Urine Attack Shuts Down Controversial Moscow Photography Show

A protester disguised as a journalist was behind the vandalism.

Some 20 activists in matching uniform jackets and camouflage from a little-known non-governmental organization called "Officers of Russia" stand outside the doors of the Lumiere Brothers Gallery close to the Kremlin in Moscow on September 25, 2016. Pro-Kremlin activists threw urine on pictures by a controversial US photographer at a Moscow gallery and forced the show's closure after a government adviser condemned the images as "child pornography." The exhibition showed pictures by Jock Sturges, a well-known photographer whose nude images of children have regularly prompted accusations of pedophilia, which he denies. Courtesy of Andrei Borodulin/AFP/Getty Images.

Moscow’s Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography has abruptly closed its show of American artist Jock Sturges following complaints that the photographer’s work is child pornography. A group of protesters descended upon the gallery on September 25, and one man threw urine on the images, reports the Guardian.

The protest was led by a citizen group called Officers of Russia, which claims to defend public morals and the “patriotic upbringing of the population,” as per its mission statement.

“Under our legislation, taking pictures of nude children and exposing them is not allowed,” the organization’s leader, Anton Tsvetkov, told Russian news agency TASS, adding that it is “not quite right only three minutes from the Kremlin, in the very heart of this country, to position this pedophilic photographer.”

The exhibition, titled “Absence of Shame,” opened September 8, and featured photographs taken since the 1970s of members of some 25 families living in nudist communities in France, northern California, and Ireland.

Jock Sturges, Hanneke, Vierlingsbeek, The Netherlands (1995). Courtesy of Jock Sturges.

Jock Sturges, Hanneke, Vierlingsbeek, The Netherlands (1995). Courtesy of Jock Sturges.

“Nudity means nothing to anybody here…People are naked…because they are naturists and spend their summers in a resort dedicated to the absence of shame,” said Sturges in a statement released prior to the opening. His models, often young girls, were photographed with parental consent.

According to the Daily Mail, gallery curator Natalia Litvinskaya maintained that the show has “nothing to do with pedophilia,” and was shuttered due to “threats from absolutely delusional people.” The protesters, who blocked the entrance to the building, reportedly arrived wearing camouflage uniforms. Earlier in the day, a man posing as a journalist threw a mix of urine and acetone on the artworks, according to NDTV.


TASS reports that Russia’s children’s right commissioner, Anna Kuznetsova, has called for the gallery to be shuttered for 90 days or to be issued a five-million-ruble ($78,030) fine, as per Article 28.4 of the Administrative Offenses Code. Russian television outlets are reportedly quoting senator Yelena Mizulina as claiming that “this is propaganda of pedophilia in the most accurate sense of the word.”

According to the artnet Price Database, Sturges’s record at auction is just $40,000, set in 2014 for Fanny, Montalivet. Nevertheless, the artist often appears near the top of the list of the most searched artists on artnet, along with other artists who may not be household names, but who are known for their nude photography.

Sturges’s work has also been controversial in his home country, but he was not indicted by a grand jury after a 1990 raid of his home and studio. “These photographs have been published all over the world, and no gallery or museum saw pornography in them,” he told the Daily Mail. “It simply isn’t there.”

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