'Naked' Yanukovych exposed at Ukrainian anti-cafe
KIEV, March 27, 2014 (AFP) First he was stripped of his presidency, then his lavish mansion and opulent tastes were laid bare, and now ousted Ukraine leader Viktor Yanukovych has been exposed even further, in an infamous nude painting on display in central Kiev.
A burly and grim Yanukovych slouches in an unflattering position, with no detail left to the imagination, in the painting called "The Naked King" which swept to accidental fame during the revolution that forced him to flee the country in February.
Olga Oleynik, 25 was -- and still is -- just a struggling artist painting what she calls "unusual" pieces, when she scored a lucky break: a friend working for a local television station got her a spot on air to show her painting of the reviled president.
But her opportunity coincided with rapid-fire change in Ukraine after months of protests reached a bloody zenith, leaving around 100 dead, prompting parliament to oust Yanukovych.
On the same day Yanukovych's arch-rival Yulia Tymoshenko was freed from prison and Oleynik was sidelined by the breaking news.
"So I'm taking the painting and start to leave, but all of a sudden a photographer takes a picture of me holding the art piece in the corridor," she told AFP in an interview.
As opposition protesters and ordinary Ukrainians discovered with horror the opulence at Yanukovych's lavish mansion Mezhygirya, the picture went viral as many said it had been found along with luxury cars, a private zoo and golden toilets.
"I came home and in the morning the picture was all over the Internet already and saying that the picture was from Mezhygirya," said Oleynik.
"Now we understand the nature of this man. This painting just shows it physically... this man did much evil to our country, so people are happy to see this man in a compromising situation."
In reality the image was painted in 2012 as part of a series of nudes of well-known politicians called "I am a man".
Appreciation of the artwork ranged from amusement to awe and outrage.
"The artist might be crazy, very strange masterpiece," one Facebook user commented on the picture.
Another called Yanukovych a "renaissance victim" while another suggested the picture be "nailed to the refrigerator to spoil an appetite".
- 'Anti-cafe' -
The now-famous painting has taken up residence in a corner of an "anti-cafe" owned by Oleynik in a basement in the heart of Kiev.
A concept which originated in Moscow, but has spread to London and Paris, an anti-cafe is a hangout where coffee and snacks are free and you pay per minute or hour for time spent in a cosy living room type atmosphere.
She opened the venue a year ago as both an anti-cafe and a place to show her nude art, as well as unusual dolls "like in horror movies" that typical galleries would balk at.
"Here in Ukraine unusual and interesting cafes are rare. This venue was opened to give Kiev some art, lightness, make (it) less glamorous."
Despite its online fame, the painting of Yanukovych has only prompted one request from a potential buyer, but it didn't go through.
Yanukovych was not Oleynik's only high-profile target.
At her home she keeps a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin which she admits she is "still a bit afraid" to show in public, but hopes in future she could show her pieces in Europe where she could have "some feeling of immunity."
"Everyone asks about Yanukovych, why does he have a small (penis). This way (people) can see how important he was politically."
In this respect, the portrait of Putin is "quite different."
"It also shows his political size because Putin is a very strong man on the world scale.