Quote of the Day

Blind are the eyes that do not shed tears while seeing, O, Greece beloved, your sacred objects plundered by profane English hands that have again wounded your aching bosom and snatched your gods, gods that hate England's abominable north climate.

Lord Byron, poet; Childe Harod

December 6, 2014

Response from IARPS to Russia Parthenon Sculpture loan

Posted at 10:01 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, International Association

The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures has issued a press release today regarding the surprise announcement that one of the Parthenon Sculptures had been shipped to Russia by the British Museum.

From:
International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

PARTHENON STATEMENT FROM CHAIR OF THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE REUNIFICATION OF THE PARTHENON SCULPTURES
05 December 2014

The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures* today criticized the British Museum’s decision to send a major sculpture from the Parthenon as a loan to Russia.

The Chairman of the International Association said the loan was an offence not only to the Greek people but to the entire international community.
Read the rest of this entry »

Marbles Reunited statement on Russia Parthenon Marbles loan

Posted at 9:11 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Andrew George, Chair of the Marbles Reunited campaign, has issued a statement on the recent loan of one of the Parthenon Sculptures to Russia by the British Museum.

From:
Marbles Reunited

NEWS RELEASE
Friday 5th December 2014
For immediate release
“IF WE CAN LEND TREASURERS TO HOSTILE RUSSIA THEN WE CAN LOAN PARTHENON SCULPTURES TO OUR FRIENDS IN THEIR PLACE OF ORIGIN”

British Museum accused of snubbing the Greeks

The MP who chairs the British campaign for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures, Liberal Democrat Andrew George, criticised the British Museum for its decision to snub the Greek request for the return of the Sculptures and for lending them instead “to a country which has backed rebels who kill British citizens”. Andrew George chairs the British Campaign Group Marbles Reunited and has advocated the return of the Sculptures to Athens.

Mr George said, “British Museum Director, Neil MacGregor, justifies his decision by claiming that these Sculptures should be ‘shared and enjoyed by as many people…as possible”. But these Sculptures have not been ‘shared and enjoyed’ by the Greeks for over 200 years, since they were purloined in a dodgy deal by Lord Elgin during a period when Greece was occupied by the Ottomans!

“I sense that the British Museum’s grip on the Sculptures is weakening. If Britain did the decent and gracious thing, and returned the Sculptures, the Greeks have made clear that they would willingly loan many other Greek artefacts and great works to Britain so that they could be ‘shared and enjoyed by as many people…as possible’”.

He recently raised the question of their return in Parliament. He has also engaged in debate on the subject; joining Stephen Fry to succeed in a debate to persuade a large London audience that returning the Sculptures would be “a decent and gracious act”.

– ENDS -

December 5, 2014

British Museum Director on Parthenon Marbles Hermitage loan

Posted at 6:26 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

British Museum Director Neil MacGregor sets out why he believes that the loan of the Parthenon Sculptures to the hermitage in St Petersburg is entirely appropriate.

As expected, it falls back on MacGregor’s old favourite reasoning – that is to say, the Universal Museum. While what MacGregor describes as Universal Museums may have existed for a long time though, you will not see any mention in the press of such a concept prior to 2002.

We must remember that these so called Universal Museums are entirely self appointed entities. Outside of the new world, almost all have their roots in the era of colonialism & empires. They never asked the permission of the other countries whose artefacts they exhibit. They can only justify it now, through being bigger than the other museums. It is an incredibly elite club & the barriers to entry (both legal & financial) are such that it would be almost important to create similar institutions today.

It is interesting that MacGregor makes much of the loan of the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran – conveniently forgetting that for years the British Museum reneged on a prior reciprocal loan agreement to the infuriation of Iran. The loan only eventually proceeded after Iran threatened to withdraw all cultural cooperation with the museum.

It is clear that the Hermitage has cooperated with the British Museum numerous times in the past, meaning that they are in the institutions good books. However, this is also the case with Greece, that has on regular occasions loaned artefacts & never made any threats to withdraw cooperation in the way that Iran did.

He ends with a justification for the choice of the Parthenon Sculptures (rather than any of the eight million or so (by their own estimation) other items in their collection). This section is where it gets particularly hazy, with the rationale essentially boiling down to the fact that Pericles (under whose instruction the Parthenon was built) was a great statesman who understood the value of being seen as an ambassador abroad. From this vagueness, he jumps straight onto the presumption that “Pericles would applaud the journey of Ilissos to Russia”.

Certainly, there is some slight value to this justification, but the same could be said of many other items in the British Museum’s collection. And if this is seen as a valid reasoning behind a loan, then surely the overwhelming moral & contextual argument of unification presented by Greece presents a far more compelling case?

Part of the Parthenon Marbles, the British Museum plans to loan the river-god Ilissos to the Hermitage in St Petersburg

Part of the Parthenon Marbles, the British Museum plans to loan the river-god Ilissos to the Hermitage in St Petersburg

From:
British Museum

December 5, 2014 • 12:15 am
Loan of a Parthenon sculpture to the Hermitage: a marble ambassador of a European ideal
Neil MacGregor, Director, British Museum

The British Museum is a museum of the world, for the world and nothing demonstrates this more than the loan of a Parthenon sculpture to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg to celebrate its 250th anniversary.

The British Museum opened its doors in 1759, just five years before the Hermitage. Sisters, almost twins, they are the first great museums of the European Enlightenment. But they were never just about Europe. The Trustees of the British Museum were set up by Parliament to hold their collection to benefit not only the citizens of Great Britain, but ‘all studious and curious persons’ everywhere. The Museum today is the most generous lender in the world, sending great Assyrian objects to China, Egyptian objects to India and Iranian objects to the United States – making a reality of the Enlightenment ideal that the greatest things in the world should be seen and studied, shared and enjoyed by as many people in as many countries as possible.
Read the rest of this entry »

Greece’s Parthenon Marbles loan request that was rejected

Posted at 5:21 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Nobody can have missed the British Museum’s loan to the Hermitage of one of the Parthenon Sculptures.

The more I look into it though, the more questions it raises.

Museum loans do not normally happen under cover of darkness – yet this loan was only announced once the sculpture had already been packed up and left the museum – why was this the case.

Greece has for many years taken a policy of quiet diplomacy, but it appears that this pays absolutely no dividends in the game that the British Museum is currently playing.

I can understand that the British Museum might have wanted to make a loan to the Hermitage for their anniversary. Quite why this had to be the Parthenon Marbles is also unclear (although MacGregor argues otherwise).

There are positive points though. In the past, it has often been hinted that there are items in the British Museum’s collection that are too important, to integral to the collection to be loaned, but this latest move clearly shows that it possible for the Parthenon Marbles to leave the building, even if it is only one piece at a time.

The British Museum also states that ‘no talks had ever been held with the Greek government about a loan of part of the Parthenon marbles. “To date they have always made it clear that they would not return them. That rather puts the conversation on pause,”

This last statement is clearly untrue, as there are letters on file relating to loan requests dating to 2002, between Sir John Boyd (then chair of the British Museum trustees) and Evangelos Venizelos (the Greek Minister of Culture). The Director of the British Museum was then, as it is now, Neil MacGregor.

Thank you to Dorothy King for alerting me to the presence of this letter. CLick on the images to view them full size.

Letter from British Museum Trustees Chair, Sir John Boyd, to Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos rejecting a loan request - Page 1

Letter from British Museum Trustees Chair, Sir John Boyd, to Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos rejecting a loan request – Page 1

Letter from British Museum Trustees Chair, Sir John Boyd, to Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos rejecting a loan request - Page 2

Letter from British Museum Trustees Chair, Sir John Boyd, to Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos rejecting a loan request – Page 2

So, not only does the museum deny that a loan request was ever made despite having written:

…it remains the opinion of the Board of Trustees that the Parthenon Sculptures in the collection of the British Museum can not be lent to the museum currently under development in Athens, whether in the manner you proposed or for a temporary period.

But they previously hinted that despite any “no loan” list, the Parthenon Sculptures could not be loaned at all:

…we do believe there is a prima facie assumption against the lending of key objects in the Museum’s collections which are normally on display and which the public reasonably expect to see in the Museum. The sculptures are precisely among that group of key objects indispensable to the Museum’s essential, universal purpose, and thus fall into the category of objects that can not be lent.

Just in cases anyone was unclear after the above statement, the letter goes on to reiterate:

I am bound in all frankness, to repeat that I cannot envisage the circumstances under which the Trustees would regard it as being in the Museum’s interest, or consistent with its duty, to endorse a loan, permanent or temporary, of the Parthenon Sculptures in its collections.

The above statement make no comment regards who the applicant is – merely that the Parthenon Sculptures can not be loaned, not under any circumstances, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Clearly different rules apply however, depending who is asking…

A copy of the complete text of the letter follows below:

The British Museum
14 November 2002
H.E. Mr Evangelos Venizelos
Minister of Culture
Hellenic Ministry of Culture

Your Excellency

The Parthenon Sculptures in the collections of the British Museum

It was a great pleasure to welcome you – though this was no, I know, your first visit – to the British Museum.

The Director and I are delighted to have held discussions with you and your colleagues on the Parthenon sculptures in the Museum’s collections and other matters. The exchanges suggested to me that there are many areas in which we can and should cooperate.

As I mentioned in our meeting, I am especially pleased to note that Dr Choremi, the Ephor of the Acropolis will speak at the Museum on Friday, 15 November, and that the British Museum is able to make generous loans to two exhibitions in Athens as part of the Cultural Olympiad in 2004. These are important examples of the fruitful cultural and academic relations that exist between us – and which can, I am sure, be developed further.

The Director and I naturally listened very carefully to what you had to say about the Parthenon Sculptures in our collections. I am grateful for the manner in which you approached the topic; grateful too for the understanding shown during the meeting for the Museum’s position. Nevertheless, it remains the opinion of the Board of Trustees that the Parthenon sculptures in the collections of the British Museum cannot be lent to the new museum currently under development in Athens, whether in the manner you proposed or for a temporary period.

Let me rehearse again the basis for our belief that the British Museum is the best possible place for these wonderful sculptures to be on display, as an essential chapter within the worldwide story of human cultural achievement. It is precisely this story which the Museum exists to tell through the rich and multi-faceted character of its worldwide collections. The ideas, aesthetics and skills of 5th century Greek civilisation are regarded here as elsewhere as central to this human experience. I am not sure that contemporary changes in political and economic attitudes, adduced at one point in our discussion, alter the point.

The Museum exists not only to delight but to instruct and provoke reflection. Its great collections, in close proximity, are seen by five million visitors every year entirely free of entry charge. The Parthenon Sculptures are integral to this unique experience.

When considering whether to make a loan the Trustees are required, by Act of Parliament, to have regard to the interest of the Museum’s visitors. While there is no list of objects that can never be lent, we do believe there is a prima facie assumption against the lending of key objects in the Museum’s collections which are normally on display and which the public reasonably expect to see in the Museum. The sculptures are precisely among that group of key objects indispensable to the Museum’s essential, universal purpose, and thus fall into the category of objects that can not be lent.

The Director and I much appreciated the opportunity to discuss these various matters frankly and in such a friendly context, and to establish friendly contact and undertake such an exchange of views between us. This must surely contribute to a relationship which we very much wish to promote and expand.

Again though, as I said in our meeting, I would not wish you to leave with the impression that any negotiation on the issue you raised is underway. This would be misleading. I am bound in all frankness, to repeat that I cannot envisage the circumstances under which the Trustees would regard it as being in the Museum’s interest, or consistent with its duty, to endorse a loan, permanent or temporary, of the Parthenon Sculptures in its collections.

I should like to end by thanking you for the kind gift of the coin replicas from the Numismatic Museum in Athens. They are especially appropriate ass a symbol of the co-operation that exists between us, in the light of the recent collaborative British Museum / Numismatic Museum Internet project, Presveis: One Currency for Europe, which, I was delighted to see, is available on the Ministry of Culture’s website.

Yours sincerely

John Boyd

Sir John Boyd
Chairman

British Museum can loan Parthenon Marbles, just not to Greece

Posted at 1:03 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

There are so many things wrong with this story that it is hard to know where to start. It seems that MacGregor is absolutely intent in snubbing Greece at all costs, to ingratiate the other so called Universal Museums of the world.

Grumpy art Historian has already written a good piece highlighting some of the many anachronisms with this approach.

It seems that the British Museum is currently more willing to lend artefacts to countries that regularly endorse the actions of terrorist groups (Iran) and countries that directly support rebel groups who blow up civilian airliners (Russia) than it is to lend to Greece.

In the past, Greece has made much of the benefits of its approach that involves quiet diplomacy to try & resolve the issue, but as time goes on, it becomes clear that this is not really moving things forward at all. There do not appear to be any rewards for good behaviour in this game.

I imagine that Britain’s & Russia’s museums will get on quite well together, afterall, Russia also has large amounts of disputed artworks, acquired during a variety of different means.

Part of the Parthenon Marbles, the British Museum plans to loan the river-god Ilissos to the Hermitage in St Petersburg

Part of the Parthenon Marbles, the British Museum plans to loan the river-god Ilissos to the Hermitage in St Petersburg

From:
Guardian

Parthenon marbles loaned to Russian museum
Chris Johnston
Friday 5 December 2014 00.55 GMT

Part of the Parthenon marbles have been allowed to leave Britain for the first time through a loan of a sculpture to a Russian museum.

The headless statue of a Greek river-god, Ilissos, will go on display in the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg on Friday to help celebrate the institution’s 250th anniversary.
Read the rest of this entry »

Christies halts sale of disputed Sardinian bronze age pagan icon

Posted at 10:50 am in Similar cases

Following growing levels of protest, Christies has put on hold the sale of a 4,500 year old Bronze Age statuette, thought to be worth over $1 million.

Sardinian politician Mauro Pili has led the campaign, asking the Auction House to provide more details of who the vendor is, and requesting that the seller proves that they are the legitimate owner of the artefact.

Disputed "mother goddess" icon from Sardinia

Disputed “mother goddess” icon from Sardinia

From:
Independent

Mother Goddess auction: Christie’s halts sale of ‘stolen’ $1m Bronze Age pagan icon after Sardinia campaigns for its return
Michael Day
Rome – Tuesday 02 December 2014

A campaign in Sardinia to reclaim a 4,500-year-old pagan idol from a US auction house is gathering pace ahead of its scheduled sale next week, as Italy steps up the fight against the theft of its precious cultural patrimony.

Christie’s in New York had listed the marble religious artefact Dea Madre, or Mother Goddess, dating from about 2500BC, for sale on 11 December. Auctioneers hoped to sell the Bronze Age statuette for as much as $1.2m (£770,000). But campaigners claimed an initial victory today after hearing that the sale had been put on hold.
Read the rest of this entry »

Call to return of Chronicles of Man from British Library

Posted at 10:37 am in Similar cases

The Manx branch of the Celtic League is making new calls for the Chronicles of Man to be permanently exhibited on the Isle of Man.

The Chronicles of Man are a medieval manuscript originating in the Isle of Man, but currently held by the British Library in London.

The Chronicles of Man, currently in the British Library

The Chronicles of Man,, currently in the British LibraryThe Chronicles of Man, currently in the British Library

From:
Isle of Man Today

Call to return Chronicles of Man
Published on the 04 December 2014 11:45

The Manx branch of the Celtic League is reviving a campaign to bring the Chronicles of Man home.

At its monthly meeting in November, it urged a renewed effort by the General Council of the League to pressure both the British and Manx governments to ensure the Chronicles of Man and the Isles are exhibited permanently in the Isle of Man.
Read the rest of this entry »

December 3, 2014

A legal approach to the return of the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 3:21 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

When there was all the publicity surrounding the visit of lawyers to Athens a few weeks back, a journalist from To Vima, the Greek newspaper, contacted me (along with numerous others) with some questions.

The published article in Greek contained a few of the answers I gave, but I think it is worth posting the whole lot in full here.

Bear in mind, that I am not a lawyer – however, I have been present at meetings between lawyers & senior Greek officials in 2011, and party to various other high level discussions on the issue.

What I have written below should not be seen in any ways as a comprehensive discussion of the possible legal approaches, along with their benefits & risks, but merely brief answers based on the specific questions that I was asked.

Do you think it would be a “catastrophic” course of action? If yes, why? In any case, which court would, or should, make such a judgment?

At present, we must remember that all that is happening is that the Greek government is exploring the various options available to them. This is not the first time that such an approach has been considered – previous discussions between the Greek Government, and a team jointly led by Geoffrey Robertson and Norman Palmer took place in early 2011.

I think that anyone (from either side) who states that it would be a “catastrophic course of action”, is either scaremongering, or not fully aware of the range of possible approaches available and the variety of ways in which they might be applied.

One thing to be clear about, is that to achieve the goal of the return of the return of the Marbles, legal action does not necessarily have to succeed, but could merely be a catalyst for precipitating a chain of events leading to their return.
Read the rest of this entry »

Letter from IARPS to David Cameron about Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 12:03 pm in Elgin Marbles, International Association

David Hill, Chair of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, has written to the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, urging him to accept the UNESCO offer for mediation on the Parthenon Sculptures issue.

From:
International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

The Rt. Hon David Cameron MP
Prime Minister
70 Whitehall
London UK
SW1A 2AS

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing to you as Chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures to urge the British Government and the British Museum to agree to a renewed offer by UNESCO to mediate the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures currently held in the British Museum.

The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures has volunteer committees in sixteen countries that are dedicated to the return of the Parthenon Sculptures from London to be reunited with the other surviving sculptures in Athens. (www.parthenoninternational.org)
Read the rest of this entry »

Gurlitt bequest to open way for return of Nazi loot

Posted at 9:36 am in Similar cases

A bequest to a small Swiss Museum by the son of one of Hitler’s main art dealers could open the way to restitution for more than 1000 items.

Franz Marc's 'Pferde in Landschaft' forms part of the Gurlitt bequest

Franz Marc’s ‘Pferde in Landschaft’ forms part of the Gurlitt bequest

From:
Wall Street Journal

Swiss Museum Close to Accepting Nazi-Era Art Bequest
Kunstmuseum Bern to Make Final Decision on Gurlitt Bequest in Days; Looted Pieces to Be Returned
Mary M. Lane
Nov. 19, 2014 7:34 p.m. ET

BERN, Switzerland—A small art museum in the Swiss capital is preparing to take possession of more than 1,000 artworks bequeathed to it by the son of one of Hitler’s main art dealers, unshackling Germany from an embarrassing burden that has weighed on it for a year.

Barring any last-minute legal objections, the Kunstmuseum Bern is expected to decide as early as Saturday to accept the estate of the late Cornelius Gurlitt, according to three people familiar with the museum board’s discussions.
Read the rest of this entry »

Vote to return Parthenon Marbles – in Athens airport

Posted at 9:26 am in Elgin Marbles

New voting booths have been installed in Athens airport, to let departing visitors give their opinion on whether or not the Parthenon Sculptures should be returned.

This is an interesting approach, as the bulk of tourists passing through the airport will have visited both the Acropolis & the Acropolis Museum, allowing them to make a fairly informed judgement about whether the Acropolis Museum would be the most suitable location for the display of the sculptures.

Interactive voting screens at Athens Airport

Interactive voting screens at Athens Airport

From:
Agence France Presse

Greece reach out to tourists to help bring Elgin Marbles back
Published: November 20, 2014 08:30 AM

ATHENS, Nov 20 — The Greek government is asking tourists at Athens airport to join the notorious debate over the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece from London.

Faced with a picture of the famed Parthenon and its marble statues on an interactive screen, travellers are asked to reply “yes” or “no” to the question: “Do you support the return of the Parthenon marbles?”.
Read the rest of this entry »

France aims to return Aboriginal remains to Australia

Posted at 9:17 am in Similar cases

France has agreed to work with Australia, to help return Aboriginal remains held in French public collections.

From:
ABC News

France agrees to work with Australia to bring home Aboriginal remains
Posted 19 Nov 2014, 1:11pm

Australia and France have agreed to work together to help return the remains of Aboriginal people held in French public collections.

On the first official visit by a French head of state to Australia, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and French president Francois Hollande said their nations would open a consultation on how to return the human remains.
Read the rest of this entry »