Social Media Backlash Against Artists Trading Artwork for Alcohol in Russia

Organizers claim that even Picasso swapped art for wine. Photo: Art for Booze via VKontakte

If you’re based in St Petersburg and can’t afford to buy art, we’ve got you covered. Artists in Russia’s second largest city are hosting an event where visitors can barter art for alcohol, the BBC reports.

Aptly dubbed Art for Booze, the event takes place tonight, just before Valentine’s Day, and targets “those who are in love with art,” as stated on the event’s social networking page, VKontakte. There, they also challenge visitors, asking “Do you understand alcohol better than art? Do you spend more money on drinking than our pieces cost? Drop this and exchange precious drinks for priceless paintings.”

According to the initiators, swapping art for alcohol has a long tradition in the arts, and was a common practice in the 1920s and 1930s. In an interview with the Ukrainian website Novoye Vremya, the organizers argue, “All well-known painters from Picasso to Ilya Kabakov did this.” They add, “Marc Chagall and Salvador Dali, among others, designed the label for Mouton-Rothschild bottles in exchange for a crate of wine.”

Although the event is strictly for participants aged 18 or older, the legal drinking age in Russia, the concept has attracted a lot of criticism. One social media user commented, “Next they’ll be swapping paintings for cigarettes or drugs.” Another wrote, “They should go to Ukraine or Europe with their ‘projects.’ In St Petersburg, art should not be equated to a bottle of whiskey.”


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