Pyotr Pavlensky: The Russian artist behind France's sex tape scandal

Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky
Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky © France 24

Russian political performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky finds himself at the centre of a French scandal after publishing a sex tape of a leading Paris mayoral candidate online. But it is just the latest in a long line of provocative stunts from the artist, which have included nailing his scrotum to the ground outside Moscow’s Red Square and setting fire to the headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). 


Pavlensky, 35, first came to international attention in 2012, when he appeared outside Kazan Cathedral in his native St Petersburg with his lips sewn shut. He said the performance piece was a political protest against the incarceration of members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot.

Following stunts included appearing naked and wrapped in barbed wire outside the St Petersburg legislative assembly and cutting off a piece of his own ear with a chef’s knife in protest at the alleged political abuse of psychiatry in Russia.

In 2013 he carried out one of his most shocking works when, while sitting naked on the stone pavement on Red Square, he hammered a large nail through his scrotum, and into the ground below. Pavlensky said the work represented "apathy [and] political indifference".

The artist fled to France in 2017 after allegations of sexual assault were made against him in Russia, charges he said were politically motivated.

He has continued to cause trouble for the authorities in his adopted country, setting fire to the entrance to offices of the Bank of France in Paris in October 2017 and now, publishing a leaked sex tape of Paris mayoral candidate Benjamin Griveaux, who has since dropped out of the race to govern the French capital.

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