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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khodorkovsky's Court Drama Goes on Exhibit

MTShevelev's "Khodorkovsky and Lebedev," ink and colored pencil on paper, is among the 60 sketches on display.
As the Meshchansky District Court adjourned Tuesday evening, lawyers and reporters moved across town for the opening of a collection of pencil and ink sketches of Mikhail Khodorkovksy at the Central House of Artists.

The 60 sketches are from 400 that Pavel Shevelev has drawn since he began attending the yearlong trial in December. The court scenes include a pensive-looking Khodorkovsky and fellow defendant Platon Lebedev behind bars, an oversized portrait of Judge Irina Kolesnikova looking down, and a color sketch of tired defense lawyers and stern judges.

"I chose a trial that moves me," said Shevelev, who does not hide his support for the defendants.

"It fascinated me that this can go on right next door to where we live ... and the courtroom stays virtually empty," he said.

Lawyers from the defense team mixed with foreign and Russian reporters, members of the defendants' families and Yukos employees at the exhibit titled "Drawings on Trial," organized by the Kovcheg gallery as part of the Central House of Artists' Art Moskva series of modern art.

"I am a continuous believer that the more people who can attend Meshchansky court [and] know what's going on there, the better," said Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer for Khodorkovsky.

"The works are talented, but inspired by sad events," said the former head of Yukos' analytical department, former KGB General Alexei Kondaurov.

Despite the tensions surrounding the high-profile case, Shevelev said court officials were very cooperative, so sketching trial scenes was almost as simple as working at the Pushkin Museum. "One guard asked me not to draw him, but he did so as he looked me straight in the eye, like a man," Shevelev said. "I am not in journalism. I wanted to stay in the artistic realm.

"On many occasions, there were only a handful of journalists and me," he added.

"It was impossible not to notice him," Lebedev's lawyer Vladimir Krasnov said, when asked whether Shevelev's work during the trial had caught his attention.

While he and other courtroom regulars had already seen some of the sketches, "seeing the works in full makes a strong impression," Krasnov said.

Despite the drawings' politically charged nature, Kovcheg curator Sergei Safonov said the sketches would not have gone on display if they did not have artistic value. "We are not embarrassed to show them," he said, noting that Shevelev's works hark back to the traditions of Russian 20th-century graphic art.

Like many other galleries showcasing works as part of Art Moskva, Kovcheg plans to sell the sketches. Amsterdam and Krasnov may be in the market.

"It would be trite to say I like my own portrait," Krasnov joked.

Amsterdam identified "State Thinking" -- a sketch of a prosecutor looking out a window with his back turned to the courtroom -- as one of his favorite works, but he said, "One thing you can't see in any of these pictures is the absence of truth [and] honesty that has been the hallmark of this trial."