January 23, 2004

Greece says that British Museum could have an Athens outpost

Posted at 1:53 pm in Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

Removing the issue of ownership & curatorship takes away one leg of the British Museum’s (already weak) arguments justifying their continued retention of the Elgin Marbles.


Greece Seeks to Woo Marbles from British Museum
Thu January 22, 2004 03:48 PM ET
By Karolos Grohmann

LONDON (Reuters) – Greece, seeking to woo the British Museum into sending the disputed Elgin Marbles to Athens for this summer’s Olympic Games, said Thursday the reluctant museum could use part of a new Athens site as its own branch.

“This can become a win-win situation for all of us, both for the British Museum as well as for the new Acropolis Museum,” Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said in London.

The fifth-century BC fragments of sculpted marble from Athens’ Parthenon temple are one of Europe’s great artistic treasures.

They were taken from the Parthenon at the turn of the 19th century by British diplomat Lord Elgin and sold to the British Museum.

After meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Minister Jack Straw, Papandreou told reporters British and Greek culture ministers would meet next week in London to discuss the marbles.

The British Museum, which has a special room to display the large blocks of carved marble, has steadfastly refused to return or lend the pieces to Greece.

Museum director Neil McGregor said in a recent article the marbles belonged in London, where they had been well looked after, and attributed the latest push by the Greek government to posturing before March elections.

“There has never been any question of any piece ever returning to Britain if it is sent to Athens,” he wrote in the Sunday Times.

Papandreou offered to let the British Museum use part of a museum being built near the Parthenon in central Athens as its own branch.

“There should be a corporate relation between the two countries and the British Museum can create its branch at the Acropolis Museum,” Papandreou said.

The planned steel-glass Acropolis Museum will not be ready for the Olympics in August, but Greece says the Parthenon Marbles Hall, its centerpiece, will be ready and awaiting the marbles.

“We are saying that this wonder of art should be an integral piece of art and it should be brought together in Athens,” said Papandreou.

Until recently, Greece was only offering the British Museum a series of ancient Greek exhibitions in return for the marbles.

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