Saturday, December 15, 2007

Art Athina Director acquitted

Yesterday in Athens, a court acquitted Michalis Argyros, the director of Art Athina, on charges of obscenity and an attack on national symbols, citing freedom of expression. On June 3rd of this year police raided the gallery following complaints by the right-wing LAOS party about a work by Greek-American artist Eva Stefani, which featured footage of Greek pornography from the '60s and '70s, set to a soundtrack of the Greek national anthem. Signs around the work, which required one to look through a peephole, indicated that it was not suitable for those under the age of 18.

The exhibition, which featured work by more than 70 artists and was organized under the auspices of the Greek Cultural Ministry, was deemed indecent and closed to the public. The video was confiscated and the director/curator was charged with offending public morals. The artist was also charged, but was in Germany at the time. Both faced up to ten months in prison.

At the trial on Thursday the prosecutor argued the video made no sense and that "nudity is a work of art only in Renaissance paintings." Artworks that slight religion or national symbols are apparently actively pursued in Greece by followers of the Greek Orthodox Church and extreme right-wing political parties.

At the time of the arrest Greek artists, intellectuals and media protested the charges, including the staging of a counter-exhibit. Greek Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis stated that while the artwork was not to his liking, he disagreed with censoring art. “Artists are free to create and citizens have a right to reject or not whatever they believe offends our national symbols.”

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