Sylvester Stallone has unveiled a retrospective of his art at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, admitting that he thinks he's a better painter than an actor.

The 67-year-old actor and filmmaker helped launch the exhibit Sylvester Stallone. Art. 1975-2013 at the venerable museum on Sunday. The star of Rocky, Rambo, The Expendables and the recent Escape Plan told reporters that if he had the choice, he would spend his life as a visual artist.

"I think I'm a much better painter than an actor," he said.

"It's much more personal and I'm allowed to just do what I want to do. Quite often in acting you have to play a certain part, you cannot speak as much as you want to speak."

The works on show include colourful self-portraits and bright abstract pieces. The exhibition has already attracted hundreds of curious art lovers as well as Stallone fans to the museum, which was established in the historic capital by Nicholas II — Russia's last tsar — in 1895 and is known for its collection of Russian art.

Some political leaders blasted museum leadership for highlighting an American celebrity's art — especially the art of the actor who portrayed the "anti-Russian" Rambo — in the revered museum.

"If my visit is a challenge for somebody, let it be so," said Stallone, who studied art before starting his movie career.

Museum staffers have pointed out that the Stallone exhibition is being shown in a branch of the main museum that displays contemporary and modern art, including works by Western artists.

Stallone's paintings "show the character of a passionate man" and are not "the work of an amateur," museum director Vladimir Gustev told media.

"This is a real artist," he added. "The Russian Museum does not show weak artists."

Stallone has previously shown his artwork in Switzerland and Miami.

The exhibit continues in St. Petersburg through Jan. 13, 2014.

With files from Agence France-Presse