The owners of the Russian gallery that displayed paintings of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in feminine underwear have been arrested under the country’s “gay propaganda” laws, forcing the artist that created them to flee the country “without luggage or money.”
Konstantin Altunin said he received threatening phone calls after his paintings went public, and the fear of arrest drove him through Europe to seek political asylum in France.
“Today, I appealed to the French prefecture in Paris because I have no other [option],” he told RFE/RL in a phone interview. “I would gladly get [local residence and work permits] so that I can be useful to France and to work and pay taxes, but now, I am forced to request political asylum because I fled very quickly.”
Altunin said he, his wife and their 2-year-old son began receiving threatening phone calls shortly after his paintings were seized from the gallery. He says he left his home not intending to flee at first, but a string of police officers that arrived to harass his wife left him no choice.
Altunin called the response to his paintings “very unpleasant and very ugly.” “My wife is in tears and my 2-year-old child keeps asking where daddy is,” he said.
The artist also repealed the censorship of his art in an open letter to Putin published on Russian social network Vkontakte this morning. So, uh, good luck with that.