Asperges Me

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Date: 2003

Region: Europe

Subject: Religious

Medium: Painting


Artist: Thierry de Cordier

Asperges Me 2.jpg

Confronting Bodies:

  • Giorgos Karatzaferis
  • Miltiades Evert
  • Epiphanios Economou
  • The Board of the Cultural Olympiad and the Director, Christos Joachimides

Dates of Action: December 8, 2003

Location: Athens School of Fine Arts, Athens, Greece

Description of Artwork: Depicts a penis ejaculating on a cross.

The Incident: Forty-five days after the exhibition OUTLOOK opened, and while the show was going on successfully, the leader of an extreme right wing party, Giorgos Karatzaferis, on his private TV channel attacked both the painting Asperges Me, as being offensive to Christian religion, and the organizers of the event. Karatzaferis proclaimed, "it was, the most obscene, immoral, shameless painting I had ever seen". The following day the representative of the Greek Orthodox Church, Epiphanios Economou, in an official letter to the Greek Minister of Culture, Evangelos Venizelos, requested the withdrawal of the painting from the exhibition, as "it's an insult to our morals and customs and our religion" and "our secret symbols" need protection. In addition, the former leader of the main opposition party (New Democracy), Miltiades Evert, demanded in public, through TV, the deposition of the work declaring, "if the work is not taken down by the organizers, I will take it down myself".

Results of Incident: The Board of the Cultural Olympiad, the curator of the exhibition and the socialist Minister of Culture Evangelos Venizelos, decided to withdraw the painting and replace it with the following announcement: "The work of Thierry de Gordier Apserges Me was considered as an image insulting of the Cross e.g. of the symbol of Christian Religion. The intense discourse that was initiated because of that tends to overshadow the essence of the exhibition and obstruct the contact of the public with contemporary art. However, the aim of OUTLOOK is to present to the public the full range of the artistic tendencies and create a genuine interest of the public for contemporary art. Considering all the above the Board of the Cultural Olympiad and the director of the exhibition decide to withdraw this specific work and post the present announcement explaining the reasons for the withdrawal."

The exhibition took place in Ergostasio (part of the Athens School of Fine Arts) which means that not only artistic but also academic freedom was not respected by the curator. OUTLOOK was meant to be the crowning event of the cultural Olympiad, a multi-million pound jamboree put on by the government ahead of the 2004 Olympics to support values such as multiculturalism, diversity and communication between various opinions, and to promote the free exchange of creative insight. "Beyond putting Athens on the international art scene, the aim was to allow Greeks to see some very significant art, up close, for the very first time", claimed the show's curator, Christos Joachimides.

The Secretary of Culture, Evangelos Venizelos, a professor of Constitutional Law, declares "the freedom of art is restricted by the law and public taste".

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/dec/14/arts.artsnews and http://adelheidmers.org/earlyadopters/PM.htm