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August 27, 2015

Thursday, August 27, 2015 - , No comments

The Demise of the Petrified Mermaid of Chalkidiki

By Angelina Giovani, ARCA 2014 Alumna

Don’t blame the mermaid.

In some places of the world, art is always welcome. Greece used to be one of those places. We must still want to think it is, but between news outlets reporting that illicit antiquities are being sold by the hundreds every day and local artists being ‘fined’ for creating public art, makes it pretty impossible to argue for that statement.

Greek artists, Dionysus Karipidis, created his reclining mermaid in 1997 long rocky coastline on the east side of Sithonia, by orange beach in Chalkidiki. The sculpture, carved into the shoreline, made the specific beach and the area surrounding it very popular.  Since its creation it has enjoyed the love and attention of the locals as well as visitors who sometimes travelled to there mainly to see the beautiful sandstone mermaid.

But unfortunately, the people visiting next time, won’t be able to enjoy the same pleasure, as the artist was fined by the tourist police for the “destruction of the natural landscape” for his rendering of the natural stone and who in frustration has destroyed it. 

The reclining mermaid was 6.6 meters long and took Karipidis over three months to carve. The artist used the rocks already existing along the shoreline, but the government claims that in doing so he has harmed the natural habitat and has therefore fined the artist 533.61 euros. After several protest letters and refusing to pay the fine, the artist stripped naked, since this is a nudist beach, and destroyed the the mermaid little by little, until there was no longer trace of it.

Photo Credit: Video Capture Antenna News, Greece
There’s a competition in this story about which could potentially be the worst part? The fact that a beautiful piece of sculpture in the sea is considered ‘dangerous’? The fact that the artist is cornered and almost forced to destroy his work? That fact that paying the fine once, doesn’t necessarily mean you never have to pay it again? What about the amount? To some 533 euros might seem like a pretty insignificant amount to pay when there are works navigating the art market every day that reach stratospheric prices in the thousands and even millions of dollars. 

Personally, I doubt this particular case had to do with the fine. It was a matter of principle and of common sense. Allowing a piece of art as non invasive and encompassed in nature as this one live would have ‘harmed’ the natural habitat much less than its absence will harm the local people and the visitors.

Now we are left with an heart broken artist, heart broken people and the government is 500 euros short.  How will we ever survive that?