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

Ilissos returns to British Museum, but not to Duveen Gallery

The statue of Ilissos was sent to the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg last December, heralded with much fanfare from the British Museum and some news sources.

It has now returned to the British Museum, but will not be occupying its usual position in the Duveen Gallery just yet.

Instead, it is gong to be appearing in a new exhibition – Defining Beauty: The Body In Ancient Greek Art which starts on 26th March. Curator Ian Jenkins says that visitors will get “a different story” by seeing one sculpture away from the rest of them. This seems to be once again missing the point that the sculptures are part of a greater whole. Then again, the British Museum would want to see things in this way, as their intention is to erode the argument that they are part of a set as far as possible, in an effort to weaken Greece’s claim.

Stating that separating them tells a different story makes no sense as a justification. The fact that they can tell a different story is definitely the case, but I struggle to see that the different story has any real relevance or could possibly be seen as an improvement. To follow this argument to a ridiculous extreme, one could say that the Taliban blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas allows them to tell a different story. Would anyone other than the Taliban argue that this “different story” had much merit to it? Probably not.

Part of the Parthenon Marbles, the river god Ilissos in the Duveen Gallery [1]

Part of the Parthenon Marbles, the river god Ilissos in the Duveen Gallery

Belfast Telegraph [2]

Marbles back at British Museum
27 February 2015

A section of the Elgin Marbles loaned to Russia last year has returned to the British Museum to take centre stage in a new exhibition.

The sculpture of the river god, Ilissos, will go on show away from the other marbles.

They have been in the museum since 1816 and apart from spending the war years safely stashed in a Tube Station none had ever left until the sculpture was sent to Russia where more than 139,000 people saw it before its return this year .

Lesley Fitton, the keeper of the department of Greece and Rome at the central London museum, said: “For us who’ve been used to the sculptures in the Duveen Gallery all of these decades, we’ve never loaned them anywhere else in all our working lives, and for us it’s really like meeting them again for the first time almost, even though they’ve always been so familiar. ”

The 2,500-year-old marbles were presented to the London institution after being removed from the Parthenon temple at the Acropolis by Lord Elgin – with the debate over whether they should be returned to Greece raging ever since.

Greece maintains they were taken illegally during the country’s Turkish occupation and should be returned for display in Athens, which the British Museum and the Government reject.

Ms Fitton said she hoped the temporary transfer to Russia and the new exhibition “will have moved the debates over the Parthenon sculptures on a bit”.

She said: ” I think it had become very polarised and static and very much an impasse.”

Curator Ian Jenkins said visitors would get “a different story” seeing one of the marbles away from the rest.

He said lending the work to Russia and splitting it from the rest of the marbles for a temporary exhibition would move the debate forward.

He said: “It’s not every day that the British Museum takes one of its most famous pieces and consigns it to an aircraft and lends it but I think the director would say that it’s about breathing oxygen into the story of the Parthenon sculptures”.

British Museum director Neil MacGregor indicated that he would be willing to consider a similar loan of a statue to Greece, but only if the authorities there promised to return it to London.

Defining Beauty: The Body In Ancient Greek Art opens on March 26 and runs to July 5.