Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis came under fire for ordering the removal of an art piece that depicted the Greek flag in pink stripes made of bed sheets belonging to victims of femicide in Greece.
With a single phone call to the Greek consulate in New York, the foreign minister demanded that the piece of art is being removed. Gerapetritis order followed a complaint from the leader of nationalist and religious party “Nike” in Greek Parliament.
The work, titled “Neighborhood Guilt,” made by New York-based artist Georgia Lale, was presented in an exhibition addressing femicide and domestic violence which opened upon the initiative of the Consulate General of Greece in New York on December 15.
“The majority of victims of femicide are murdered in their houses and on their beds. Their lives end on the bed that they make every morning. Their bed sheets soak up their blood,” Lale explained in the description accompanying a photo of the work posted on her Instagram account on Monday.
During a Prliament debate about the 2024 budget on Tuesday, Nike-leader Dimitris Natsios, held up a photo of the art work and claimed it “mocks our national symbol.”
“The flag changes color only when it is dyed red by the blood of our people’s struggles,” he added.
In a government that openly flirts with far-rights, nationalists and religious voters Natsios complain was obviously an “order” to the conservative New Democracy government and the 56-year-old politician who is also an associate Law professor.
Speaking to daily tanea, Manos Stefanidis, art critic, professor emeritus of EKPA and columnist in the newpaper said: “Mr. Gerapetritis represents Greece as Minister of Foreign Affairs, his action to take down a work of art with a phone call is authoritarian, miserable and provincial. These are practices of regimes. Greek democracy is not afraid of anything. The work of art is not the Greek flag, the Greek flag has specifications that we all know, this particular one is a “comment” and as a professor, he (Gerapetritis) should know that. If we take it that way, let the torn Greek flag that is on top of a Nazi flag be removed from the National Museum of Contemporary Art at FIX in Athens, since this public building is like the New York consulate.”
Speaking to Star TV on Tuesday after her work was removed, Lale said the idea to create an art piece came after the murder of 20-year-old Caroline Crouch by her husband in 2021. She then asked relatives of femicide victims in Greece and other women to send her pieces of their bed sheets.
“With these sheets I created the Greek flag when I returned to my studio in New York. And the choice of the pink color was not mine, it was of the women of Greece,” she told Star TV.
“I am sorry that my work was misinterpreted. The victims of femicide and domestic violence are heroes in the fight for the right to life and freedom in Greece and worldwide,” Lale said in a separate statement to real.gr.
Government affiliated media claimed that it wasn’t only the pietistic Nike-leader who complained about the Flag but also some diaspora Greeks in New York.
The Onassis Foundation Cultural Center, Onassis Stegi, expressed its support to artist Georgia Lale and her work and posted on social media images of ten flags, works of Greek and foreign artists.
Georgia Lale. Neighborhood Guilt,2023
— ONASSIS STEGI (@OnassisStegi) December 19, 2023
On their part, Greek social media users posted pictures of TV personas who in recent past appeared wearing the Greek flag motive as swimming suits including the swim suits of the national Polo team.
While Migration Minister Dimitris Kairidis and ND MP Dora Bakoyianni (PM’s sister) reportedly expressed their disagreement with Gerapetritis decision sharp criticism was reportedly expressed also from opposition parties SYRIZA, PASOK, Pleussi Eleftherias and New Left.
MP Nasos Iliopoulos, New Left, said characteristically “Fascists do not put up with anything and Mr Gerapetritis had to humor them. He ordered the work to be taken down. The government constantly succumbs to the pressures of the far right. It would be good for the government to do something substantial to combat gender-based violence, instead of targeting a work of art.”
The exhibition is part of the Carte Blanche Project, a pilot artist showcase program conceived and presented by the Consulate General of Greece in New York that aims to showcase the work of artists from Greece who live and/or work in New York.
The event will run through January 31st, 2024, kathimerini reported.
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PS I bet Natsios and Gerapetritis make a big sign of Greek orthodox cross and send ‘thoughts and prayers” every time they hear a woman fell victim to femicide.