Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky has been sentenced to six months in French prison for his role in exposing a 2020 sex scandal involving Benjamin Griveaux, a former Paris mayoral candidate.
Through Pavlensky’s online artwork , a website he once called the “world’s first porn website to involve politicians or elected and appointed government officials,” the artist leaked footage of the married Griveaux masturbating and sending intimate text messages to a woman named Alexandra de Taddeo in 2018. Griveaux ended his 2020 mayoral campaign shortly after the incident, and has since left politics altogether.
De Taddeo, who is now dating Pavlensky, was also found guilty of privacy violation and handed a suspended six-month prison penalty of her own. She and the artist have each been ordered to pay €15,000 ($15,750) in damages and €5,000 ($5,250) in legal fees to Griveaux. Pavlensky will likely serve his half-year sentence outside of prison, wearing an electronic tag.
Upon leaving the court in Paris, Pavlensky told reporters that he does not plan to appeal the judge’s decision.
“My work of art Pornopolitics is now finished, because the judge’s conviction is the last point in my works of art,” he proclaimed, according to local outlets. “It’s always like that,”
Griveaux was not present at the hearing. His lawyer, Richard Malka, said the politician was “satisfied that justice has been done to him,” but the “wrongs that have been caused to him will never be repaired.”
“What this decision says is that the violation of our private lives is a serious offense committed by delinquents,” Malka added.
Pavlensky and de Taddeo’s trial was the subject of much media attention as it played out in French court this summer. Griveaux’s team claimed that the footage violated their client’s right to privacy. The artist in turn argued that his actions were protected under his right to the freedom of expression.
Pavlensky seemed more concerned with creating a creative spectacle than a compelling defense. As witnesses, he brought in a pair of art academics and three actors who recited passages from Molière’s 17th-century satirical play Tartuffe ou I’lmposteur.
One of the scholars, Carrie Pilto, told the court that “questioning normative codes is one of the strengths of contemporary art.” When asked by one of Pavlensky’s lawyers if the Pornopolitique website fit within his broader practice, she said, “absolutely. He creates artworks to question the state.”
Pavlensky has a long history of pushing the limits of performance and taste in his art. In 2012, he sewed his mouth shut to protest the detainment of members of the Russian art collective Pussy Riot. The following year, he nailed his scrotum to the pavement in front of Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow.