Pyotr Pavlensky being detained after setting fire to the Banque de France in central Paris in 2017. Photo: Oksana Shaligyna.

Russian Artist Pyotr Pavlensky Sentenced over Paris Bank Fire

Russian dissident artist Pyotr Pavlensky, famous for his radical acts of protest art that range from nailing his scrotum to Moscow’s Red Square to cutting off part of his ear, was sentenced to three years in prison for his latest action: setting the Banque of France on the Place de la Bastille square in central Paris on fire in October 2017 with his then partner Oksana Shalygina.

At the time, the thirty-four-year-old artist said, “The Banque de France has taken the place of the Bastille, and bankers have taken the place of monarchs.” The square’s namesake, the Bastille prison, was stormed by rebels in 1789, signaling the beginning of the French Revolution. Pavlensky reiterated his stance on the bank at trial, which he dedicated to Marquis de Sade, the eighteenth-century French nobleman and revolutionary known for his libertine sexuality. He also praised the yellow vest protesters, who have been rallying against increasing fuel prices and other frustrations in Paris over the course of the last several weeks.

Since Pavlensky spent a year behind bars in pre-trial detention and two years of the sentence handed down were suspended, the artist will not serve any more time. Shalygina was also given a suspended prison sentence of two years and was immediately released. The court had also ordered them to pay roughly $25,000 in compensation to the bank for damages.