Greece’s top archeological and cultural authorities voted unanimously to reject a multi-million euro proposal from Italian fashion brand Gucci to host a runway show at the sacred site of the Acropolis, sending a powerful message that although indebted, Greece will not rent its most important symbol for commercial purposes.
The Central Archaeological Council, known by its Greek acronym KAS, which has final say over the ancient sites scattered throughout Greece, soundly rejected Gucci’s request, which reportedly came with a multi-million euro restoration offer for certain parts of the millennia-year-old monument.
“The unique cultural character of the Acropolis monuments is inconsistent with this sort of event,” KAS said in a statement, which was bolded by Greek culture minister Lydia Koniordou’s own remarks that “The Parthenon is an important monument and a universal symbol for us Greeks to protect, particularly in light of our ongoing efforts to reunite the Parthenon Marbles.”
Gucci representatives confirmed they were in Athens to pitch their case to Greek authorities and mentioned previous collaborations with cultural institutions that the company has had in the past.
“We confirm that a meeting took place with the Greek authorities to explore the possibility of a long-term cultural collaboration,” said a Gucci spokesperson. “This type of initiative is not new for our brand; in recent years, Gucci has established such cultural collaborations with Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, the Mingsheng Museum in Shanghai, Chatsworth House in England and LACMA in Los Angeles.”
“The Acropolis is a symbol for all mankind, which cannot be the subject of commercial transactions,” Maria Andreadakis Vlazakis, general secretary at the culture ministry, added.
Reports circulated that Gucci wanted to set up a catwalk between the Parthenon and the Erechtheion for a 15-minute runway show in June which would have included Hollywood celebrities and editors and publishers from the top magazines from throughout the world.
Different Greek governments have handled the “commercialization” of the Acropolis in different ways.
The first known instance of the monument being used for commercial purposes goes back to the 1920s when well-known photographer Elli Sougioultzoglou-Seraidari, known artistically as Nelly’s, whose avant-garde photos of the nude ballerina Mona Paeva on the Parthenon were published at the French magazine Illustration de Paris and caused an uproar in the then conservative town of Athens.
Over the years, permits have been granted to Hollywood and foreign film production companies to film on the sacred rock, including Francis Ford Coppola, who shot a scene of his film New York Stories with an entire orchestra playing, and Nia Vardalos whose My Life in Ruins featured a scene of tourists visiting the site.
Christian Dior was allowed to use the site in the 1950s for a photo shoot of its gowns collection, however.
Some commercialization has also been controversial, like the 2008 photo shoot of Jennifer Lopez, which was approved by then Greek culture minister Michalis Liapis who bypassed the proper channels at KAS and allowed the photo shoot to take place.
At the time, the move was slammed by the Greek media and public opinion, despite Lopez’s international acclaim as a pop star.