This painting has become a phenomenon in Russia after a misinterpretation: instead of the bear yelling “Surprise!” the Russians interpreted it as “Hello Bear!”, which is “Preved Medved” in Russian.
This excerpt from Lurie's site explains better: “John Lurie's painting, 'Bear Surprise' (exhibited at Roebling Hall in New York City) has been given a whole new meaning by online communities in Russia. Livejournal hosts a community that is devoted to interpretations, comments, references, and sometimes elaborate do-it-yourself parodies of the painting. Russians have interpreted “Bear Surprise” to “Preved Medved” (Hello Bear!). The phenomenon has transformed the hilarious image into a national reference point. Much like the “wave” at American sports games, Russians yell “Preved!” when a goal is scored, and the famous bear appears on the scoreboard. One fan in Russia writes, 'Even when our president answered people's questions asked via the Internet, the MOST POPULAR question was 'Dear President Putin, what's your attitude to Medved?' “