Quote of the Day

I understand what museums fear. They think everything will have to go back if the marbles do. But the Acropolis is special.

Giorgos Voulgarakis, Former Hellenic Republic Minister of Culture

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.

July 22, 2014

Preview screening of Promakhos – a film about the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 5:19 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

I was fortunate enough to be invited last week to a preview screening (essentially where they drum up intereste from possible distributors etc) for the film Promakhos, which I have already written about previously here.

The event was well attended, with Stephen Fry giving his thoughts on it afterwards and leadng a question & answer session with the two directors.

Marbles Reunited has already done a very good writeup of the event – so I won’t try & repeat their work, but will just give a summary of my own thoughts on the film.

Styled as a legal thriller, it follows the story of one person’s fight to use the courts to secure the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece. There are many dramatic scenes in it, and perhaps the most memorable part is where Paul Debevec’s superlative three-dimensional model of the Parthenon is broght to life in the room, as the people wander around it, stepping into a rebuilt past through the use of virtual reality glasses.

As you can imagine, things do not always proceed smoothly – yet the film’s protagonist manages to maintain his vision & despite the ups & downs remains focussed on the goal of securing the return of the sculptures.

The cinematography is magnificent, and for anyone who has ever spent time in Athens, prefectly manages to capture the spirat of the city, through othersise unremarkable details, in a way that perhaps holds far more of its modern day charm than many films, that only see things through the eyes of a tourist. There are various allusions throught the film to ancient Greece & aspects of mythology, helping to further anchor the present day story into the ethos of ancient Athens & to show the importance of the Parthenon Sculptures to Greeks.

The film is set against the backdrop of the financial crisis & the unrest that followed in Athens – and as such is very much of its time. However, that it just because it takes place now – the story that it is telling could largely be transplanted to any other time in the campaign for the return of the sculptures & would continue to make sense. It is not something that the British Museum can just ignore with the hope that it goes away.

There are a few amusing moments too – particularly, when during the cases, others highlight their own countries requests for the return of arterfacts from the British Museum.

The film is not on display publicly anywhere yet – in the meantime though, you can watch the trailer, to give you a flavour of what it is about.

Stephen Fry with one of the directors at the preview screening of Promakhos

Stephen Fry with one of the directors at the preview screening of Promakhos

July 9, 2014

Greece needs a new Melina Mercouri to spearhead the Parthenon Marbles Campaign

Posted at 12:55 pm in Elgin Marbles

George Vardas from Australians for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, writes about how a new figure with the charisma & public appeal of the late Melina Mercouri is needed to lead Greece’s campaign for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Greece's Deputy Minister for Culture, Ms Angeliki Gerekou

Greece’s Deputy Minister for Culture, Ms Angeliki Gerekou

From:
Neos Kosmos

“We need another Melina”
The Greek Culture Ministry and the campaign for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures
26 Jun 2014
George Vardas

Just over a year ago the then newly-appointed Culture Minister in Greece, Panos Panagiotopoulos, announced with considerable fanfare a new Greek initiative on the Parthenon Sculptures: a strategy based on convening a mediation under the auspices of UNESCO at which the British and Greek authorities would meet to attempt to reach a resolution of this long standing cultural dispute.

Some commentators, including this writer, were sceptical about how the British would react, as mediation requires both sides to enter into negotiations in good faith. Mr Panagiotopoulos was adamant that this was Greece’s official position and sought support for his stance from the various overseas national committees. In due course a formal request for mediation was sent to the British side by the UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bukova, and we waited to see what the British response would be.
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May 14, 2014

The Athenian Acropolis as a movie backdrop

Posted at 12:57 pm in Acropolis

In recent years, there has been much debate about the decision by Greece’s government to make it easier for commersial filming to take place on the Acropolis.

These decision to free up the access to the site appear to be gradually producing visible benefits, with new films using the backdrop of the Parthenon as a key part of their story.

Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst in ‘The Two Faces of January’

Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst in ‘The Two Faces of January’

From:
Independent (Ireland)

Cinema Reviews: ‘The Two Faces of January’
Cert 12A

Padraic McKiernan, Hilary A White, Aine O’Connor – Published 11 May 2014 02:30 AM
Reviewed this week are ‘The Two Faces of January’, ‘In Bloom’, ‘A Thousand Times Goodnight’, ‘A Winter Chill’ and ‘In Secret’.

With a title that bears reference to a two-faced Roman god and a stunning backdrop that takes in some of Ancient Greece’s most famous ruins, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to read there’s a certain mythic quality to the story that unfolds in director Hossein Amini’s engaging thriller.
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May 3, 2014

Rhodes offers to host Clooney’s wedding in thanks for Parthenon Marbles support

Posted at 9:28 am in Elgin Marbles

In a somewhat unusual move, the village of Paradisi on Rhodes has offered to host George Clooney’s wedding there in thanks for his support for the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

Clooney & his fiancée Amal Alamuddin have yet to comment on this offer.

George Clooney & Amal Alamuddin

George Clooney & Amal Alamuddin

From:
Greek Reporter

George Clooney Invited to Tie the Knot in Rhodes
by Ioanna Zikakou – May 1, 2014

A local association in Paradisi, a village in Rhodes, Greece, has sent a letter of invitation via the U.S. Embassy to George Clooney, inviting him to get married in the region.

Without wasting any time, the Cultural Association of Paradisi “Agia Marina” wrote a letter to the U.S. Embassy, in which it invites the famous Hollywood star to get married in a church in Rhodes, while the letter also suggests the George Clooney’s best men should be villagers from Paradisi. As they said, they consider him to be “one of us.”
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April 30, 2014

Australia’s NGA relinquishes Dancing Shiva ownership claims

Posted at 1:05 pm in Similar cases

The Australian National Gallery in Canberra has now accepted claims from India, that one of the items in their collection is a looted temple idol from the province of Tamil Nadu.

A legal notice was submitted by India on March 26th & the gallery chose not to contest it, meaning that it is automatically handed over by the Gallery to the Australian government. Hopefully this will be the start of a hasty return of it to India.

This is a marked change since last year, where the gallery publicly refuted all claims that the Dancing Shiva idol might be looted.

The idol is central to investigations into rogue dealer Subhash Kapoor, who is awaiting trial in India & subject to investigations within the USA.

Dancing Shiva idol at the National Gallery of Australia

Dancing Shiva idol at the National Gallery of Australia

From:
The Hindu

Canberra gallery gives up claim on stolen idol
NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN
Updated: April 30, 2014 01:20 IST

The National Gallery of Australia has surrendered to the Indian claim that a Chola-era Nataraja that it acquired for (A) $5.6 million had indeed been stolen from a village temple in Tamil Nadu, paving the way for an early return of the idol to India.

The NGA, Australia’s foremost art institution located in the national capital of Canberra, had 30 days to claim its ownership of the imposing bronze Nataraja after receiving a notice from the Australian Attorney General’s Department under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986. That deadline expired on April 26.
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April 29, 2014

The shame associated with the Sevso Hoard

Posted at 1:06 pm in Similar cases

Part of the disputed Sevso Hoard was recently returned to Hungary (purchased off an unidentified seller in London).

Colin Renfrew looks at some of the history of the treasure, and the losses both to archaeology & to peoples reputations over what has happened with it in the years since its discovery.

Sevso treasure in 1990

Sevso treasure in 1990

From:
Art Newspaper

Shame still hangs over the Sevso hoard
The recent return of seven of the 14 pieces of Roman silver to Hungary from the UK is a positive development in the find’s sad history
By Colin Renfrew. Comment, Issue 257, May 2014
Published online: 29 April 2014

It is a relief that the sorry story of the misappropriation of the great treasure of late Roman silverware known as the Sevso hoard now seems to be reaching an acceptable conclusion. A tangled tale of greed and irresponsibility by “collectors” in high places who might have known better, seeking a quick and easy profit and showing little respect for the world’s archaeological heritage, it ends where it presumably began, in Hungary.
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Swiss Committee for the Return of Parthenon Marbles organises talk in Zurich

Posted at 12:49 pm in Elgin Marbles, International Association

A followup to the earlier post about Dusan Sidjanski’s talk on the Parthenon Marbles.

Dusan Sidjanski of the Swiss Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

Dusan Sidjanski of the Swiss Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

From:
Greek Reporter

Swiss Committee on the Return of the Parthenon Marbles
Apr 19, 2014

The president of the Swiss Committee for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles, Professor Dusan Sidjanski, during the event titled “Europe and the Parthenon Marbles: a common cause,” stressed the need for return of the marbles to Greece.

In his speech, Dr. Sidjianski referred to the Swiss Committee’s concern for the legal claim of the return of the Parthenon Marbles, stressing that this is considered a European issue which needs to be resolved through dialogue between the European institutions as well as through informing the public and especially Britain.
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April 28, 2014

The next chapter – repatriated works after they return home

Posted at 12:57 pm in Similar cases

There have been various high profile cultural property repatriation cases in recent years that have been resolved by the return of the artefacts in question. In many cases though, once the initial publicity dies down, it drops below the radar, as it is no longer a news item.

This article takes a look at some of the recent cases & what has happened to the artefacts since their return.

The Euphronios Krater, displayed in Rome

The Euphronios Krater, displayed in Rome

From:
New York Times

Vision of Home
Repatriated Works Back in Their Countries of Origin
By RACHEL DONADIOAPRIL 17, 2014

AIDONE, Sicily — The ruins of the ancient Greek city of Morgantina sit high on a hill in eastern Sicily. There are cherry trees, wildflowers and total stillness, save for the sound of bird song. The area has long been sacred to Persephone; legend has it that Hades pulled that goddess into the underworld by a nearby lake.

It was here at Morgantina, just outside the modern town of Aidone, that in the late 1970s or early 1980s, a breathtaking statue of a goddess, draped in a windswept robe and standing over seven feet tall, is believed to have been found. First thought to be Aphrodite and now widely considered to be Persephone, the statue, which dates to about 425 B.C., has become one of the most contested artworks in the world.
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April 25, 2014

Auction houses turn a blind eye to looted artefacts

Posted at 2:22 pm in Similar cases

Just when I was thinking that the claims of due dilligence by auction houses were too good to be true – it turned out that they were.

Prasat Thom temple in Cambodia

Prasat Thom temple in Cambodia

From:
Gulf Times

Return to sender: Not easy at all
24 April 2014
By Kate Bartlett

Cambodia filed a suit against Sotheby’s, claiming the auction house had agreed to sell a warrior statue known as the Duryodhana while knowing it had been looted from its pedestal during the 1970s. By Kate Bartlett

Cambodia, which was heavily looted of many of its cultural riches during the Khmer Rouge years and the turbulent civil war that followed, is making concerted efforts to get its priceless antiquities back.
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Greece’s economy might be rebounding, but the Parthenon Marbles have yet to return

Posted at 12:52 pm in Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

A common excuse given by supporters of retaining the Parthenon Sculptures in the UK, is that the time is not right for them to return. The New Acropolis Museum opened during the middle of one of the worst financial crises to affect the world in recent years & for some, their words carried some weight. Surely now though, when Greece is re-issuing government bonds & the remnants of the years of riots are being repaired, this is the ideal time to rebuild Greece’s culture, by righting a historic wrong?

Acropolis Museum in Athens

Acropolis Museum in Athens

From:
Bloomberg News

Athens Lacking Only Elgin as Windows Erase Crisis: Cities
By Marcus Bensasson and Nikos Chrysoloras Apr 24, 2014 5:27 AM GMT

The marble paving stones have been relaid in Athens’s Syntagma Square, the site of pitched battles between police and protesters during the worst of Greece’s economic crisis.

Yannis Stournaras has replaced his sixth-floor window overlooking the square. It was pierced by an errant bullet during one of the riots in 2010.
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April 17, 2014

Evangelos Venizelos speaks out on Parthenon Marbles issue

Posted at 12:51 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

PASOK leader & Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos is no stranger to dealing with the Parthenon Sculptures issue. He has been quiet about it in public though, since he lost his position as Culture Minister after Nea Demokratia took power in the 2004 general election.

Today though, he had the opportunity to speak to the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg, about the return of looted cultural artefacts, where he mentioned both the case of the Parthenon Marbles, as well as the various more recent cases that have arisen in Cyprus since the 1974 Turkish occupation.

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos

From:
Famagusta Gazette

Greek FM refers to destruction of Cyprus’ cultural heritage in occupied north
Thursday, 17 April, 2014

Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, speaking before the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a member state, referred to the need to return the Parthenon marbles to Greece and the damage that Cyprus` cultural treasures have suffered since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

He said that the new directive regarding the return of cultural objects is clearly improved compared to the one that existed since 1993 and it will be an important instrument in handling illegal trafficking of cultural artifacts, which is one of the widely used forms of organised crime.
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April 16, 2014

Is removing an act of vandalism vandalism? – AKA the Banksy Paradox

Posted at 1:06 pm in Similar cases

Had I just seen the first story, there would have been a different take on this, but juxtaposed with another story that also appeared today, it raises far more questions.

The first case is not the first time that Bristolian street artist Banksy has become the topic of this website. In the previous instance, the controversy involved the owner of a wall removing the artwork that had appeared on it one night. The local residents complained, even drawing parallels to the Parthenon Marbles. While the case raised other issues though, the person who did the removing had a legal entitlement to do so, as it was their own wall.

This case however is a clear cut instance of Elginism. The person who removed it is claiming that they had a right to do so because it was in a public place, but now they are claiming it as their own & planning on selling it to raise money. I’m not sure in what way this can not be construed as theft. If don’t own something & you take it, the law is fairly clear cut that this constitutes theft.

However, the second article raises the question of what is vandalism. Since a few years before the start of the financial crisis, the levels of graffiti on walls in Athens has massively increased. Walls that were once pristine & respected have become noticeboards of conflicting political ideologies & poorly thought out solutions to the problem. Many of these are vandalism plain & simple, but they have none the less been documented by people, as one of the most indelible records of the change in the city as the crisis took hold. Now, the social messages in some of the better executed pieces are being analysed further – the works have in effect crossed the same boundary that Banksy did, where vandalism becomes art.

Now – it is worth pointing out that this is a very fuzzy boundary. For some people, it is clearly art, while others continue to maintain the view that the perpetrators should be prosecuted. It is intriguing though how this boundary shifts – Other than his fame / notoriety as an individual, what defines the artistic merit in Banksy’s work that makes people angry when it is destroyed, versus the works of a barely known Greek protester that are routinely scrubbed from walls by municipal workers?

"Access Control," a mural by the Greek street artist iNO on Pireos Street in Athens

“Access Control,” a mural by the Greek street artist iNO on Pireos Street in Athens

From:
Independent

New Banksy art ‘Mobile Lovers’ removed with crowbar, hoarded in youth club
Christopher Hooton
Wednesday 16 April 2014

Banksy’s latest official artwork, being dubbed ‘Mobile Lovers’, has been prized off a Bristol wall by an opportunistic local with a crowbar.

Broad Plain Boys Club manager Dennis Stinchcombe removed the image of a man and a woman distracted by their smartphones from Clement Street, believed to be on plywood, and hopes to sell it for hundreds of thousands of pounds.
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