Quote of the Day

It’s time to heal the wounds of the monument with the return of the marbles which belong to it.

Karolos Papoulias, Hellenic Republic president

January 8, 2015

SYRIZA’s Alexis Tsipras, Greece and the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 8:06 pm in Elgin Marbles

Following the failure of the Greek parliament to elect a new president on 29 December 2014, Greece goes to the polls once more for an early general election on 25th January 2015. All opinion polls that I have seen since June last year indicate that SYRIZA are likely to get the majority vote, although not necessarily an overall majority (meaning that the eventual parliament formed may well be a coalition, which might not necessarily include them). This means that no matter what my personal view of their party may be, they may well end up being the ones setting Greece’s international agenda at some point soon. SYRIZA have existed as an alliance of various smaller parties since 2004, but only reformed as a proper political party in 2012. As such, they have never been in power before and relatively little is known about their policies, other than those relating to the terms of Greece’s bailout by the EU & others.

Alexis Tsipras, the leader of SYRIZA was interviewed by Channel 4 news, and made clear that he wants the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. This is not entirely surprising, as they are broadly speaking a party who ride on a wave of nationalist sentiments. One hopes though, that they will have the sense to deal with the issue sensibly on an international level, rather the campaign becoming part of their anti-establishment tub-thumping, which is unlikely to win the campaign many converts outside of Greece.

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras

From:
Channel 4 News

Wednesday 07 Jan 2015
Alexis Tsipras: we want debt relief and the Elgin Marbles

Alexis Tsipras arrives late: he’s spent the morning sorting out wrangles over Syriza’s candidate list for this month’s election. As the polls currently predict he’s likely to win, this is no longer a side issue. If Syriza becomes the first far left government in modern Europe, those MPs will be asked to pull the trigger on a showdown with Europe that could change the economics of the whole eurozone.

Tsipras has pledged to end the austerity programme imposed by the troika – and at the same time negotiate the write-off of 50 per cent of Greek debt. So the obvious question is: what does he do if they say no?
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January 2, 2015

Katherine A Schwab’s Parthenon Marbles drawings visit Omaha

Posted at 2:24 pm in Elgin Marbles, Events

Katherine A Schwab’s drawings of the Parthenon Sculptures will go on display at Creighton University’s Lied Art Gallery in Omaha, Nebraska. The exhibition opens on February 21 and runs through to March 29.

Parthenon sculptures drawing by Katherine A. Schwab

Parthenon sculptures drawing by Katherine A. Schwab

From:
Greek Reporter

Parthenon Secrets ‘Unleashed’ in Nebraska
by Katerina Papathanasiou – Dec 17, 2014

Visitors from across the world will have the opportunity to steal a glance at a lesser-known side of the ancient Greek Parthenon, its severely deteriorated metope sculptures, on the occasion of the exhibition “An archaeologist’s Eye: The Parthenon Drawings of Katherine A. Schwab’’ that will be hosted at Creighton University’s Lied Art Gallery in Omaha, Nebraska, from February 21 through March 29. This marvelous collection, organized by the Bellarmine Museum of Art at Fairfield University (Connecticut), Creighton University (Omaha) and the Timken Museum of Art (San Diego), consists of thirty-five drawings of Dr. Katherine Schwab crafted on paper with the use of graphite and pastel pencil.

Through her personal drawing project, the American art historian of Fairfield University provides her audience with her own interpretations of the ancient Greek world by disclosing an amazing representation of some, previously damaged, fabulous metope sculptures of great narrative push. The drawings, casting light on the connection Schwab seems to have developed with the original sculptures’ creators of the most protuberant sanctuary of the Athenian Acropolis, are divided into three thematic units. The first one, embracing the popular Greek mythology theme of the fight between Olympian gods and earthborn giants, consists of sixteen graphite and pastel depictions of the east metopes. The second unit illustrates twelve graphite drawings inspired by the Sacking of Troy, while the third, based on a careful selection of figures from the Parthenon pediments and frieze, includes seven graphite sketches.
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December 14, 2014

Other Parthenon Marbles loans planned – Russia is just the start

Posted at 9:31 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

In a move calculated to rachet up levels of Greek anger, Neil MacGregor has indicated that the loan of one of the Parthenon Sculptures to Russia is just the start of a larger plan.

Far from being the only time that one of the Parthenon Sculptures will leave the British Museum, he sees this as just the start, with them being lent to other institutions around the world. Apparently, some talks with other museums are already underway.

It seems that MacGregor is desperate to try & prove to Greece that if you [play by his rules, then anyone who asks is free to borrow one of the centrepieces of the British Museum’s collection. The question remains though – why should Greece stoop down & make concessions that they believe to be untrue, weakening their own case, while at the same time the British Museum concedes nothing.

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

From:
Daily Telegraph

British Museum to send more Elgin Marbles abroad despite Greek anger
Museum director Neil MacGregor says “conversations are in train” about loaning more disputed Parthenon masterpieces to world museums
By Tom Parfitt, St Petersburg
5:40PM GMT 06 Dec 2014

The director of the British Museum has said it is already in talks to loan more Elgin Marbles to foreign museums.

Neil MacGregor told The Telegraph that the negotiations would continue despite the angry reaction from the government of Greece this week when it emerged that the museum was lending one of the Marbles – a headless statue of the river god, Ilissos – to the State Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia.
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Against return of Marbles to Greece, but against loan to Russia

Posted at 9:18 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Neil MacGregor believes that everyone, Greeks & British alike, should be enthused with his decision to loan a Parthenon Sculpture to Russia.

It seems though, that even those who have in the past argued against the return of the sculptures to Greece, also believe that the loan to Russia is ill thought out.

Visitors look at a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

Visitors look at a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

From:
The Scotsman

06 December 2014
Comment: Elgin marbles are not political pawns
by TIFFANY JENKINS

“A HIGHLY provocative, unfortunate and very rude gesture”, is how David Hill, from the campaign to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece, described, on the Today programme, the loan of one of the sculptures to the State Hermitage Museum in Russia.

It’s not often news about old marble hits the headlines, but these 2,500-year-old sculptures, taken by the Scot, Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine, are exceptional – the greatest works of art in human history.
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December 13, 2014

Parthenon sculpture Hermitage loan – readers respond

Posted at 2:46 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

As one would expect, the controversial move by the British Museum to lend one of the Parthenon Marbles to Russia has illicited a number of responses from newspaper readers.

Visitors passing a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

Visitors passing a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

From:
Guardian

Squalid saga of Parthenon marbles loan to Russia
Sunday 7 December 2014

In loaning the Parthenon marbles statue of Ilissos to Russia (Loan shatters Elgin marbles claim, says Athens, 6 December), the British Museum has acted insensitively and foolishly. It is unseemly and squalid, after unanswered Greek requests for the marbles’ return, for the statue’s first move outside Britain to be to a country we ourselves have placed under sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine. At a stroke the museum has legitimised Putin’s Russia at a time when the latter’s unpredictable aggression threatens Ukraine’s existence and Europe’s wider security.

Does the museum think itself exempt from the dynamics of contemporary European politics, and that cultural diplomacy will smooth over the current crisis? Consider this: right now the Netherlands is refusing to return Scythian gold, loaned before the illegal annexation of Crimea, to four museums now under Russian control there. What is to stop Russia holding Ilissos hostage in return? In April the Russian Itar-Tass agency reported that the refusal to return the gold would result in non-cooperation between Russian and EU museums. The British Museum may well have placed one of its most priceless artefacts in serious danger. Putin has shown himself indifferent about far more.
Tony King
Barnt Green, Worcestershire
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Supporters of the British Museum’s Russian Marbles loan

Posted at 1:12 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Continuing my coverage of the loan of a Parthenon sculpture to Russia by the British Museum, here are some of the articles that express support for this move.

They range from the incorrect and naive (Dominic Selwood). Does anyone really believe that if the Greeks did what the British Museum asked then the marbles would return just like that? Firstly, there is the question of why they should endorse an assertion that they fundamentally believe is untrue. But, there is also the suspicion that when dealing with the British Museum, you are pressured to relinquish some of your position, yet end up getting nothing in return. Mr Selwood also seems to be forgetting how badly his point of view is out of synch with public opinion – as evidenced by the catastrophically low levels of endorsement of his arguments in a recent Prospect Magazine poll.

Next come the barking mad – in this instance represented by London’s mayor Borris Johnson, who has regularly in the past chosen to express how much he loves the marbles being in the British Museum, purely for his own benefit so that he can visit them more easily.

Finally there is the the indignant – incredulous querying of why the Greeks do not support this move in the same way as the British museum does, followed by tales of how they should be proud of it rather than complaining. Fairly predictably, this argument is represented its creator, Neil MacGregor. I’m sure that in the days when Britain had an empire, that this approach of telling people to feel thankful might have worked. Those days are long since gone though and countries and their peoples are more than capable of forming their own opinions on topics, without needing to take into account the instructions of those who believe the viewpoint they hold is somehow superior.

Looking at the source of the bulk of these articles, it could almost be argued though, that they are all merely manifestations of the Daily Telegraph viewpoint – that the Marbles must stay, so therefore any argument that backs this is therefore a valid one.

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:
Daily Telegraph

The Greeks can have the Elgin Marbles any time they like – if they play by the rules
The decision to lend a piece of the Elgin Marbles to Russia has nothing to do with Greece’s absurd campaign for their return
By Dominic Selwood
3:47PM GMT 05 Dec 2014

Today, everyone should be celebrating, including the Greeks. The Trustees of the British Museum have lent Russia’s stupendous State Hermitage Museum the statue of Ilissos, one of the jewels of the Parthenon sculptures. It is a new chapter in the history of these amazing sculptures, and one that underscores the promotion of education, culture, and understanding that the British Museum has always undertaken with its collections. Now citizens of Russia can also experience the wonder of this exquisite ancient art. This is a great day for Britain, Russia, and Greece.

The decision to lend the sculptures to Russia should not be seen as having anything to do with Greece’s claims over them. Despite the ongoing barrage of emotive complaints from supporters of the repatriation of the sculptures to Greece, the fact is that there is nothing that puts the British Museum’s Parthenon sculptures into a special heritage category. World museums routinely hold and exhibit artefacts from other countries. It is what they are there for, and is at the heart of their educational purpose. Stolen or illegitimate antiquities are required to be returned. Legitimate acquisitions can remain. No one seriously doubts that the Parthenon sculptures are the legal possession of the British Museum.
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December 11, 2014

Can Russia be trusted to return Parthenon sculpture to Britain?

Posted at 1:06 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

This post continues my thematic reproduction of articles on the recent loan of a Parthenon sculpture to the Hermitage in St Petersburg by the British Museum.

The gist of these three articles is whether or not Putin’s Russia can be trusted to return the sculpture to Britain. Beyond that starting point though, the argument can follow various possible routes.

A lot of the reasoning here is directed at Russia rather than the Hermitage – however, in many cases, if a country wants to over-ride the wishes of its museums, it can do so fairly easily.

There are various other possible arguments that have not been put forward in these articles. One possible line of thinking is that Russia might return the sculpture to Greece – in order to gain an ally in the EU. The two countries have in common their heritage of Orthodox Christianity, but that is about as far as it goes. If Greece was to push for, or accept such an offer, it might well jeopardise their future bids to retrieve the remainder of the sculptures in the British Museum, so would not necessarily be in their interest.

Putin has in the past displayed clear support for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens, stating that “The Greeks are trying to bring back what belongs not only to them but to all humanity. This shows that your efforts are to your [the Greeks] credit and we [the Russians] will support you in this.“. He also noted that “various conquerors had attempted to remove and appropriate parts of the Parthenon” which was “one of the most outstanding monuments of humanity

I have to say though, that past experience with some of the news sources involved here leads me to doubt the likelihood of some of these stories actually turning out to be any more than just speculation.

On a separate note, it is disappointing (but not surprising) to see that Neil MacGregor continues to make the assertion that Greece has never asked for a loan of the sculptures – something that has already been proved incorrect by this post I made a few days ago.

It is also interesting to see that the Director of the Hermitage, Mikhail Piotrovskiy, describes the loan as an important artistic and political gesture. This directly contradicts what the British Museum told me on twitter – that “Being independent of government, we work directly with museums so that dialogues can develop free from political considerations“. So is what they are doing a political gesture or not? I think most would argue that whether or not it is the intention to deny political involvement, this doesn’t necessarily make the gesture apolitical.

Visitors look at a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

Visitors look at a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

From:
Daily Mail

Fears raised that Elgin Marbles sculpture sent to Russia ‘won’t be sent back’ – as British Museum claims Greece has never formally asked for them to be returned
By Jenny Awford for MailOnline
Published: 11:49, 6 December 2014 | Updated: 15:32, 6 December 2014

Fears are growing for the safety of part of the Elgin marbles loaned to Russia, as British museum trustees admitted they were worried the sculpture might not come back.

The unveiling of the headless statue of Greek river-god Ilissos at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg yesterday prompted a furious diplomatic row with Greece.
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Parthenon Marbles talk in Duveen Gallery at British Museum

Posted at 11:51 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Events

Susan Woodford is giving a gallery talk on the Parthenon Sculptures. It will take place in the Duveen Gallery at the British Museum on Friday 12th December (tomorrow).

From:
British Museum

Gallery talk
The sculptures of the Parthenon

Friday 12 December,
13.15–14.00
Room 18
Free, just drop in

A gallery talk by Susan Woodford, independent speaker.

Gallery talks last 45 minutes.

They are given by Museum staff or guest speakers and are suitable for all levels of knowledge.

December 10, 2014

Russia is the wrong place to lend a Parthenon sculpture to

Posted at 6:29 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

In coverage of the recent loan of a Parthenon sculpture to Russia by the British Museum, a number of themes have emerged.

One of these themes is that we should not be making (masssice, groundbreaking) loans to Putin’s Russia. This current story comes at a time of continuing tension in the Ukraine and with the EU applying sanctions against Russia. Surely, one must conclude that they not a country for Britain to be rewarding and ingratiating themselves to at this current point in time.

Visitors passing a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

Visitors passing a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

From:
Guardian

The British Museum is wrong to loan the Parthenon marbles to Russia
The UK has chosen sanctions as a weapon against Russia, so why are we now inviting cultural exchanges?
Hugh Muir
Friday 5 December 2014 10.57 GMT

Time passes and memories fade, but does anyone remember Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the one shot down by Russian-backed separatists over Ukraine in July? All 298 passengers were killed when a missile downed the airliner. I knew one of the victims a few years back: Glenn Thomas, a very affable British journalist who worked for the World Health Organisation and was on his way to a health conference in Australia.

We were pretty angry about that, and about what Vladimir Putin has been up to in Ukraine, and so for some time we have been trying to impose some sort of pressure on the Russian president by applying sanctions to his regime. Today, in the midst of those efforts, we learn that the British Museum has decided to loan Russia part of its hotly contested property, the Parthenon marbles, also known as the Elgin marbles.
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Further coverage of British Museum Hermitage loan

Posted at 9:35 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Further general coverage of the loan by the British Museum to the Hermitage of one of the Parthenon Sculptures.

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:
Museums Association

British Museum loans Parthenon Marbles to Hermitage Museum
Patrick Steel
05.12.2014

The British Museum is to lend a marble sculpture of the river god Ilissos, part of the Parthenon Marbles, to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia.

According to the British Museum, it is the first time that one of the Parthenon Marbles has been requested for a loan, and will be the first time the marbles have left the museum.

Neil MacGregor, the museum’s director, said: “This sculpture speaks of the world of Socrates and Plato. A great work of art, it embodies the belief in the supreme value of rational debate among free citizens.
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December 9, 2014

Turkey supports Greece in fight to reunify Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 3:24 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Historically, Turkey and Greece have not necessarily seen eye to eye. Turkey has in the past however supported Greece in their attempts to reunify the Parthenon Sculptures.

Following the recent loan by the British Museum to the Hermitage of one of the sculptures originally removed by Elgin, Turkey has once again come out in support of Greece’s restitution requests.

Visitors passing a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

Visitors passing a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

From:
Hurriyet Daily News

Turkey backs Greek fight for Elgin Marbles
ATHENS – Anadolu Agency
December/07/2014

Turkey on Dec. 6 announced its support for Greece’s fight to get back from Britain the famous Elgin Marbles – ancient Greek sculptures also known as the Parthenon Marbles which were taken from Athens in the 19th century.

The dispute over the British Museum’s possession of the sculptures, taken by British diplomat Lord Elgin in 1803, flared this week when Greece learned of the unprecedented loan of one sculpture to a Russian museum.
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December 8, 2014

Greece responds angrily to Russian Parthenon sculpture loan

Posted at 1:05 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Unsurprisingly, the Greek government is not too impressed with the way that the British Museum recently loaned one of the Parthenon Sculptures to the Hermitage in St Petersburg. Various past Greek approaches for loans & to discuss the issue have been snubbed, yet it appears that the British Museum is perfectly happy to lend the sculptures to other institutions.

Visitors look at a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

Visitors look at a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

From:
Guardian

Parthenon marbles: Greece furious over British loan to Russia
Greek prime minister says loan of statue from pillaged frieze puts end to British Museum argument that disputed antiquities are immovable
Helena Smith in Athens
Friday 5 December 2014 15.38 GMT

Greece has reacted with outrage to the British Museum’s surprise move to loan one of the disputed Parthenon marbles to Russia.

Within hours of learning of the unexpected decision to send the monumental statue of the river god Ilissos to the State Hermitage museum in St Petersburg, the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaris, hit back.
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