Quote of the Day

I wholeheartedly believe that each and every antiquity in any part of the world should eventually go back to its homeland. Even if these objects are made of stone, just as people have souls, so do animals, plants and monuments. Taking a monument away destabilises the world and is disrespectful to history.

Ertugrul Gunay, Turkish culture and tourism minister

The reunification of the Elgin Marbles & other disputed artefacts

The Parthenon Sculptures (also called Parthenon Marbles or Elgin Marbles) are split between several museums. Despite numerous similar cases of contested ownership of cultural property, few loan or return requests are successful. Elginism aims to raise awareness by publicising the issue & cataloguing news on it, as well as working in conjunction with various campaigns including Marbles Reunited, & the IARPS.
To track the latest news updates, you can also follow Elginism on Twitter or Facebook.

September 12, 2018

Heirs of prior owner of Matisse’s Portrait of Greta Moll claim rebuffed

Posted at 11:26 pm in Similar cases

The National Gallery is trumpetting this decision, but it seems more down to legal technicalities than any judgement of innocence or otherwise

Legal action in restitution cases take many forms. One case that has interested me in the past is that of Agudas Chasidei Chabad v. Russian Federation, et al. As I mentioned at the time, it had commonalities with a potential case I had heard presented relating to the same US court and the Parthenon Marbles.

When trying a case in a foreign court, there are many pitfalls to be aware of, not least the potential difficulties of enforcing any judgement. Another important aspect however in the US courts is that of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). I have heard reasons why both the above cases met (or would meet) the conditions set by the Act – but it is worth bearing in mind that other cases have not been so lucky.

This news story relates to the heirs of a painting by Matisse, which was given by the owners (in Berlin) to someone (in Switzerland) for safekeeping in the chaotic aftermath of World War Two. This presents an interesting case (from a British point of view), in that it neatly avoids the (necessarily specific, but thus rather blunt) definitions of the Nazi Era used the in UK’s Holocaust (Stolen Art) Restitution Bill. Of course, as this case was tried in a foreign jurisdiction, the aforementioned act would not apply in this case anyway.

The person in Switzerland entrusted with looking after the artwork then sold it and kept the proceeds. The painting eventually ended up in the UK’s National Gallery.

In this case, the Federal Appeals court in New York has rejected the claim, due to the fact that it does not meet the conditions of the FSIA, because the painting was taken by an individual rather than a state.

That said, this is a technical argument that means that the case can not proceed. It in no way endorses (or not) the due diligence by the National Gallery in checking the origins of a work by a well known artist (which has echoes of the Feldmann paintings about it). Possibly another case brought under a different jurisdiction might find differently. With the Feldmann Paintings, while the British Museum claimed that they were acquired in good faith, it now argued that it felt there was an overwhelming moral case for their return. Perhaps the National Gallery should follow suit?

Matisse's Portrait of Greta Moll (1908)

Matisse’s Portrait of Greta Moll (1908)

From:
The Art Newspaper

Court rejects claim to Matisse owned by National Gallery
Rebuffing heirs, an appeals panel in New York says the court lacks jurisdiction
Nancy Kenney
11th September 2018 18:26 GMT

A federal appeals court in New York has rejected a claim to a 1908 Matisse painting owned by the National Gallery in London by three grandchildren of the muse portrayed in the work.

In demanding the work’s return, the heirs had argued that the painting, Portrait of Greta Moll, was illegally sold by a former art student to whom the painting had been entrusted for safekeeping in the aftermath of the Second World War. The portrait changed hands several times before it was acquired by the National Gallery in 1979.
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September 3, 2018

Greece’s new Culture Minister

Posted at 1:03 pm in Elgin Marbles

Welcome to Myrsini Zorba

Greece has a new culture minister. Former MEP Myrsini Zorba replaces Lydia Koniordou in the role.

Hopefully in the coming months we will here more frmo here about how she plans to tackle the issue of the Parthenon Marbles.

Greek Culture Minister Myrsini Zorba

Greek Culture Minister Myrsini Zorba

From:
Guardian

Greek PM seeks to claim centre ground with cabinet shake-up
Helena Smith in Athens
Wed 29 Aug 2018 08.24 BST

Alexis Tsipras brings in younger ministers to refresh government in run-up to crucial elections

The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has attempted to revive his flagging government with an array of younger cabinet figures in preparation for a general election he has described as “the mother of all battles”.
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August 23, 2018

LBC interview

Posted at 7:40 pm in Elgin Marbles

Arguing the case for the return of the Parthenon Marbles

I was on Ian Payne’s show on LBC on 21st August, arguing the case for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures against Dominic Selwood, Someone that regular readers of this blog may have come across before.

What was interesting was that there was actually agreement between us on a number of points (although of course not on many others).

Unfortunately their archives are no longer free to access unless you listen on their app. Details here of how to do this on Android and iOS

LBC Logo

January 11, 2018

Talk in Brussels on Giovanni Battista Lusieri, Elgin’s agent in Athens

Posted at 2:09 pm in Elgin Marbles, Events, Greece Archaeology

The inaugural lecture organised the Belgian Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

Tatiana Poulou of the Greek Ministry of Culture is giving a lecture in Brussels on Sunday, January 21, 2018 at 14:30. The talk is on Giovanni Battista Lusieri who was Lord Elgin’s agent in Athens. Although Lusieri was charged with documenting Elgin’s actions, most of his works from that period were destroyed in a ship wreck off the coast of Crete (not the Mentor – Elgin’s ship, but the Cambria, some years later).

I’ve heard Tatiana speak previously in Athens and would recommend this talk to anyone interested in the Parthenon Marbles or Greek History from this period.

For further information view the Invitation to talk in Brussels.

From:
Belgian Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

The Belgian Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures cordially invites you to its inaugural lecture
on Sunday, January 21, 2018, at 2.30 p.m. Cinquantenaire Museum, Parc du Cinquantenaire 10, 1000 – Brussels

Tatiana POULOU
Archaeologist, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports – Ephorate of Antiquities of Athens
Giovanni Battista Lusieri, Lord Elgin’s Unknown Agent His excavations in Athens and involvement in the removal of the Parthenon Marbles
(Lecture in English)
Welcome by François Roelants du Vivier, Senator Emeritus – President of the BCRPS
Visit our Facebook Page: @parthenonsculpturesreunitedbelgium

A View of the Bay of Naples, Looking Southwest from the Pizzofalcone Toward Capo di Posilippo

A View of the Bay of Naples, Looking Southwest from the Pizzofalcone Toward Capo di Posilippo

April 4, 2017

Could Brexit present an opportunity to return the Parthenon Marbles?

Posted at 1:29 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Britain has the perfect opportunity to do the right thing and resolve differences in the coming months

The Parthenon Marbles is one of many outstanding international issues that the UK has with other EU countries. If they are going to proceed with exiting the EU, then resolving such issues may well pave the way for greater concessions argues Geoffrey Robertson.

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

From:
Guardian

Let’s do a Brexit deal with the Parthenon marbles
Geoffrey Robertson
Tuesday 4 April 2017 08.30 BST

Not yet a week since the triggering of article 50, and already hope of cordial negotiations seems optimistic. At the weekend, amid early jostling over the post-Brexit fate of Gibraltar, former Tory leader Michael Howard implied that one way to resolve that situation could be a war with Spain.

Thus far, the focus has been on the politics, the pounds, shillings and euros and the colour of passports, but in the search for common ground it’s worth remembering that the European Union treaty itself, in articles 3 and 167, places a duty on both sides in negotiations to take into account the need to “ensure that Europe’s cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced”. Here there is scope for a gesture that may allow talks to proceed more constructively.
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March 14, 2017

The continuing campaign for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 2:06 pm in Elgin Marbles, International Association

Recent efforts by the IARPS in the fight for restitution

Below is a media release from the IARPS, detailing recent initiatives in the campaign to return the Parthenon Sculptures.

MEDIA RELEASE
More than 200 years after Lord Elgin infamously removed approximately half of the iconic sculptures from the Parthenon and eventually sold them to the British Government, the campaign for their return has been waged by Philhellenes around the world.

The Greek Government has now resolved to renew and intensify its efforts for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures following an extensive consultation and co-ordination meeting between Professor Louis Godart, the newly-elected Chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (IARPS)1, and the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Prokopios Pavlopoulos and the Greek Minister of Culture and Sport, Ms Lydia Koniordou. Also present were the Secretary-General of the Presidency of the Republic, Ambassador George Yennimatas, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Culture, Ms Maria Vlazaki, the Advisor on Cultural Affairs to the Presidency of the Republic, Ms Sophia Hiniadou Cambanis, together with the members of the Special National Advisory Committee for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures and senior representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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February 19, 2017

TourismA 2017 in Florence

Posted at 12:07 am in Events

Parthenon Marbles round table discussion to form part of cultural tourism conference

The TourismA 2017 conference is taking place in Florence at present. As part of Sunday morning’s programme, there is a round table discussion on the Parthenon Sculptures, the campaigns for their return, how individuals can get involved and the practicalities of resolving the issue.

I will be attending as one of the panelists.

If you are in the area, please drop in to join the discussion.

To find out more about the event, please visit the official site for the exhibition.

TourismA exhibition, Florence

TourismA exhibition, Florence

November 22, 2016

New finds from wreck of Elgin’s ship off Kythera

Posted at 9:05 am in Elgin Marbles, Events

Lecture at Kings College London by Dimitris Kourkoumelis

Dimitris Kourkoumelis is giving a talk this evening organised by the Greek Archaeological Committee UK at Kings College London on new finds on the wreck of the Mentor off the island of Kythera. The Mentor was of course one of the ships used by Lord Elgin to transport the Parthenon Marbles back to the UK from Greece. It sank in a storm and the sculptures had to be retrieved the following year by sponge divers from Kalymnos.

Underwater excavations of The Mentor off Kythera

Underwater excavations of The Mentor off Kythera

From:
Kings College London

Greek Archaeological Committee UK Annual Lecture
Locatio Great Hall, King’s Building, Strand Campus
Category: Lecture, Other
When: 22/11/2016 (19:00-20:30)
Contact: This event is open to all and free to attend. Booking is not required.

Please direct enquiries to chs@kcl.ac.uk.
Recent research and new finds from the MENTOR shipwreck at Cythera (1802)

The recent archaeological expeditions (2009, 2011-15) conducted by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities at the wreck of the brig Mentor, which sank in 1802 off Kythera, have been focused mainly on excavating the section of the hull that is still well preserved, as well as collecting information about the passengers, the crew and the cargo of the ship. The brig, owned by Lord Elgin, was transporting some of the antiquities and sculptures taken from the Acropolis monuments, and sank off the small port of Avlemonas in September 1802. From the 19th to the 21st century, there have been several underwater investigations on the wreck undertaken with the aim to discover the “marble” sculptures, which, according to rumour, should still remain at the site.
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October 6, 2016

RIP Professor Norman Palmer

Posted at 8:18 am in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

A great mind, as a barrister he defended numerous cultural property cases

I was very sad to hear yesterday of the death of Professor Norman Palmer.

I have met him numerous times, both at conferences and other events relating to cultural property restitution, as well as sitting on the opposite side of the table from him, as part of the group interviewing a team about their suitability for representing Greece in the case to reunify the Parthenon Sculptures.

Readers of this site may be most familiar with him as part of the team with Geoffrey Robertson and Amal Clooney that met with the Greek Government in 2014. Palmer was also well known within the sphere of cultural property restitution for chairing the Human Remains Working Group, whose work eventually led to the change in UK law allowing the repatriation of human remains to indigenous peoples in Australia and elsewhere.

He advised governments and international bodies on the drafting of new cultural property laws and was instrumental in the resolution of various cultural property disputes. He was also a great supporter of mediation and other out of court settlement methods for cultural property disputes.

Immensely knowledgeable, Norman’s academic credentials added gravitas to any team he was a part of. He will be sadly missed.

Professor Norman Palmer QC

Professor Norman Palmer QC

From:
Institute of Art and Law

In Memoriam – Norman Palmer QC CBE
Posted on: October 5, 2016 by Alexander Herman

We are sad to announce that the Institute of Art & Law’s Academic Principal, Norman Palmer QC (Hon) CBE, has passed away. Norman was the guiding light of this organisation ever since its beginnings over twenty years ago. Along with his wife, Ruth Redmond-Cooper, he made the IAL what it is today. He provided countless hours of instruction to hundreds of students and will no doubt be sorely missed by all. His wisdom and intellectual curiosity led to the publication of foundational tomes, including Palmer on Bailment, Art Loans and Museums and the Holocaust, as well as dozens of articles in the area of art and cultural property law.

And some more details about him and his career.
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September 9, 2016

Mock Trial : Greece vs UK – The Parthenon Sculptures

Posted at 1:17 pm in Elgin Marbles, Events

A moot court is being held at Monash University in Melbourne to discuss the issue

A moot court (AKA mock trial) is being held at Monash University in Melbourne. The title is: Greece v UK: The Parthenon Marbles Case. The event is jointly organised by the Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association (HAL) and Monash Law School.

Please the link here to reserve tickets if you are planing on attending.

Greece V UK - The Parthenon Marbles Case moot court flyer

Greece V UK – The Parthenon Marbles Case moot court flyer

From:
Trybooking

HAL (VIC) – Greece v UK: Parthenon Marbles Case
19 Oct 2016

Description

Greece v UK: The Parthenon Marbles Case – moot court and panel discussion

This year marks 200 years since the British Government controversially purchased the Parthenon Marbles from Lord Elgin and displayed them in the British Museum. The longstanding legal and diplomatic dispute about who owns them – Greece or the UK – continues to this day.
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Talk by Dr Tom Flynn on the Parthenon Sculptures

Posted at 1:04 pm in Elgin Marbles, Events

Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles: breaking the deadlock?

Dr Tom Flynn of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles is giving a talk at the University of Geneva on 15th September. The talk is titled: The reunification of the Parthenon marbles and the role of cultural diplomacy in breaking the deadlock – Will we have to wait another 200 years?.

Find out more at the Facebook page for the event here.

Flyer for talk at University of Geneva by Tom Flynn

Flyer for talk at University of Geneva by Tom Flynn

From:
Event Facebook page (google translated)

Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles: breaking the deadlock?
15 September at 19:00–21:00
Université de Genève – Uni Bastions

As part of the British Parliament’s vote bicentennial deciding to entrust the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum, the Swiss Committee for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles is pleased to invite you to the conference at the Law Centre of the art of the University of Geneva and the European Centre culture:

“The reunification of the Parthenon marbles and the role of cultural diplomacy in breaking the deadlock – Will we have to wait another 200 years?”
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September 2, 2016

Export bans – is Britain a cultural one way street?

Posted at 1:13 pm in Similar cases

Why do we feel other countries should share their culture, but then place bans on the export of our own

Institutions like the British Museum, along with much of the British Press, regularly denounce as cultural nationalism, claims by countries such as Greece and Egypt that looted artefacts should be returned. These countries are castigated for not sharing and they should be proud of the fact that other countries want their heritage, rather than seeing it as something that they want to retain.

When there is a chance of important British works ending up in foreign collections however, we regularly place export bans on them. While we encourage others to share, we are unwilling to do so ourselves. The situation is even more perverse than it first appears though -while the British items up for export are invariably up for sale in a public auction at the request of the current owner, many of the items that others ask to be returned were seized in times of war, or looted and then smuggled into the country without any permission being given.

Every few years a major export ban crops up in the news. Often, it is not even for a work that was originally British (such as the Picasso in the examples below), but something that we happened to acquire and would like to hang on to. We see something’s existence in Britain as making it a part of our culture, but we decry others for far lesser requests.

Queen Victoria's coronet, currently subject to an export ban

Queen Victoria’s coronet, currently subject to an export ban

From:
BBC News

Export ban placed on Queen Victoria’s wedding coronet
28 August 2016

A temporary export ban has been placed on a sapphire and diamond coronet that belonged to Queen Victoria, preventing it from being sold abroad.

The coronet, designed by Prince Albert for their wedding in 1840, is at risk of being exported unless a UK buyer matches the £5m asking price.
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