Fascists attack Moscow gallery

In an article I posted to this web log on January 19th, 2006, I praised the vision and courage of Russian gallery owner Marat Guelman for his having curated the exhibit Bad News From Russia. Now comes the alarming news that Guelman was attacked in his Moscow gallery by a fascist gang whose aim was to intimidate - if not to kill.

Guelman’s Bad News From Russia exhibit premiered at New York’s White Box gallery, as a response to the semi-official Russia! exhibit at the Guggenheim in New York City. Bad News featured controversial modern-day works that focused on the current realities of today’s Russia - the war in Chechnya, an increasingly authoritarian Putin regime, a plummeting living standard, and neo-fascist nationalists. The later have apparently been closely watching Mr. Guelman, and they violently raid his Moscow gallery as a warning to all those who would defy the established order in Russia. On October 21st, 2006, ten young men dressed in black uniforms burst into the Marat Guelman Gallery, and in the words of Guelman, they “made the girls stand against the wall, began smashing everything down, then burst into my office and started beating me up and then they left. My face was smashed into meat. They chose the modern art and me as their enemy and they settled scores with me.” The thugs beat Guelman with fists, chairs, and even threw a computer at him before fleeing the premises. Mr. Guelman was treated at a hospital for a broken nose and other injuries.

Guelman’s gallery had been showing the works of Georgian artist Alexander Djikia, and there’s no doubt ultra-nationalist and anti-Georgian sentiment on the neo-fascist right lead to the attack and destruction of all of Djikia’s artworks. There have been tensions between the Kremlin and Georgia of late - and Moscow has been deporting hundreds of ethnic Georgians in a xenophobic purge. Russian fascists have placed Guelman on an “enemies of Russia” list now circulating on the internet. It is terrifying to realize that the recently assassinated journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, a searing critic of the Kremlin, was also included on that neo-fascist hit list.

It is difficult to imagine the outrageous attack against Guelman occurring without the Putin regime having had some advanced knowledge of the assault - just twenty-four hours earlier the government had seized artworks exhibited by Guelman’s gallery. On Friday, October 20th, 2006, Russian officials at the Sheremetyevo-2 airport in Moscow seized 11 artworks Guelman had on consignment to Matthew Brown, a London gallery owner. Brown was allowed to leave the country - but the artworks remained in the hands of police. The offending artworks were photo collages depicting unflattering images of president Vladimir Putin, George W. Bush, and Osama bin Laden as a trio. At the very least, fascist thugs were embolden by the government seizure and decided to strike while the iron was hot.

Photo collage by the Blue Noses art group

[ Mask-Show (Political Dances). Photo collage by the "Blue Noses" art group - 2001. Eleven prints from this series depicting Putin, Bush, and Osama bin Ladan, were seized by Russian authorities on Oct. 20, 2006. Just twenty-four hours later, fascists attacked the Marat Guelman Gallery. ]

While there’s no hard evidence the Putin regime is behind the attack, the Russian government can’t be displeased over the attempt to silence a major critic in an act that is sure to have a chilling effect on free speech. [ Read more about the attack. ]

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