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Raid on Russian gallery with Georgian art October 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts.

A prominent Russian art dealer was recovering yesterday after being attacked by youths who smashed his gallery and destroyed paintings by an ethnic Georgian artist. In the latest apparent outburst of anti-Georgian feeling in Russia, Marat Guelman said that he was beaten and kicked by up to 10 “militarised characters” in central Moscow at the weekend.

“They stormed into the gallery, 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,” Mr Guelman said. “My face was smashed into meat.” Russian television showed a video of paintings by Alexander Dzhikia that had been ripped from their frames, torn up and scattered around the gallery.

Mr Guelman, 45, said that he suspected that his attackers belonged to a radical nationalist group who objected to his exhibition of works by the ethnic Georgian artist. Several nationalist organisations have listed Mr Guelman as an “enemy of Russia” on their websites because of his Jewish last name, support for modern art and opposition to neo-fascist groups.

The attack took place amid a Kremlin-ordered crackdown on Georgians living in Russia, which comes after the dispute with Georgia over the arrest of four Russian soldiers as alleged spies. Police have demanded lists of pupils at Moscow schools with Georgian surnames so that they can check the immigration status of their parents.

Hundreds of people have been deported and Georgian-owned businesses have been closed after police raids. Russia has also severed all transport links with Georgia.

Human rights groups have accused the authorities of stirring up xenophobia at a time of growing attacks on foreigners in Russia. The Sova centre, which monitors hate crimes, said that 39 people had been killed so far this year and 308 injured.

Mr Guelman founded one of the capital’s first and best-known private galleries in the early 1990s, but he has also worked as a political consultant with close ties to the Kremlin. His gallery was visited on Friday by Customs officials, who confiscated caricatures on display of President Vladimir Putin, US President George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. The works were due to be exhibited in London.

One photo collage showed the three men lying together on a couch wearing only boxer shorts and socks. Mr Guelman said that officials had told him that they were considering a criminal prosecution for insulting the president of Russia.

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