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British Museum officials to attend New Acropolis Museum opening

Much is being made in the press about the rejection of a supposed Elgin Marbles loan deal that never existed in the first place. Unfortunately, many more interesting facts about the opening are being drowned out by the noise made by this story.

Agence France Presse [1]

British Museum to attend Greek launch despite marbles spat
2 days ago

LONDON (AFP) — British Museum officials will attend the inauguration of Greece’s New Acropolis Museum next week, it said Friday but insisted its stance on the long-disputed Parthenon Marbles remains unchanged.

A spokeswoman for the museum also stressed that it had not made an offer nor received a request for those sculptures held in London to be loaned to Athens, following comments by a Greek minister this week.

A new museum for the remaining parts of the frieze and other sculptures from the Acropolis is scheduled to open in the Greek capital on June 20, reviving the debate over the significant portions held by the British Museum.

Greece has long pursued a campaign for the return of the priceless friezes. They were removed in 1806 by British ambassador Lord Elgin, when Greece was occupied by the Ottoman Empire, and later sold to the British Museum.

Athens has invited foreign leaders and museum officials to attend the inauguration.

“We have been invited and the museum will be represented at the opening,” a British Museum spokeswoman told AFP.

“We’re very happy to have the invitation and very happy to go. The New Acropolis Museum is going to be a fantastic achievement and there’s great interest from the British Museum to see the new museum and see what they’ve done.

“But none of that changes the British Museum’s position on the retention of the sculptures here in London as part of a worldwide collection.”

Greek Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said this week that Athens would turn down any loan offer as it would “legalise the snatching of the Marbles”.

The British Museum reiterated its lending pre-condition that any borrowing institutions must acknowledge the museum’s ownership of the objects in question.

“You can’t lend something if they don’t recognise your ownership,” the spokeswoman said.

Elgin’s acquisition of the sculptures — with the permission of the Ottoman authorities — was deemed legal in an 1816 British parliamentary investigation.

Copyright © 2009 AFP

CBC (Canada) [2]

Greece refuses British offer of Parthenon marbles loan
Accepting would acknowledge the art treasures as the legitimate property of the British Museum.
Last Updated: Friday, June 12, 2009 | 12:53 PM ET

Greece has said it will not accept the offer of a short-term loan of the Parthenon marbles because doing so would acknowledge the fifth-century B.C. antiquities as the legitimate property of the British Museum.

In a statement Thursday, Greek Culture Minister Antonis Samaris said his government would not take up the British offer, which would have had the marbles displayed at the opening of the new Acropolis Museum in Athens.

“Accepting it would legalize the snatching of the marbles and the monument’s carving up 207 years ago,” he said.

Samaris was responding to comments by British Museum spokeswoman Hannah Boulton on Greek Skai Radio on Wednesday. She said that the London museum would consider lending the marbles to Greece for three months for the opening of the new museum.
Controversial history

The British Museum’s ownership of the Parthenon marbles has long been a subject of controversy.

In 1799, while Greece was under Ottoman rule, British Ambassador Lord Elgin began removing artifacts from the Acropolis. He sold 75 metres of the original 160 metres of the frieze that ran around the Parthenon’s inner core to the British Museum for £35,000 ($72,000 Cdn).

Over the years, campaigns have been launched calling for the reunification of the frieze — which depicts gods, giants and centaurs from Greek mythology — in Greece. The British Museum has claimed the works are safer in London than in Athens, where the Acropolis has suffered deterioration from pollution.

The Acropolis Museum, which stands just 400 metres from the Parthenon, opens on June 20. Replicas of the artworks in London will be displayed alongside those that have been left in Greece.

In his statement, Samaris said Greece would be willing to loan other antiquities to the British Museum “to fill the gap when the marbles are returned to the country where they belong.”

If the British Museum returned the Parthenon marbles to Greece, other countries would likely demand the return of their art treasures. Nigeria, for one, has been calling for the return of the Benin bronzes, which were removed by Britain in 1897.