Greece's Flag-Inspired Exhibit Sparks Debate on Symbols and Expression

he piece entitled "Neighborhood Guilt" by Georgia Lale

Greece's government has defended its decision to remove an artwork displayed at its consulate in New York, a pink-and-white quilt designed as the country's flag, which was part of a campaign against domestic violence.

The artwork, titled "Neighborhood Guilt" by Georgia Lale, was exhibited on Friday but was taken down following a request from the Foreign Ministry, as confirmed by government officials in Athens.

Government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis, while emphasizing the protection of artistic freedom, stated, "There are some things that are sacred above all. One of them is our flag," in an interview with private Skai television.

The flag, created from bed sheets donated by women in Greece, replaced the official blue and white colours forming a cross and stripes. The exhibition aimed to showcase Greek artists based in New York.

In response to the removal, Lale expressed disappointment, stating in an online post, "I'm saddened that my work was misinterpreted. Victims of femicide are heroes of the fight for freedom and life in Greece and internationally."

During a budget debate in parliament, the issue was raised when Dimitris Natsios, leader of the conservative religious party Niki, displayed a photograph of the artwork, asserting, "Our flag is blue and white and it can be dyed red only on one occasion: with the blood of our heroes during national struggles."

Left-wing opposition leader Stefanos Kasselakis criticized the centre-right government's decision, drawing parallels between Lale's work and the American artist David Hammons' 1990 piece, "African American Flag," which altered the colours of the U.S. flag to represent opposition to racism.

"Art is allowed to 'play' with the colours of national symbols when it seeks to convey a message that expresses opposition to racism or domestic violence," Kasselakis wrote in an online post.

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