Russian investigators said on Wednesday they would probe an exhibition in Moscow that displays corpses as artworks, after complaints that it could insult religious believers.
Body Worlds exhibitions were pioneered by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens, dubbed “Doctor Death”, who for 20 years toured the world with his controversial show, exhibiting preserved corpses and human organs.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said in a statement that it would “conduct a procedural check against the initiators and organisers” of the Moscow edition of Body Worlds.
The Investigative Committee said public figures had suggested the exhibition “violates moral values” and “can be regarded as an insult to the religious feelings of believers” — criminal offences in Russia.
The statement also said a petition had been launched to close down the show, which opened in the Russian capital on March 12.
The committee appears to be referring to an initiative on the Change.org website that says the show “destroys the ethical, moral and spiritual side of a person, lowering society and the state to the level of medieval laws”.
It has so far garnered just under 900 signatures.
The first exhibition of von Hagens’ preserved bodies was held in Japan in 1995. Tens of millions have since visited the shows around the world.
While the sourcing of the bodies has sparked controversy, the founder maintains that all corpses are obtained with the full knowledge of the donors and has himself expressed a desire for his body to be displayed at an exhibition after death.
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