Siberian Bishop Demands Censorship of Erotic Picassos for the Good of the Children

Siberian Bishop Demands Censorship of Erotic Picassos for the Good of the Children
A man studies Picasso's provocative "The Embrace III" at the Museo Picasso in Barcelona
(AFP/Getty Images)

Picasso once ruffled a lot of aesthetic feathers by using Cubism to break up the traditional picture plane into a mess of fractured pieces, rearranging facial features, and painting people who didn’t look like people. The shock value the work once had, though, has largely faded — unless you are a member of the Russian Orthodox Church and you literally live in Siberia. In the city of Novosibirsk, Orthodox bishop Tikhon has called for the closure of a show of the artist's “Suite 347” series of erotic etchings, calling them a threat to public morals.

Tikhon took offense to the prints' graphic sexual nature, noting that there were an inappropriate number of children at the exhibition and grandiosely claiming that, "This exhibition has been forbidden around the entire world, even in Moscow it couldn't be shown." The latter statement doesn’t appear to be true: Picasso’s suite is also on view at public museums including the Pablo Picasso Museum in Barcelona, the National Library of France, and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, as well as previously in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, according to the Voice of Russia. Tikhon followed up his complaints by questioning whether the works were erotic at all. “[The exhibition] is called ‘Temptation,’ but I don’t know who would be tempted,” he quipped. 

Artgit, the company that organized the exhibition, has responded to the bishop's salvo: “His grace could have been deluded and misunderstood” about the show, the organziation wrote in a statement cited by the Moscow Times. “We hope that what happened will be sorted out and forgotten." The prints, so far, are still hanging.

The Russian Orthodox Church has come under fire lately for its social conservatism and political hypocrisy. In an op-ed for the Moscow Times, Russian journalist Victor Davidoff pointed out Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill’s recent scandal of publicly calling for asceticism while wearing a $30,000 Bregeut watch. Davidoff also notes that it recently came to light that in a meeting with a group of young people, Deacon Andrei Kurayev suggested that they “disrupt an upcoming Madonna concert by calling the police and reporting a bomb in the concert hall” as a form of protest against the musician.