Russian authorities confiscated a painting by Konstantin Altunin in a new gallery called the Museum of the Authority in St. Petersburg that had allegedly shown "solidarity with Russia's gay-rights movement," according to the Wall Street Journal. The painting in question, titled "Travesty," depicts President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev looking directly at the viewer, while Putin fixes Medvedev's hair. Both are dressed in female undergarments, Medvedev with a hefty bosom.
While the sophomoric nature of feminizing men to sap them of their masculinity may be written off as a bit sexist, the sensual nature of the pose would obviously enrage a man such as Putin who has so often shown off his masculinity by riding horses barechested. It turns out the exhibit, titled The Rulers, also contained portraits of President Barack Obama and former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, but we have not seen images of how they were portrayed (and they were apparently not confiscated).
Authorities also took other paintings: one of St. Petersburg politician Vitaly Milonov with a rainbow background, one depicting Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill with criminal-style tattoos (an obvious mixing of Russian mafia and religious iconography), the other of Yelena Mizulina, the Kremlin-allied Duma deputy and morality crusader who led the drive to pass Russia’s “gay propaganda” law nationally, titled “The Erotic Dreams of Deputy Mizulina.”
Of course, the irony is that images last on the Internet forever and will be passed around and around and around instead of being consigned to the dustbin of history. And a mediocre painting that would have been ignored and forgotten is now a cause celebre. (Yes, that's a hint that we want you to share this portrait anywhere and wherever you can to stick it to Putin.)
The controversy goes to remind citizens of the United States the amount of freedom we take for granted. Do you recall this portrait of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in intimate embrace on the cover of the Village Voice newspaper's 2006 Queer Issue? And no one was arrested, nothing was confiscated, and the world was a better place.