British Museum director, Neil MacGregor, is interviewed about the Parthenon Marbles. Unfortunately, his views on the subject are no more forward looking than those of his predecessor.
Art & Antiques
LONDON — The Elgin Marbles, an ensemble of friezes and sculptures taken from the Parthenon by a British nobleman, have been displayed in the British Museum since 1816. Museum Director Neil MacGregor took office in August and now stands at the center of the world’s most enduring conflict over cultural heritage. In a Q&A with Art & Antiques, MacGregor talks about Greece’s demands that the marbles be returned in time for the 2004 Olympics. He also touches on the venerable institution’s fiscal crisis.
About 40 percent of the Elgin Marbles are in Athens, 50 percent are here, and the rest are scattered around museums all over Europe. You’re an art historian. Wouldn’t it be nice to have them all in one place? Don’t the Greeks have a point on that?
Of course they have a point, but half the marbles are lost forever. We’re talking about the proportions of what remains. They can’t get them up onto the Parthenon because it’s a ruin, so the argument that one normally makes for gathering things together from the same ensemble, that you are restoring or recovering the work of art, doesn’t apply here. One’s got to recognize that their life as part of the Parthenon is over. It seems to me rather a fortunate accident of history that about half of what survived is in London.
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