April 14, 2006

Senator Sarbanes & the Elgin Marbles

Posted at 1:14 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Paul Sarbanes, a Democrat Senator in the US, probably best known through the Sarbanes-Oxley Act – laws regulating financial disclosure of corporations following the Enron Scandal. Sarbanes is the child of a Greek immigrant family & has in the past mentioned the case of the Elgin Marbles. The British Museum suggested that they could be viewed by more people in London than in Athens. Sarbanes responded that if that was the approach that was being taken then Beijing would be a better option where they could be seen by even more people. The Washington Post wonders whether there is any connection between the basis of this statement & the British Museum’s current agreement of cooperation wit the Chinese government.

Washington Post

Diplomatic dispatches
By Nora Boustany
Friday, April 14, 2006; Page A14

Taking Greece to China

Could Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) have been an oracle in a previous life? In this age, he seems to have come close.

Sarbanes, a child of Greek immigrants, and his British-born wife, Christine , often take in exhibits at the British Museum while visiting London. During a trip several years ago, they toured the museum’s Duveen Gallery, where the contested Parthenon sculptures — Elgin Marbles to the British — are showcased.

Sarbanes questioned the guide about demands by Greece to have the artifacts repatriated to Athens. “We shouldn’t. We take much better care of them here,” he remembered her saying. The application of a whitening solution to the sculptures had damaged their surface in the 1930s, he reminded her. “Oh, yes. But besides, if the marbles stay here, so many more people will see them,” she maintained.

“Why, by that logic, they should be in Beijing,” Sarbanes blurted out to the flustered guide.

It was prescient. Sort of.

Though the Brits are holding on to the marbles, the Greek minister of tourism, Fanny Palli-Petralia , said Sunday that her Chinese counterparts had negotiated a six-month exhibit of Olympic antiquities to coincide with the 2008 Games in Beijing.

“We have signed an agreement. The Chinese have asked for pointers on how my country prepared for the 2004 Olympic Games. I have been there several times, and I have even chosen the space where the artifacts will be displayed,” she said during a dinner hosted by Alexandros P. Mallias , Greece’s ambassador to Washington. As a member of the previous Greek government, Palli-Petralia helped implement a plan for the use of the sports venues after the Games.

Greece attracts 13 million visitors each year, she said, and was gearing up for the Chinese market, especially its rising middle class, she added. “We love American tourists, too, and we would like to have more of them come,” she said.

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