Artist Vanishes During a Berlin Walk

APA photo of Mikhalchuk provided by Berlin police. She disappeared Friday.
An artist who was put on trial for her role in a controversial exhibition titled "Caution, Religion!" has disappeared in Berlin, where she had been living since November, German police said.

Anna Mikhalchuk, 52, left her home in the Charlottenburg district of the German capital on March 21 and has not been seen since, Berlin police said in a statement posted on their web site Wednesday.

Her disappearance was reported by her husband, philosopher Mikhail Ryklin, the German newspaper Die Welt reported Thursday.

"She said goodbye to me in the afternoon and said she just wanted to go for a short walk," Ryklin was quoted as saying.

After about two hours, Ryklin went out to look for Mikhalchuk, and at 11 p.m. he filed a missing persons report with the police, Die Welt reported.

Berlin police went public with the news of Mikhalchuk's disappearance in unusually quick fashion for such cases, said Die Welt, which also cited anonymous friends of Mikhalchuk's claiming that the artist had suffered from depression.

Ryklin did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment Thursday.

An artist, poet and feminist literary critic, Mikhalchuk was also known by her pen name, Anna Alchuk.

She made international headlines after participating in the "Caution, Religion!" exhibition at the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center in 2003.

The exhibition featured works of art that were seen as blasphemous by many Russian Orthodox believers and was vandalized by Orthodox activists shortly after it opened.

Organizers said the exhibition was designed to provoke thought about the growing role of the Orthodox church in society.

After the activists were acquitted on charges of damaging the museum, authorities turned the tables on the Sakharov Center in a case that raised questions about freedom of speech and the power of the church.

Prosecutors charged Mikhalchuk, Sakharov Center director Yury Samodurov and his deputy, Lyudmila Vasilovskaya, with inciting religious hatred.

Of the three defendants, Mikhalchuk was the only one who contributed an artwork to the exhibition.

An arrangement of four medallions she found while moving to a new apartment, it was not among the most provocative works on display.

Others included a painting of Jesus on a Coca-Cola advertisement and a sculpture of a church made of vodka bottles.

In 2005, Mikhalchuk was cleared of all charges, while Samodurov and Vasilovskaya were found guilty and ordered to pay a fine of 100,000 rubles ($3,600) each.

Samodurov told Ekho Moskvy on Thursday that he had learned of Mikhalchuk's disappearance from friends.

He did not answer repeated calls, and another administrator at the Sakharov Center declined to comment.

Ryklin told Die Welt that there were no political reasons behind their move to Germany in November. They moved because he was hired as a guest professor at Berlin's Humboldt University, Ryklin said.