Mysterious British street artist Banksy just bailed out of jail two members of a Russian art collective called Voina, which means “war.” Leonid Nikolayev and Oleg Vorotnikov awaited trial in a bed bug-infested St. Petersburg prison for four months until Banksy swooped in and paid their bail. Voina is known for stunts like painting a huge penis on a bridge facing the headquarters of the KGB’s replacement, the Federal Security Service.
The two artists were arrested for overturning police cars in St. Petersburg and accused of “aggravated hooliganism,” which is a delightfully-named crime. They were taken to prison and kept in awful, predictable post-Soviet conditions until Banksy heard of their plight from a BBC radio broadcast. The artist offered to pay their bail, which for some reason the authorities didn’t accept until recently.
Upon his release, one of the artists told the BBC that “We’re in excellent spirits. Prison has been a most interesting and revealing adventure.” Russia is crazy!
And Banksy seems to be increasingly powerful. He’s like the guardian angel of artists keeping it real all over the world. Next time I’m behind on an assignment or forgot to pay my electric bill, I’ll just call Banksy and tell him I’m working on a subversive portrait of Mike Bloomberg’s face superimposed on top of the Joker’s on the side of the Empire State Building. And everything will work out just fine.