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Last Updated: Friday, 7 October 2005, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Caviar Virgin Mary art taken down
A Russian modern art museum has taken down a work showing an outline of the Virgin Mary filled with caviar after complaints by a religious group.

Icon-caviar by Alexander Kosolapov was removed from the New Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow after a local Orthodox church said it incited religious hatred.

The collage of photographs was part of an exhibition of Russian Pop Art.

A museum spokeswoman said the group had threatened to "take their own measures" if the work stayed on show.

Icon-caviar is a collage of photographs of Kosolapov's 1989 work, showing an outline of the Virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus Christ that is filled in with caviar and surrounded by a gilded icon frame.

Artist angered

The spokeswoman said the museum had received a letter of complaint signed by 50 members of the church which said the work "incited religious hatred and violated their constitutional rights".

"The administration of the museum decided to take down the painting to prevent an escalation of the dispute," she said.

Mr Kosolapov, a Russian painter who emigrated to the United States in 1975, accused the museum administration of "defending the interests of those who threaten it".

"My work does not have any religious meaning: the icons and the caviar are just a metaphor for the Russian spirit," he said.

In March, a Moscow court found the organisers of an art exhibition at the Sakharov Museum guilty of inciting religious hatred and fined them 100,000 roubles (2,000) each.

In April last year, the Russian Orthodox Church and local authorities forced organisers of a modern art festival in Arkhangelsk in north-western Russia, to take down works they considered "blasphemous".

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