A public row has broken out between Greek Culture Minister Myrsini Zorba and the artist who created the glass sculpture of the “Runner” over an alleged proposal to donate the 12-meter tall piece to North Macedonia as part of friendship building measures between the two countries in the wake of the Prespes name accord.
The row started after Zorba on Tuesday denied reports that she had approached the award-winning sculptor with a proposal to swap the emblematic statue that graces the northern end of Vassileos Constantinou Avenue outside the Athens Hilton hotel with one of Alexander the Great on horseback that stands on the main square of North Macedonia's capital, Skopje.
“There has been no such proposal,” Zorba told the state-run Athens-Macedonian News Agency on Tuesday, dismissing claims to the opposite in the media as “baseless.”
“Possible swaps of monuments or changes to signposts are the jurisdiction of other ministries,” she told the ANA-MPA.
Varotsos had earlier claimed that he met with Zorba last Friday at her office in the Culture Ministry, where she reportedly pitched the idea of the exchange to the artist.
“I told her that the 'Runner' could not leave Athens for several reasons and that even though it belongs to the Athens municipal authority, I still have intellectual property rights,” Varotsos told the ANA-MPA.
“She told me that Skopje was a lovely city and I would like it if I went. I started getting irritated and at some point I told her that the entire conversation was ridiculous,” Varotsos had said.
Speaking on Skai television later on Tuesday, the artist said he was “shocked” and “insulted” by the minister's denial of that conversation, saying that he is thankful to be “alive to protect the 'Runner'.”
“But I am afraid that some other statue in Athens may end up paying the price, like that of Kolokotronis in front of the Old Parliament,” Varotsos said, referring to a statue on downtown Stadiou Street of the 1821 Greek War of Independence leader and hero Theodoros Kolokotronis on horseback.