Britain has for many years maintained that Greece has nowhere to exhibit the Elgin Marbles & that they are better displayed in the British Museum. The New Acropolis Museum  represents a challenge to these claims that can not easily be brushed aside any longer.
Thursday 16 July 2009
The Acropolis Museum, Athens
It’s impossible to over-emphasize just how important the newly built Acropolis Museum is to the Greek people. Suffice to say that on approaching the brand new £110 million construction my companion for the day, Tina Daskalantonaki, owner of Athen’s King George Hotel, was in tears.
Opening five years behind schedule, the Acropolis Museum is situated on the sacred rock East of the Parthenon and houses the greatest sculptural treasures of the ancient world including works from the temple of Athena Polias on the Acropolis and parts of the Parthenon by Phidias.
Designed by Swiss American architect Bernard Tschumi, the glass, concrete and steel building is impressive enough from the outside. But, as you move through the courtyard to the entrance, the real strengths of the building become clear.
A glass floor, allowing a bird’s eye view of the recently excavated remains of the merchant city of Athens beneath, leads you into the building and onto the ground level past glass lined walls behind which stand 2,500 year old vases and sculptures.
On the first floor is the towering Archaic gallery. Marble sculptures on open plinths sparsely populate the area like patrons of an unsuccessful nightclub while the glass cases that usually surround such priceless artifacts are conspicuous by their absence.
The space is defined by dove grey brushed concrete pillars and walls, geometric overhead light panels and stainless steel wall cabinets while massive windows allow great gobs of natural light to flood the area. It is the perfect setting for the museum’s artifacts.
And then there’s the glorious top floor which houses what is left of the Parthenon’s sculptures and friezes floor not chiseled off or ‘rescued’ by Lord Elgin, between 1801 and 1812, and hauled to the British Museum. In their place the Acropolis Museum, maybe in an effort to bring the British government to task, has placed the rather substandard plaster cast replicas – sold to them after independence in the 1840s by the British Museum – next to their originals.
The British Museum has long maintained that Greece had no proper place to put the ‘Elgin’ Marbles. The Acropolis Museum is a serious challenge to those claims.