On Monday, four satirical paintings by artist Konstantin Altunin were removed from the St. Petersburg Museum of Power during a raid by Russian police. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the artist behind the controversial works fled Russia.
Tatiana Titova, a director at the museum, announced that Altunin left the country in the aftermath of the raid and will reportedly seek asylum in France. His paintings were apparently confiscated due to their mocking depiction of Russian political figures. One of the works featured President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in women's lingerie.
According to a description of the raid, posted on the museum's website, "unknown people" closed the museum doors and confiscated artwork, stole museum revenue and destroyed museum property. Museum staff members were terrified that they would be incarcerated. The museum has not reopened since the incident.
Russian officials announced that officers were sent by the St. Petersburg branch of Russia’s Interior Ministry, which had been informed that illegal paintings were on display. "Following an initial inspection, police seized four paintings that have been sent off for analysis, on the basis of which a procedural decision will be made," reads an official statement from the department, per The Wall Street Journal.
In a post on Russian social network VKontakte, the museum published a request from Altunin to the delegates of the G-20, a group of leading wealthy and developing nations, of which Russia is the current chair. Ahead of the group's upcoming summit in St. Petersburg, the artist urged the delegates to talk to Putin about the controversy.
The museum also posted a letter, apparently written by Altunin, addressing Putin directly to demand his paintings back.
Altunin hasn't made a public statement about his whereabouts. What appears to be the artist's Facebook profile was most recently active on the day of the police raid, when he posted a photo dedicating his painting "Bones" to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg and publicized his now-defunct exhibit at the Museum of Power.
This exhibit isn't Altunin's first time depicting controversial Russian figures. His online personal gallery features paintings of Joseph Stalin and businessman Boris Berezovsky. His work can be purchased online for anywhere between $700 and $10,000.