Did You See This Painting of Vladimir Putin in Women’s Underwear?

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Aug. 27 2013 4:56 PM

Police Remove Painting of Putin and Medvedev in Women’s Underwear From Russian Art Gallery

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A visitor looks at an artwork representing Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev by Russian artist Konstantin Altunin in cental St. Petersburg on Aug. 21, 2013.

Photo by Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Dolled-up images of Russian President Vladimir Putin have become a regular feature at gay rights rallies lately, but apparently ladies’ underwear was a step too far:

Police seized a painting of Russia's president and prime minister in women's underwear from a gallery in St Petersburg, saying the satirical display had broken unspecified laws. The officers also removed a picture of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, his torso covered in tattoos, and two others poking fun at lawmakers who have backed legislation banning so-called gay propaganda, gallery staff said. … One painting showed president Vladimir Putin wearing a tight-fitting slip and brushing the hair of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who is wearing knickers and a bra.
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You wouldn’t think a president who has dabbled in the art world himself and spends so much time in public with his shirt off would be so sensitive!

On a more serious note, it will be interesting to see if the authorities try to invoke the recently passed gay “propaganda” law in this case, as some of the paintings made direct reference to gay rights issues. St. Petersburg was one of the first cities in Russia to adopt such legislation, setting the stage for the nationwide ban. 

The case also brings to mind one from South Africa last year in which a painting of President Jacob Zuma with his penis exposed was removed from a Johannesburg art gallery after protests and threats of legal action from the ruling African National Congress.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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