The Parthenon is not a leasable as­set

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY PANTELIS BOUKALAS

The vi­o­lent ef­fects of time and hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties have left many deep scars on the Parthenon and the Acrop­o­lis’s mon­u­ments in gen­eral. From Francesco Morosini to Lord El­gin, and from the first Chris­tians to the Turk­ish con­querors, man has in­flicted more harm on the Sa­cred Rock that any­thing done by earth­quakes, gales and storms. The mon­u­ments have been bombed and looted by man, who also im­posed de­struc­tive changes on their re­li­gious iden­tity. Yet the Acrop­o­lis re­mains. Over the past few decades, th­ese per­fid­i­ous en­e­mies have ap­peared in the guise of friends, seek­ing ac­cess os­ten­si­bly to pro­mote the Parthenon and the coun­try as a whole around the world – as if the great tem­ple needs to be ad­ver­tised or can for­ever with­stand the grow­ing flood of tourists, as though its soul will not be tar­nished by its trans­for­ma­tion into a leasable as­set for the sake of hard cash. The lat­est hu­mil­i­a­tion is a re­quest by fash­ion house Gucci to hold a run­way show on the Acrop­o­lis, against the back­drop of the Parthenon. The ar­gu­ment in fa­vor of the scheme is that it would pro­mote free­dom of artis­tic ex­pres­sion and cre­ative in­no­va­tion. This hokey ex­cuse fails to ex­plain why artis­tic free­dom needs to in­clude the sub­ju­ga­tion of one of hu­man­ity’s great­est sym­bols to com­mer­cial in­ter­ests. And where does cre­ative in­no­va­tion come in? Cash­ing in on the Parthenon’s rep­u­ta­tion is not orig­i­nal. It has al­ready been done – in a dif­fer­ent man­ner – by Lufthansa, Coca-Cola and Ver­i­zon (the telecoms com­pany that trans­formed the tem­ple’s col­umns into cell phones). Even pop star Jen­nifer Lopez posed for pho­to­graphs on the Acrop­o­lis in 2008 with the per­mis­sion of then culture min­is­ter Michalis Li­apis af­ter he by­passed the Cen­tral Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Coun­cil, which is re­spon­si­ble for any ac­tiv­i­ties at the site. Li­apis must have re­mem­bered that a decade ear­lier the Coun­cil had op­posed a pro­posal by Evan­ge­los Venize­los to al­low the Calvin Klein fash­ion house to use the Ro- man-era Herod At­ti­cus Theater. And the Parthenon is not a theater, or an arena like the Coli­seum. It is a part of world cul­tural her­itage not just be­cause be­cause it is beau­ti­ful but, more im­por­tantly, be­cause it is a shin­ing sym­bol of democ­racy. This sym­bol­ism was un­der­mined re­cently when the site was closed off to the pub­lic dur­ing a visit by US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, but the dam­age to its char­ac­ter would be ex­po­nen­tially greater if the mon­u­ment were fea­tured as a prop in a com­mer­cial event. The ar­gu­ment that it will ben­e­fit from the in­flow of cash or the pro­mo­tion is noth­ing less than a guise for ab­ject cyn­i­cism.

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