June 23, 2009

Greece urges Britain to return Elgin Marbles

Posted at 1:51 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

More coverage of Greece’s response to statements made by the British Museum following the opening of the New Acropolis Museum.

United Press International

Greece urges Britain to return sculptures
Published: June 22, 2009 at 10:27 AM

ATHENS, Greece, June 22 (UPI) — Greece used the opening of an Acropolis museum to renew its call to Britain to return sculptures taken from Athens’ Parthenon 200 years ago, authorities said.

Dimitris Pandermalis, director of the New Acropolis Museum, at an opening ceremony Saturday told Greek and world dignitaries now the time to rectify what he called an act of barbarism in the sculptures’ removal, the Athens News Agency reported Monday.

The $182 million, three-level modern glass and concrete building at the bottom of the Acropolis houses about 350 sculptures and works of art that had been held in a small museum on the peak of the Acropolis.

Greek President Karolos Papoulias told the officials attending the nationwide-televised ceremony the whole world can see the most significant sculptures of the Parthenontemple.

“Some are missing. Now is the time to heal the monument’s wounds with the return of the marbles to where they belong,” Papoulias said.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said the new museum is part of the world’s cultural heritage that belongs to all of humanity.

Hurriyet (Turkey)

by Nikos Konstandara
Past, present, future become one in Greece

KATHIMERINI – The New Acropolis Museum opened in Athens on Sunday to visitors eager to explore its vast collection of sculptures and museum holds more than 4,000 ancient works, including the best surviving classical sculptures that once adorned the Acropolis.

The New Acropolis Museum is like a meteorite falling into Greece’s swamp, with the past, present and future becoming one at the moment of impact. The waves churn up our daily routine, mix the waters, highlight forgotten images and eras, and create new currents and hopes.Finally, the new museum is here. It will stay and it will determine, for a long time, the relationship between the Athenians (and visitors) and the Acropolis, as well as the city itself.

A museum on its own cannot change a city, but the fact that an important new monument has been added to the city – a monument that honors and displays the past in a dynamic way – re-evaluates the relationship between the Greeks and their heritage. The year 2009 can now be added to the long chronology of creation and destruction that has marked the Acropolis from the prehistoric era (when the first residents of the fertile coastal plain found refuge behind the rocky hill’s natural fortifications), to the careful restoration of the monuments that is still being carried out today. Our duty is not to build new temples nor to destroy them, but to guard them and display them to the rest of the world in the best possible way. This is what the new museum declares.

The museum’s opening has given new impetus to the demand for the return of the sculptures that are in the British Museum. The new museum highlights their absence from the whole and this is already the strongest argument in favor of their return. And the museum achieves something else – it presents and showcases the many other treasures that are now coming out of storerooms and the cramped old museum up on the Acropolis. Now we can see that the Parthenon’s sculptures are not only those that are in London, and that the Acropolis is not only the Parthenon (but also the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheum, the Propylaea, the walls, and so on).

So many up to the present

And antiquity was not only the Classical Age, but also the Mycenaean era, the Archaic age and so many up to the present. Every era has something to show other than the periods of construction – even if this is the destruction of the old temples by Persian invaders, or the damage done when Venetian besiegers hit a Turkish arsenal inside the Parthenon, or Elgin’s theft, or today’s acid rain and conservation efforts. By displaying history as well as the Acropolis sculptures, the new museum raises high the bar for Greeks’ relationship with their heritage. If we really take our culture seriously, we must show this all over the country and in every way (not least the collection of litter). Because what we have built is not a pretty, regional museum. To succeed, the New Acropolis Museum must be an international center of study and debate. The great challenge is for it to provoke new interest and new currents in the study of ancient Greece. With its presence alone, the museum demands a more active involvement with the antiquities from anyone in the world interested in Greece.

The New Acropolis Museum already sits in the heart of the city and places new demands on us. And for a long time it will tell the story of the age in which it was built. To speak for us, it must fill with people – people with ideas, who are not afraid of hard work, who honor the past and build for the future. Like the time when Pericles, Pheidias and their friends decided to push aside the ruins left by the Persians and build in honor of their free city.

Today we do not build Parthenons – we already have perfection in our midst – but at last we have a great new public building that shows we can see the Acropolis in all its glory, and that we, too, are capable of building for the future.

Kathimerini is a Greek publication that publishes in Greek and English, and has strategic ties with the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. Nikos Konstandaras is editor-in-chief of the paper’s English publication.

China Central Television

Greece opens new Acropolis Museum
2009-06-23 08:55 BJT

The new Acropolis Museum, a long awaited project that has suffered years of delays, finally opened its doors on Saturday. The opening night included a ceremony with 300 political and academic figures from around the world. But the message of the night was in fact directed at a different museum. Greece is insisting that the Parthenon Marbles return from the British Museum.

The vast glass museum at the foot of the Acropolis houses thousands of antiquities from the Acropolis temples including artifacts never seen by the public before. The pieces highlight some of the most important archaeological periods including the classical, archaic and roman periods.

The idea of building the 130 million euro museum began as far back as the 1970s, but gained momentum a decade later as part of the appeal for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from Britain. The British Museum has refused to return these pieces citing the lack of a proper display space in Greece.

But setbacks through the years delayed the project, with construction finally beginning in 2004.

Antonis Samaras, Greek Culture Minister, said, “The Parthenon and its marbles were victims of looting. This crime can be corrected today. The museum is the ethical power that calls them back, so they can be re-united. The marbles in Athens are calling for those in London.”

To drive the message home, Museum President Dimitris Pandermalis outlined all the pieces that are missing while giving guests a tour of the Parthenon Gallery. He also highlighted those that are fragmented, where half the sculpture is in Athens and the other half in Britain.

In a symbolic move, Culture Minister Antonis Samaras placed an original fragment of a relief piece next to the remaining fake plaster copy of the same artifact. The original is currently in the British Museum.

The Parthenon marbles, also known as the Elgin marbles, were removed from the Acropolis in the early 1800s by British forces. They were later purchased by the British government and given to the British Museum.

In a symbolic move, Culture Minister Antonis Samaras placed an original fragment of a relief piece next to the remaining fake plaster copy of the same artifact. The original is currently in the British Museum.

The Parthenon marbles, also known as the Elgin marbles, were removed from the Acropolis in the early 1800s by British forces. They were later purchased by the British government and given to the British Museum.

Greece now claims the new museum diminishes the argument, and has called on the international community to support its cause.

Costas Karamanlis, Greek Prime Minister, said, “The new Acropolis Museum today is the ark which brings together all of the ideas the Parthenon has stood for since antiquity. It is the living expression of the power of world culture to bring about the reunification the Parthenon marbles. These pieces belong together.”

Many of the artifacts from the Acropolis were taken down from the temples and housed in museums to save them from the ravages of pollution. These included the infamous Caryatids from the porch of the Erechtheion, one of which is also in the British Museum.

Entry will be a nominal charge of one euro until the end of the year, when it will increase to five Euros.

Balkan Travellers

Greece: New Acropolis Museum Opens in Athens
23 June 2009 | The Acropolis Museum, housing more than 4,000 works from the ancient world, has finally opened its doors to visitors, after three decades of planning, construction and controversy.

The new building, designed by architect Bernard Tschumi, now displays thousands of ancient Greek treasures that were previously either kept in storage or housed in a smaller museum space down the road. The space allows the sculptures to be seen in a natural light while the special glass and climate control prevent them from being damaged by sunlight.

The museum’s top floor is dedicated to the frieze that used to decorate the 2,500-year Parthenon, while also affording a view of the actual ruins of the temple.

But what is perhaps most striking at the museum are the pieces that are missing – reproduced in bright white plastic pieces alongside the originals.

The most famous missing parts are the so-called Elgin Marbles, removed from the Parthenon in the nineteenth century by Lord Elgin, who brought them to London and sold them to the British Museum, where they are on display to this day.

The Greek government’s decade-long appeals for the return of the Marbles have gone unanswered. Among Britain’s arguments for keeping the statues in London is that, in this way, they are part of a world heritage collection, available for the whole world to enjoy. Another point cited often is that the pollution in Athens could damage the marbles if they are returned – the state-of-the-art museum now makes this latter argument groundless.

Greece hopes that, following the museum’s opening, public opinion will turn in favour of the Marbles’ return. It expects that around two million people will visit the museum a year – about 15 per cent of the 13 million who visit the Acropolis each year.

It remains to be seen whether the Elgin Marbles will remain in London or be returned to their place of origin. In the meantime, the new Acropolis Museum is worth paying a visit anyway. For now, entry to the museum costs 1 euro, although it will be increased to 5 euro later in the year.

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