February 6, 2004

Liverpool gallery makes U-turn over Elgin Marbles exhibition

Posted at 2:11 pm in Elgin Marbles, Marbles Reunited

Liverpool’s Walker art gallery has decided not to allow the exhibiting of an exhibition on the Parthenon Sculptures following controversy in the local press. This is a great shame, as it appears that similar changes of mind take place all to often when certain elements of the museums establishment put pressure on others who dare to stick their heads above the parapet without permission.
There are however, still many other exhibitions planned around the country by the Marbles Reunited campaign, which are still taking place as planned.

The Guardian

Gallery’s u-turn over Marbles
David Ward
Thursday February 5, 2004
The Guardian

One of the country’s leading galleries has changed its mind and decided not to hire out a room to campaigners who want the Elgin marbles to be returned to Greece.

The Marbles Reunited campaign chose Liverpool for one of its regional launches next week because the city’s Walker art gallery has casts from some of the marbles.

When it agreed to the booking, the gallery made it clear that it was not involving itself in the debate about the future of the marbles.

But Lord Elgin, the great-great-grandson of the man who brought the marbles to Britain, described the gallery’s decision to give Marbles Reunited house-room as “very odd”, and controversy raged in the local media.

Now managers have decided to cancel the arrangement.

A Marbles Reunited spokesman denounced the decisions as “cultural censorship” and said campaigners would not be gagged. The regional launch will move to the Empire Theatre, across the road from the Walker.

The spokesman said the gallery had decided to cancel the booking because the Walker’s statement of neutrality had not been included in launch invitations.

“We believe this explanation stretches credibility to breaking point,” he added. “There may be a further reason that has not been explained to us, perhaps relating to pressure exerted by those who are opposed to the campaign, such as Lord Elgin and/or the British Museum.

“This of course remains an educated guess; only the Walker knows all the facts behind their decision.”

In a statement, the Walker said it regularly hired out rooms at commercial rates, but had decided not to confirm a booking with Marbles Reunited.

“Publicity surrounding the event has resulted in National Museums Liverpool being portrayed inaccurately as backing the lobbying campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens.

“The campaign is not supported by NML and its trustees. NML’s position is that it is neither for nor against the campaign, but was willing to hire out its premises for a public discussion provided there was no misunderstanding of that position.

“David Fleming, director of NML, believes that the debate about the Parthenon marbles is entirely a matter for the British Museum and its trustees, and NML cannot be drawn into the debate.”

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