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.

October 27, 2014

Expropriation of artefacts as a demonstration of power

Posted at 9:55 pm in Similar cases

This article is prompted by the current state of affairs in Iraq & Syria, where ISIS fighters are systematically destroying heritage from cultures that do not fit entirely into their worldview. This is not a new approach however & has been going on for as long as people can remember. The means & the stated aims might vary, but the end result – denigration of the culture of the local population – is invariably the outcome.

The empty seat once occupied by the Bamiyan Buddhas before they were systematically destroyed by the Taliban

The empty seat once occupied by the Bamiyan Buddhas before they were systematically destroyed by the Taliban

From:
Guardian

If great architecture belongs to humanity, do we have a responsibility to save it in wartimes?
Jeff Sparrow
Tuesday 7 October 2014 03.25 BST

The lands of Syria and Iraq gave rise to some the oldest societies we know: the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Parthians, the Romans and many others. Traces of all of these peoples remain in archeological sites of the utmost significance.

And now they’re being destroyed.

A fortnight ago, satellite imagery revealed the cultural effects of Syria’s civil war. “The buildings of Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, has suffered extensive damage,” explained Archaeology magazine. “The ancient city of Bosra, the ancient site of Palmyra, the ancient villages of Northern Syria, and the castles Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din have all been damaged by mortar impacts and military activity.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Met forced to organise Seljuk exhibition without Turkish loans

Posted at 9:38 pm in Similar cases

For a few years now, Turkey has been trying increasingly hard to make life awkward for countries & institutions holding disputed Turkish artefacts. Undeterred by this (or perhaps brimming with bullish over-confidence that Turkey will capitulate), New York’s Metropolitan Museum is attempting to organise a Seljuk exhibition without any loans from Turkey. No actual loan requests have been refused as such, but preliminary discussions indicated that cooperation from Turkey would not be forthcoming, meaning that the Met decided against asking for any loans.

The Seljuks were the Turkish dynasty that existed prior to the Ottomans. as such, Turkey holds by far the largest collection of artefacts from the period. Organising an exhibition without these is significantly harder than it would otherwise have needed to be.

Greece on the other hand has always made a point of continuing to cooperate with Britain over other matters, while maintaining their stance on the Parthenon Sculptures. This is despite many opportunities to block loans for exhibitions, or to not issue permits for British archaeologists etc. Whilst this spirit of cooperation, of not connecting what are in reality disparate items is admirable, I can’t help feeling sometimes that Britain needs to be made to feel a bit less comfortable about their position. The British museum does not deal with the Parthenon Marbles issue in a serious way, because it doesn’t feel that it has to. It has kept up this approach for many years now & everything else continues to happen as normal.

Socrates in discussion with his pupils, Seljuk manuscript from 13thcentury, Istanbul, Topkapi Palace Library

Socrates in discussion with his pupils, Seljuk manuscript from 13thcentury, Istanbul, Topkapi Palace Library

From:
Art Newspaper

No Turkish loans for big Seljuk Turk show planned by the Met
Thorny early discussions with Ankara deterred the US museum but Turkish attitude now appears more conciliatory
By Tim Cornwell. Museums, Issue 261, October 2014
Published online: 09 October 2014

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is organising a major exhibition on the Seljuks, whose medieval Islamic empire expanded from central Asia into much of modern Anatolia in Turkey, without loans from Turkey, The Art Newspaper has learned. Experts fear that loans from any collections in Iran or Russia will also be missing in the Met’s show.

The Met’s problem securing Turkish loans echoes those surrounding the British Museum’s exhibition on the Hajj, which went ahead in London in 2012 without Turkish artefacts after tangled disputes over an inscribed stele with a relief of Herakles, which have yet to be resolved.
Read the rest of this entry »

Peter Hitchens argues for return of Parthenon Sculptures

Posted at 1:45 pm in Elgin Marbles

Bearing in mind many of his other opinions, many would not expect Peter Hitchens to be in favour of the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. Those who have followed the issue though will know that it is in fact pretty much the only issue that he & he brother Christopher agreed on.

Here he once again reiterates his view that they should be returned to Greece.

Peter Hitchens

Peter Hitchens

From:
Daily Mail

PETER HITCHENS: So how long will it be before we invite the IS jihadis to a white-tie dinner?
By Peter Hitchens for The Mail on Sunday
Published: 00:01, 19 October 2014 | Updated: 10:33, 19 October 2014

[...]

Mrs Clooney is right: we have to lose our Marbles

I back Amal Clooney in her battle to get the Elgin Marbles sent back to their home in Athens.

We rescued them from the Ottomans. We’ve guarded them well. But now their home is safe again, and we have had them for long enough.
Read the rest of this entry »

October 26, 2014

Greece considers Parthenon Marbles strategy

Posted at 10:57 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

More coverage of the recent visit to Athens by a team of three lawyers from the UK to discuss options for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

Amal Clooney nee Alamudin is shown around the New Acropolis Museum by Professor Pandermalis

Amal Clooney nee Alamudin is shown around the New Acropolis Museum by Professor Pandermalis

From:
Greek Reporter

Alamuddin-Clooney Concludes Greece Visit on Positive Note
by Philip Chrysopoulos – Oct 16, 2014

This afternoon, Amal Alamuddin-Clooney leaves Greece following a three-day visit to Athens in which she counseled the Greek government on the proper legal route for reclaiming the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum.

The 36-year-old lawyer – along with cultural heritage lawyers Norman Palmer and Geoffrey Robertson, as well as David Hill, chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles – met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Minister of Culture Kostas Tasoulas to discuss the repatriation of the Marbles, an issue of long-standing discord between the Greek and British governments. According to witnesses, discussions between the legal team and the Greek government ended on an optimistic note.
Read the rest of this entry »

Greek government seeks legal guidance on Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 10:41 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

To anyone reading the news over the last couple of weeks, it can not have escaped their attention that a team of lawyers (namely, Professor Norman Palmer, Geoffrey Robertson QC & Amal Clooney nee Alamudin (wife of George) have visited Athens to discuss the Parthenon Sculptures. They were also accompanied by David Hill, the chair of the International Association of the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

Most of the press attention on the story has been because of the inclusion of Amal Clooney in the team. I can categorically state here though that she has had a long running interest in the case. Documents prepared in early 2011 for discussions with the Greek Government (which I was present at) bear her name at the end.

Much has been made in the press of how she will solve the issue – which I’m sure she would be the first to admit is complete nonsense. It is a long and complex dispute & however it is finally resolved, I don’t think it would be possible to assign all the success to a single individual. That said however, she has had a remarkable effect in lifting the issue from one discussed by academics and the broadsheet press, into one that every newspaper is talking about. The effects from a PR point of view can not be under-estimated & far more people in Britain now know what the Parthenon Marbles are compared to two weeks ago. Furthermore, the media wants to support winners – in the battle of the establishment, versus a famous film star & his highly intelligent, glamorous wife, many tend to take a different view to if it was portrayed as a cause only of real interest to Greeks & left leaning intellectuals.

I will write more about the specifics of legal action later & what was actually said after the meetings, but first of all, here is the key press coverage from their visit.

David Hill, Amal Clooney & Geoffrey Robertson in Athens

David Hill, Amal Clooney & Geoffrey Robertson in Athens

From:
Kathimerini (English Edition)

Eminent lawyers to advise Greek PM on Parthenon Marbles
Saturday October 11, 2014

Rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney and her eminent colleague Geoffrey Robertson are due in Athens on Monday for talks with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras which are expected to focus on legal arguments Greece can use in its bid to retrieve the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum.

The British-based, Lebanese-born lawyer, who recently made headlines by marrying American actor George Clooney, and her senior colleague Robertson are due to stay in Athens through Thursday, according to the London-based Doughty Street Chambers legal firm. The barristers, who are also to meet with Culture Minister Costas Tasoulas during their stay, were first asked to provide advice to Athens in 2011.
Read the rest of this entry »

October 24, 2014

RIP Gough Whitlam – Parthenon Marbles reunification supporter

Posted at 6:47 am in Elgin Marbles

Former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was a long time supporter of the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures. I was fortunate enough to see him speak on the issue in 2001 at a conference organised by the Institute of Art and Law. I was later to discover that this was the last overseas trip he made.

He was 85 years old at the time, but if you met him, you would never have believed it. He talked eloquently at great length about the history of the sculptures & how they had come to be where they are today. The story was so convincingly told, that his conclusions that they must be returned were almost unnecessary – if you understood the story, you would have made up your own mind the same ways ass he did that there was only one rightful place that could be called the home of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Gough Whitlam died on 21st October, aged 98.

Former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam

Former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam

From:
The Australian

Gough Whitlam praised from both sides of politics
October 21, 2014 2:30PM

POLITICIANS from across the divide have heaped praise on Gough Whitlam, describing the former prime minister as a “visionary” leader who spurred both progressives and conservatives into public life.

Mr Whitlam, who died this morning aged 98, led Australia for three turbulent years from 1972, launching sweeping reforms of the nation’s economic and cultural affairs, until his dismissal by the governor-general John Kerr amid a constitutional crisis in 1975.
Read the rest of this entry »

October 17, 2014

Kathy Lette’s views on the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 7:31 am in Elgin Marbles

No one can have missed the wave of media attention over the last few days over a team of lawyers visiting Athens for consultations over the viability of legal action for the return of the Parthenon Marbles. You probably would have missed the story though, had it not been for one of the members on the team – the newly married Amal Clooney, formerly Alamuddin.

A lot of misinformation has permeated the press, relating to this story, as they are more drawn to the aspects of celebrity involvement than anything else.

First of all, Amal is not there merely because of her husband’s fame. I know for a fact that she has been researching the possibility of a case involving the Parthenon Sculptures, since at least 2011.

Secondly, she is not going to save Greece’s antiquities, as many sources claimed. I am sure she would be the first to agree with me on this one. She is there as by far the most junior member of a team of three very highly regarded lawyers. The other two, Geoffrey Robertson & Professor Norman Palmer already have significant experience in the field of cultural property restitution, such as bringing about changes in English law, to allow the return of all Aboriginal human remains held in Britain’s museums. She is no doubt a key member of the team, but anyone who suggests that she is the one leading the fight has clearly not researched things very well.

However, the draw of celebrities (& she seems to be treated as one because of her husband) in the media is immense. The amount of publicity it has given the issue can only help, particularly as the campaign for return is seen as having the young attractive intelligent one that the media loves on their side. Like Melina Mercouri before her, she gives a vibrancy to the campaign that lifts it above one of arguing academics & makes it something that is lapped up by the category of newspapers who would never normally show the slightest interest in such a story.

I was struck though, by the slightly peculiar lines of questioning by some of the press though – I noticed in more than one article that Amal was asked about what her husband thought about her work on the Marbles. Whether this is out of the fact that he is a celebrity, or that she is female, or that the journalists are trying to create a story when there is none, is unclear. But the fact remains, that neither of the other two lawyers were ever asked this question.

So, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, I decided to ask the famous author Kathy Lette (who is also the wife of Geoffrey Robertson), for her views on the Marbles, just so that if the media wants to ask her husband, the answer is already out there.

So – here it is. An exclusive story first published here – Kathy Lette’s views on the Parthenon Marbles restitution:

Kathy Lette

Kathy Lette

From:
Facebook

My view on the Elgin Marbles is how amusing it is to see the press pack losing their marbles over Amal.

Amal’s interest in the Acropolis has given the men of the world a real edifice complex!

So there you have it – we are still none the wiser what her real thoughts on the subject are – so I can’t add her to my list of supporters just yet…

October 16, 2014

What will the UK do about the Parthenon Sculptures UNESCO mediation request

Posted at 7:52 pm in Elgin Marbles

As I mentioned in the previous post, it is now over a year since Greece submitted their application to Britain via UNESCO, for mediation of the Parthenon Marbles dispute.

Andrew George MP, Chair of the Marbles Reunited campaign has asked the British government what they are dong about this request. Jeremy Corbyn MP, another well known supporter of restitution for the sculptures also got involved, pressing the government for a sensible answer, when none seemed to be forthcoming.

ITV news also has more coverage of this story, including a brief video clip.

Andrew George MP, Chair of the Marbles Reunited campaign

Andrew George MP, Chair of the Marbles Reunited campaign

From:
Andrew George MP

Parthenon Sculptures
16th October 2014

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD):
What his policy is on the UNESCO proposal for mediation with Greece on the Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum.[905472]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mrs Helen Grant):

The Government note that UNESCO stands ready to facilitate mediation discussions on the Parthenon sculptures. We will consider the proposal and respond in due course. We are clear that the sculptures are legally owned by the British museum, which continues to provide access for all.
Read the rest of this entry »

October 9, 2014

Greece, the Parthenon Marbles & UNESCO

Posted at 1:16 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

There have been various articles in the Greek language press in the last few days relating to UNESCO mediation & the Parthenon Marbles.

Having read through them, I still can’t see that there is any substance to them, other than re-publicising of old news. UNESCO was already accepted as the official mediator in the issue. This had to have been the case, because UNESCO was the conduit through which the mediation request was conveyed to Britain.

Notwithstanding the above, surely even the most stalwart supporters of the mediation option must be starting to loose faith in its possibility as a route to a solution? It is now over a year since the action was publicly announced & still no response has been made by Britain. It seems unlikely that any response will be made, until such time as it appears like an attractive option compared to the alternatives. At present, there is no obligation to enter into mediation, so why would the British Museum from a position where they feel that they are sitting comfortably, to one in which would potentially be far less comfortable.

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

From:
Euro Weekly News

Greece presses for return of Elgin Marbles
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 11:19

THE Greek delegation to UNESCO launched a new campaign last Monday October 6 for the return of the Parthenon’s famous Elgin Marbles.

Currently housed in London’s British Museum, the marble friezes, which depict fascinatingly intricate sculptures of mythological scenes, once adorned the pediment of the Parthenon, perhaps Ancient Greece’s most iconic structure.
Read the rest of this entry »

Top lawyers to advise Greece on Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 12:54 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Geoffrey Robertson (who has previously dealt with high profile cases such as fighting extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange), along with Amal Alamuddin (who may be better known to many as the new Mrs George Clooney) are amongst lawyers, who have been asked to meet with the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to discuss the issue of the Parthenon sculptures.

It is not yet known what form these discussions might take, or what approach they might be inviting the Greek government to take.

Amal’s involvement with the Parthenon Marbles follows the statements made by her now husband, George Clooney at the premiere of the film Monuments Men earlier this year.

Amal Alamuddin & Geoffrey Robertson

Amal Alamuddin & Geoffrey Robertson

From:
Sydney Morning Herald

Amal Alamuddin and Geoffrey Robertson team up to win back Elgin Marbles for Greece
Nick Miller, Europe Correspondent
October 9, 2014 – 11:13AM

London: The new “Mrs Clooney” has her first post-wedding job – and it’s a doozy.

In tandem with fellow human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson, Amal Alamuddin is taking sides in one of the most controversial cultural arguments of recent history: she will try to win the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece.
Read the rest of this entry »

October 3, 2014

The Acropolis may be crumbling, depending who you ask

Posted at 12:42 pm in Acropolis

There were a lot of reports yesterday about instability in the Acropolis – the rock in Athens on which the Parthenon sits.

If you look at the Acropolis, you will see that around the edges, a lot of it is supported by ancient retaining walls – the top of the original hill was too rounded & not large enough for the quantity of buildings constructed there. As a result, the site has been heavily analysed, to check for any chance of deterioration of these walls & the rubble piled behind them.

Greece has now issued their own press release, refuting the alarmist tone taken by many of the original articles.

The Parthenon

The Parthenon

From:
IB Times

Greece: ‘Crumbling’ Ancient Acropolis in Athens Puts Parthenon at Risk of Collapse
By Lydia Smith
02 October 2014

The Acropolis is falling down and will need significant work to shore it up, archaeologists have warned.

Engineers have found that a section of the huge flat-topped rock on which the ancient Parthenon sits in Athens is beginning to give way, the Greek news agency ANA has said.
Read the rest of this entry »

October 2, 2014

Promakhos screening at Australia’s Greek film festival

Posted at 12:49 pm in Elgin Marbles, Events

I was fortunate enough to see a preview screening of Promakhos a few months ago. It is now going to be possible for the public to see it, in both Sydney & Melbourne as part of the Greek Film Festival.

The Sydney screening will be followed with a Q&A session with David Hill, chair of the International Association of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Promotional image for the Promakhos movie

Promotional image for the Promakhos movie

From:
Greek Film Festival

CLOSING NIGHT EVENT: Promakhos
Greece/USA/UK, 2014, 91mins (Drama)
Director Coerte Voorhees and John Voorhees

Someone needs to stand up for Greece, make a case for her…”

For over two centuries, the legality behind the removal of the Parthenon Marbles from the Acropolis has been the subject of much controversy and passionate debate. Very credible cases against the British Museum have been put forward by a number of lawyers – including the father of this film’s makers – however, Greek governments have steered clear of any involvement.
Read the rest of this entry »