Hands up if you have ever wanted to see a painting of Barack Obama having a penis duel with Vladimir Putin? For the three of you that raised your hands, you’re in luck.
Such a painting hangs in Tochka G, a museum of erotic art in the heart of Moscow that tastefully translates as ‘G Spot’.
The painting, titled ‘Wrestling’ (2011) is the work of St Petersburg-based artist Vera Donskaya-Khilko.
It depicts a proud, fur-clad Putin targeting his red and green penises (he has two, representing his ‘hyper fertility’) at an equally triumphant Obama who is holding a fistful of dollar bills.
They stand amidst a colourful backdrop of not-so-subtle phallic imagery and potent political symbols. For in a country where illicit sex is rife but largely left out of the public discourse, Tochka G serves represents choice, independence and freedom.
Boning bears and cheeky chess: inside Tochka G
Tochka G opened its doors in June 2011 in Arbat, a central Moscow thoroughfare and renowned tourist trap.
It is home to around 3,000 erotic artworks that include sculptures, photographs and artifacts that give visitors a taste of the taboo in Russian society.
From the outside, the black awning and lipstick red walls give the place a slightly tawdry appeal. Two giant phalluses mark the entrance, one decorated in the blue and white pattern of traditional Gzhel ceramics, and the other that is a little more lifelike.
Exhibits range from blown up photographs of genitalia to delicate statues of animals engaged in carnal acts: the menagerie includes a sculpture of two turtles getting nasty and two bears howling in pleasure.
Images of four-breasted mermaids adorn the walls alongside pictures of men serving cocktails off their erections and a unique chess set is composed of fornicating pieces.
Not all the displays are from the land of the living: in one area you’ll find two skeletons boning (sorry), nor are they all modern: ancient woodcarvings from France sit alongside phallus tokens from Cameroon and gold plated penis talismans from 20th century England.
However, the museum’s main thrust (sorry – again) is how sex has evolved across Russia.
Soviet-era condoms are sealed behind glass cases; in the gift shop, Russian dolls de-robe with every decreasing incarnation; and along with Putin, several more famous names have been given a naked makeover by Donskaya-Khilko.
In her ‘Rublev Highway’, the artist has painted a nude image of Russian singer Alla Pugacheva and the explanatory notes come back to the blurred lines between art and politics.
‘A woman in Art is a symbol of the country,’ the notes read.
‘Russia is dying out, and I painted 13 women in the picture. This number means death. The 13th woman in the line is Alla Pugacheva. It is not by chance. Her last name associates with a rebellion (Yemelyan Pugachev was a pretender to the Russian throne and led a great Cossack insurrection during the reign of Catherine II) and the color of her first name is scarlet (‘ally’ in Russian). This color was a symbol of the country, which doesn’t exist anymore. I mean the USSR’.
Politics, prison and penises
Tochka G was founded by Alexander Donskoy (sometimes spelt Donskoi), a man whose backstory is every bit as interesting as the museum he created.
Donskoy was the one-time mayor of the northern Russian city Arkhangelsk. In 2005, he controversially announced his intention to stand against Putin in the presidential election of 2008 and was promptly arrested.
He spent the following two years between prison and the courtroom and was finally released in 2008, though he is barred from taking part in elections and leaving the country.
In an interview with The Independent, Donskoy was not shy about expressing his ire towards the state, describing the museum as a ‘project about freedom’.
‘My plan was to be mayor for eight years and then go into politics at the national level,’ he said.
‘Afterwards I thought long about what to do and I decided on this… We don’t value freedom enough in Russia, and that’s where all our problems stem from.’
Such a bold statement was always going to cause controversy among both state officials and the church.
Russia is ostensibly a secular state but the Orthodox Church still holds a great deal of influence.
In 2012, the police raided Tochka G and confiscated Donskaya-Khilko’s ‘Wrestling’ in order to determine its ‘compliance with the law’. It was returned soon after.
Around the same time, two pro-church activists visited the museum late at night carrying a brick, causing the receptionist and several other staff members to flee.
The group’s leader, Dmitry Enteo, told Russian media that they had targeted Tochka G because it had a pro-gay stance and supported anti-government collective Pussy Riot.
‘Little ones see their leaflets and ask their parents what a G-spot is. We couldn’t tolerate it,’ he said.
Donskoy decried them as ‘Orthodox militants’.
Sex and taxes: the biggest turn-ons in Moscow
Despite the museum’s detractors, it remains a popular destination for tourists and locals who are attracted by curiosity and the thrill of titillation from the on-site sex shop, purported to be the largest in Russia.
Shoppers can peruse the usual selection of vibrators, lubricants and lacy underwear as well as more racy items such as latex masks and whips.
Most popular are the fetish outfits – but if you’re imagining a naughty nurse or minxy masseuse, remember that this is sex, Russian-style.
Visitors make a b-line for the tax police and prosecutor, which, according to Donskoy, is ‘a bit of a fetish, because everyone is scared of them most.’
So less HMRC, more BDSM.
Tochka G, G Spot or the museum of erotic art – whatever its designation, this museum was always intended to provoke and it doesn’t disappoint; not unlike its owner.
In recent years, Donskoy has opened other museums and taken to doing public stunts in the vein of Yugoslav artist Marina Abramovic.
In April, Donskoy was caught on CCTV driving his red Ferrari into a shopping mall where he performed doughnuts and evaded security officers for over 15 minutes.
He told Russian media that the whole thing was a ‘performance’ adding, ‘I like to joke’.
Talk about a high sex drive.