured photos of the Moscow protests.
Following their closure, Guelman evoked the ire of local authorities by relocating the exhibitions to PERMM. Speaking to The Calvert Journal yesterday about whether the investigation into festival spending was over, Guelman said: “I think so but in our country you can never know. You see the Navalny case has lasted five years. For today, my situation has finished but tomorrow they might be able to find something.”