Russian minister censors kissing policemen picture

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A photo of two policemen kissing, inspired by British graffiti artist Banksy, has been banned by Russia’s culture minister from an exhibition of contemporary Russian art.

Alexander Sokolov announced on Monday that the photo, Kissing Policemen (An Epoch of Clemency) by Russian art collective Blue Noses, would no longer be part of next week’s show at the Maison Rouge exhibition hall in Paris.

Another 16 works of art have also been pulled including a second photo by Blue Noses which shows three men wearing Vladimir Putin, George Bush and Osama bin Laden masks lounging on a sofa in their underwear.

Customs officers confiscated this photo last year after a British art dealer tried to take it London.

Mr Sokolov said: “If this exhibition appears it will bring shame on Russia. In this case, all of us will bear full responsibility.

“It is inadmissible…to take all this pornography, kissing policemen and erotic pictures to Paris.”

All exhibits have been on display this year in Russia at the Moscow state-owned Tretyakov gallery.

Alexander Shaburov, one of the Blue Noses’, said the picture was homage to Banky’s famous stencil of two policemen kissing.

And he accused Mr Sokolov of censorship, saying: “The state is beginning to administer culture in the same way it did under Khrushchev.”

While Moscow authorities are notorious for their suppression of gay rights, Mr Shaburov added that the image was not even about gay people.

It was instead an absurd take on the cliché of a world full of peace and love for all.

“Given the fact the state has banned it, we haven’t quite reached this point yet,” he added.

The photo, which was taken in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, had been exhibited in the Tretyakov gallery in February and March without scandal.

It is currently being shown in a private Moscow gallery.

Yuri Luzkhov, Mayor of Moscow, banned Moscow’s gay pride earlier this year calling it “Satanic”.

Gay activists who defied the ban were faced with violence from protesters chanting anti-gay slogans as well as 1000 riot police who were aiming to stop the demonstration.