Winning Monument Homeless
Despite the popularity of this nationwide competition, no public place wants to house a ‘Bribe’ monument.
Published: June 5, 2013 (Issue # 1762)
galina stolyarova / spt
This popular interactive monument entreated passers-by to “strike a deal.”
A nationwide competition began in St. Petersburg in June of last year for the design of the best monument commemorating bribes. It sparked significant interest among artists, professionals and amateurs alike with more than 400 designs submitted, many from far beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg. Artists from across Russia, from Irkutsk to Volgograd to Petrozavodsk, submitted designs, along with contestants from as far as Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
In the end, it was a monument by Moscow artist Pyotr Navdayev that won first prize. The artist received 150,000 rubles ($4,785) for his efforts from the event sponsor, Boris Lipner — owner of the local chain of orthopedic stores, Kladovaya Zdorovya
Lipner became the driving force and the wallet behind the sculpture contest to create a monument titled “Greyhound Puppy” due to his repeated frustration from dealing with all sorts of constant bureaucratic hurdles that appear to have been designed to extort and squeeze money from entrepreneurs.
“Yes, I used to be weak myself, as in some cases the option of paying up a sweetener was such a relieving solution,” said Lipner. “But you eventually get sick of this system that is corrupt and leads nowhere. I have made sure that I will pay no bribes in the future, whatever the circumstances.”
However, with the competition now finished, the future of the winning monument remains uncertain.
St. Petersburg artist Anatoly Belkin, the president of the competition’s jury, is very skeptical about the chances of the monument being installed, with the main reason being that too many local residents would really like to see the sculpture placed in close proximity to an important government or state institution, from the City Hall to Prosecutor’s Office to any local court.
“As for me, when people ask me what would be an ideal location for such a monument, I always reply that a spot outside any building that houses a state authority, from the Kremlin to a village council, would be most appropriate,” Belkin said. “But I doubt that the officials will find a place for this kind of razor-edged wit.”
The next step for the competition organizers is to get in touch with City Hall’s town planning and architecture committee for permission to install the monument.
The project’s designers seem to have little ambitions about the possible future locations of their creations. They themselves suggest quiet city parks, alleys or serene pedestrian streets, far away from any government institutions.
Lipner is convinced that the monument will indeed be installed. He chose the contest’s title as an allusion to the famous phrase from Nikolai Gogol’s legendary play, “The Inspector General,” in which the writer uses the expression “to take bribes in the form of greyhound puppies.” The phrase has since become a symbol of bribe taking and has been widely used in Russia ever since.
“Because the title is talking about greyhounds, I do not think that any sane official would refuse to allocate some space for it in a local park,” Lipner said.
Alexander Borovsky, a member of the competition’s jury and a respected arts historical with the State Russian Museum, said he liked the tongue-in-cheek approach that some of the artists took towards the subject.
“This is no easy topic,” he said. “The task was to commemorate an issue that is a shameful one, something that is despised by society. It was crucial to show taste here, and create an artful sculpture without turning it into a farcical one.”
The contest finalists’ projects went on public display on May 14 at the St. Petersburg Museum for Urban Sculpture on Nevsky Prospect.
Local residents who attended the display of the projects have been most enthusiastic with proposing potential locations for them. Many people suggested areas near their district authority headquarters.
The locals also left notes supporting the most successful projects of their own choice. All sculptures were exhibited anonymously, meaning that the artists’ names were withheld.
The spectators favored the sculpture titled “The sobering fate of a greedy greyhound” that depicted a bureaucrat with the head of a greyhound begging in the streets and collecting coins in his hat. Another popular project presented a variation on the theme of the Capitoline wolf statue in Rome, with the difference being that the wolf had the head of a greyhound, and milking her were two bureaucrats.