- Elginism - http://www.elginism.com -

Greece states that it will drop ownership claims on Parthenon Marbles

In an interview with The Times, Greece’s Culture Minister, Pavlos Geroulanos, has indicated that he may be willing to set aside the issue of ownership, in order to facilitate serious talks with the British Museum about the reunification of the Elgin Marbles.

Later reports from Greece have however indicated that this attribution was made in error & was not what was discussed in the interview.

The Times [1]

Greece offers to drop claim to Elgin Marbles
Michael Binyon Athens Last updated December 6 2010 12:01 AM

Greece is trying to break decades of stalemate with Britain over the Elgin Marbles by dropping its long-standing claim to ownership of the sculptures in return for the British Museum sending the Acropolis artefacts back to Athens on a long-term loan.

In return, Greece will offer the British Museum a selection of its best classical art, changing the exhibition every few years to give London one of the richest permanent displays in Western Europe of sculpture, carvings and art from ancient Greece.

The offer was made by Pavlos Geroulanos, the Greek Minister of Culture, who said that his country no longer cared about the technical ownership of the Parthenon treasures, as long as they were reunified with the other sculptures that formed part of the richly decorated temple.

His offer, detailed in an interview with The Times, is an attempt to overcome the long dispute over the Marbles. Most of the best preserved sculptures from the Parthenon frieze were removed with the Sultan’s permission by Lord Elgin, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, which then included Greece.

They were shipped to Britain between 1801 and 1805, and purchased by Parliament in 1816. Greece has always regarded the deal as illegal and claimed that the treasures were looted.

The British Museum said in a statement that it had not received any formal approach from Greece detailing the latest suppose that the Trustees would alter the sculptures need to continue to be seen “within the world collection of the British Museum”.

At issue, however, is not only the legality of the purchase but the precedent any return would set for museums around the world. The British Museum has long argued that it would encourage dozens of other countries to claim objects on display there, effectively stripping one of the world’s greatest museums of all its treasures.

Athens now appears ready to accept ownership by the British Museum but it is increasing the political and moral pressure for their return. Mr Geroulanos said: “The British Museum is running out of time. The British public is in favour of returning them. The logic of its arguments to keep them is weakening.” Greece wants the Elgin Marbles in the new Acropolis museum but the British Museum has argued that they would be damaged by pollution.

Mr Geroulanos said he had not had any formal talks with the British Government nor with Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum. He suggested that he wanted talks to be amicable, and did not want to go on “screaming in the old- fashioned way”.

When Melina Mercouri, the actress and former Greek Culture Minister, launched the campaign to get the Marbles back in 1981, the anti-British rhetoric antagonised cultural officials.