By Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Vandals pulled down on Thursday a sculpture adorning a seafront avenue in southern Athens since early December which a small minority of locals branded as "satanistic".
The internationally-established sculptor and painter Kostis Georgiou who created "Phylax" (Guardian in Greek) and the Chamber of Greek Artists spoke about fascism and medieval mentality.
The Mayor of Paleo Faliro Dionysis Hatzidakis, who had cleared the artwork's installment, also strongly condemned the incident in a statement. He pointed the finger at supporters of the far-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) party, according to local media.
"Phylax", the bright-red metal installation depicting a male figure with wings, a donation of a Greek shipping family, was placed on a column at the public space on Dec. 5, 2017.
It was warmly welcomed by local authorities as another step in efforts to bring art closer to people who rarely frequent museums and galleries.
In coming weeks an ultra-conservative Greek Orthodox priest led a few dozen parishioners to the site and sprinkled "holy water" on the sculpture to "exorcise the soldier of Satan" and unidentified vandals sprayed white paint and cut electricity wires to keep it in the dark at night.
Although local authorities and several Greek artists and scholars talked against the prejudice of minorities of religious fanatics, in the early hours of Thursday vandals hit once again.
This time, according to the municipality's press release, citing an eye witness, about 15 hooded individuals approached the sculpture with two vehicles without license plates and used ropes to topple it.
Before fleeing the site they threatened the owner of a nearby canteen who protested.
Greek police is investigating the case, while the sculpture has been removed for repairs, according to the municipality's press statement.
"This is paramilitary style vandalism ... I have indications that the perpetrators were Golden Dawn members," the mayor told local Real FM radio.
Speaking to Xinhua last week, Georgiou, an artist whose works can be found in museums, galleries, private collections and public areas from France to China, expressed his astonishment at the reactions.
"I could not believe that there was such a distorted reading of a sculpture... This is the first time ever I have faced such a reaction," he said, explaining that there were no hidden messages in his work.
Asked to comment on the last attack on Thursday by local media he talked about "shame" and "dark-ages behavior".
"Such brutal attacks on art are a phenomenon which points to the extremely dangerous shift of our society to fascism," the Chamber of Greek Artists said in a press statement.