Monday, January 29, 2018

Controversial Public Art in Athens ‘Exorcised’ and Destroyed

Black-clad protesters in southern Athens have torn down a red sculpture shaped like an angel and broke its wings in a fresh act of violence against an artwork critics liken to Satan.

Protests against the 8-metre high sculpture called Phylax, which in Greek means “guardian”, have ranged from throwing white paint and spitting at it to attempting to exorcise it with a Greek priest sprinkling holy water. The priest described the statue as a “demon soldier of Satan” in a letter to the mayor of Palio Faliro, Dionysis Hatzidakis.

It was displayed on December 5th in a busy area in the coastal suburb of Palaio Faliro. Protesters have included some residents, religious conservatives and supporters of far right political groups.

Late on Wednesday night, January 17, a group of 10-15 hooded persons tied it to the back of a truck and drove away, pulling it down, the Mayor of Palaio Faliro Dionysis Hatzidakis told Real FM.

“It’s wings are now broken,” said Hatzidakis who has filed a lawsuit. “It has been severely damaged.”

“So, if we don’t like something we destroy it ... for political purposes?,” Hatzidakis said, adding that he suspected the attackers were far-right.

He said they threatened to hurt an eye-witness, a man working in a kiosk, if he alerted authorities. If the sculpture can be repaired it will be reinstalled, a spokesman for the mayor told Reuters.

The sculpture was created by well-known Greek artist Kostis Georgiou who has exhibited both at home and in other countries, and whose signature sculptures involve red figures. He told that Phylax was transferred to a safe place and that he hopes “the evil shall not prevail”.

“All this violence against the sculpture since the first moment it was installed has left me speechless,” he told Reuters. “It should remain down on the ground as a memorial of the irrational rationale.”

The Greek Culture Ministry has also condemned the destruction, noting in a statement that “Freedom of expression and creativity are fundamental prerequisites of every democracy. Public dialogue, peaceful disagreement and the dialectical relationship between opposites are fundamental pillars of the Greek civilization and have been bequeathed to all humanity.”

People on social media snatched the opportunity to make fun of the fall of the much-debated statue which divided not only the Palaio Faliro community but the whole of Attica.

Comments abounded about “the hand of God” or “divine intervention” which demolished the “evil idol”.