‘Vulgar’ art exhibit withdrawn

Bowing to criticism by the Church of Greece, the main opposition party and a far-right party, the organizers of a major international art exhibition yesterday withdrew a painting by a Belgian artist, drawing protests from leading artists. Supreme Court prosecutor Dimitris Linos ordered an urgent inquiry into whether a crime had been committed and to determine who was responsible for displaying the work. The painting by Thierry de Cordier depicts a phallus and a crucifix with what appears to be semen dripping from it. The state-funded «Outlook» exhibition at the Athens School of Fine Art opened in late October. It is part of the Cultural Olympiad. No one paid any attention to the painting until Giorgos Karadzaferis, leader of the extreme-right LAOS party, raised a fuss. More outrage followed. «The organizers weighed all factors and decided to withdraw this work and to replace it with an announcement explaining the reasons,» Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said. «I believe this will now allow us to concern ourselves with the substance of the exhibition which is the public’s contact with contemporary currents, without provocation,» he added. Conservative New Democracy party spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos said earlier: «Vulgarity does not produce culture.» Miltiades Evert, a former ND party leader, wrote to Venizelos demanding the painting’s removal and that «those responsible for displaying it be punished.» A Church of Greece spokesman, Epiphanios Economou, called the paintings «an insult to our morals and customs, and our religion.» Chronis Botsoglou, dean of the fine arts school, asked: «Are there limits within which a work of art and the artist must operate? What are they and who decides if they have been exceeded? Censors exceed every limit.»