Quote of the Day

Athens hasn't seen a thunderbolt like this since Athena last threw one. Will it carry out its assigned task, to summon the Elgins back? For once the cliche works so well it really can't be avoided. If you build it, will they come?

Richard Lacayo, Time magazine

February 20, 2013

What David Cameron did not apologise for during his trip to India

Posted at 1:54 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

David Cameron made apologies to India, about some of the wrongs committed by the British within the country during the colonial period. The apology stops far short of rectifying all the problems – for instance many in India are unhappy that the Koh-i-Noor diamond still occupies pride of place in the Crown Jewels. There are many more treasures in institutions such as the British Museum that India would also like returned.

BBC News

20 February 2013 Last updated at 13:11
Andrew North South Asia correspondent
What David Cameron did not apologise for

By making a statement of regret over the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, David Cameron has opened up a can of other questions and grievances over Britain’s colonial past.

What about the British museum returning all the treasures looted from India during the Raj? What about sending back the Kohinoor diamond still embedded in Queen Elizabeth’s crown?
Read the rest of this entry »

February 18, 2013

Greek school students protest at the British Museum for return of Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 3:17 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Students from the 2nd High School of Corinth have protested at the British Museum for the return of the Elgin Marbles. It appears from the article, as though there was some sort of trouble with the museum staff when they were there. From past experience, the British Museum is happy with protests if they are pre-arranged, but doesn’t like ones that just turn up unexpectedly. The Marbles Reunited campaign has in the past helped to organise protests with Greek schools – dealing with the museum on their behalf to get the correct authorisation & avoiding possible problems with the museum’s security staff.

Greek Reporter

Students Wave Greek Flag at British Museum
By Christina Flora on February 15, 2013 in news, United Kingdom

Fifteen-year-old students of the 2nd High School of Corinth accompanied by three teachers traveled to London and gave their own message of the Parthenon Marbles waving four Greek flags and shouting the slogan: BRING THEM BACK!

The students delivered 36 letters written in English to the director of the museum in which they explained the factual reasons why the British Museum should return the marbles stolen by Lord Elgin to Greece.
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National Museum Security Group aims to fight back against art thieves

Posted at 2:30 pm in Similar cases

It is great that museums are working together, to try & tackle the problem of art theft. One can’t help thinking though, that they are much more interested in keeping artefacts in their own collections, that considering the plight of the original owners of many disputed items that ended up within their own collections.


Look out, art thieves: museums are fighting back
New organisation set up after high-profile thefts will let galleries share information instantly
Sunday 17 February 2013

Should criminals attempt to lift a valuable Chinese artefact from a museum display case, or scrawl over a priceless painting, their photograph now could be with the police and 800 cultural institutions in 20 minutes.

A new national organisation has been set up to allow museums and galleries to share their experiences of criminal behaviour with the police and each other, as they look to beef up security in the wake of ongoing threats to their collections.
Read the rest of this entry »

Stealing a work of art – that some claim was vandalism in the first place

Posted at 2:14 pm in Similar cases

This story is interesting on a number of levels. Coming from Bristol, I saw Banksy’s work long before he was famous outside his home city & before his work became seen as art rather than vandalism. It was interesting to note the change of heart of the local newspapers, who switched their point of view within the space of a year, from stop this vandal ruining our city, to young Bristol artist achieves international recognition… Anyway, the case in this story is a peculiar one – the art appears without permission – an nobody gets paid for it initially, but if it is good enough, then it adds some sort of value to the wall that was picked as its location. At the end of the day, the artist expects many of their works to be erased by those who do not appreciate them, so the only person who really loses out is the owner of the wall it was on (and the other people who passed by the wall & appreciated it).

On the other hand, I don’t entirely buy into the idea that the artwork was a gift to the local community – I think it happened to be a wall in the right place & that was all there was to it.

That said, while the work was produced for free & was not commissioned as such, the idea that someone can come along & remove it without permission for purely personal gain is entirely wrong, just as much so as in other cases of stolen / looted art. The fact that it is possible to sell works such as this on the open market, suggests that many dealers & collectors are still completely lacking in any sort of moral framework to their dealings & that self policing of the industry does not work.

The fact that no complaint has been lodged with the police suggests that perhaps there is no crime to be reported – it would not surprise me if the person who authorised the removal & was doing the selling was in fact the owner of the wall.

It would be interesting to hear Banksy’s viewpoint on the story.

Daily Mail

Banksy’s ‘Slave Labour’ mural taken from wall and put on U.S. art auction website for £450,000
Street art cut from London wall last week is now up for sale in America
Banksy Slave Labour could fetch nearly half a million at auction
Locals are furious their ‘gift’ from the mystery Bristol artist has been taken
By Sam Webb
PUBLISHED: 10:41, 18 February 2013 | UPDATED: 12:57, 18 February 2013

A painting by the elusive British guerilla artist Banksy has been gouged out of a wall in North London and is being sold by an American art dealer.

Banksy Slave Labour, depicting a child labourer sewing Union Jack bunting, is expected to fetch £450,000 on the Fine Art Auctions Miami website.
Read the rest of this entry »

February 13, 2013

Disputes over the return of antiquities

Posted at 9:17 am in Similar cases

Hugh Eakin’s post in the New York Times about museums handing back artefacts to thheir original owners prompted interesting & well reasoned responses from both Paul Barford & David Gill’s blogs.

Now, the newspaper has printed a selection of reader’s letters replying to the article.

New York Times

The Dispute Over Returning Antiquities
Published: February 3, 2013

To the Editor:

“The Great Giveback,” by Hugh Eakin (Sunday Review, Jan. 27), made several important points that have been missing in the discussion about “repatriation” of museum-acquired artifacts.

But it did not mention that the repatriation issue applies to the United States as well. Until the creation of the Archaeological Conservancy in 1980, neither our state nor federal governments made much of an attempt to defend important sites all over this country from looters, who not only destroyed both the sites and thousands of artifacts as they bulldozed their way through Indian burial mounds, but also “illegally” sold off the remains to foreign buyers.
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What will happen to the old Acropolis Museum

Posted at 8:54 am in Acropolis, Greece Archaeology

Since the opening of the New Acropolis Museum in 2009, the old museum has sat there next to the the Parthenon, unused & half forgotten.

While it pales in comparison to the new museum, for a long time, it was the showcase for many of the amazing finds from the site. Now it appears that its future is uncertain.

I’m in two minds about this – they should never really have built a permanent structure right in the middle of a historic site in the first place – however, if it is there & in good repair, surely it would make more sense to utilise it in some way that enhances the visitor experience, rather than just abandoning it? Particularly considering the cash strapped situation of the Greek state at present.

Archaeology & Arts (Greece)

Greek archaeologists concerned about the old Acropolis Museum
The Central Archaeological Council decided not to declare it a preservable monument
Friday, 1 February 2013

Regarding the recent decision of the Central Archaeological Council not to declare the old museum as a preservable monument, the Association of Greek Archaeologists issued a press release expressing their concern about the old museum’s fate.

In particular, the press release starts with a brief description of the history of the Museum, which is more or less known. Its construction started in mid-19th century. It was designed by architect Panages Kalkos. After various expansions, it took its final form in mid-20th century, as it has been designed by Patroklos Karantinos. It is the first building that was constructed in Greece in order to house a museum. For 150 years it hosted not only the finds of the Acropolis’ excavations but also innumerable visitors: by telling the story of the movable finds it added to the breathtaking experience of an archaeological site with monuments of great significance.
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January 28, 2013

The return of cultural treasures – and it wasn’t the Parthenon Marbles that opened the floodgates

Posted at 2:03 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt have noticed the increase in returns of disputed artefacts in recent years. American Museums have led the way here, but many others are now being drawn into this new way of operating – to return the artefacts without things progressing as far as legal action, on the basis that doing so will aid other co-operative projects with the countries involved.

For many years, people clamoured that the return of the Parthenon Marbles would open the floodgates for the emptying of museums. Now, it appears that the floodgates have already partially opened & the Parthenon Marbles had nothing to do with it.

So – now that that argument seems no longer valid, surely it is time for the British Museum to reconsider the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens? Unlike many of the countries that have threatened legal action, or to withdraw co-operation, by blocking exhibit loans etc, Greece has always maintained good relations with museums in Britain – but it appears that taking the nice approach counts for nothing in this instance – the carrot is not enough & there needs to be the threat of some type of stick before large institutions are willing to come to the negotiating table.

New York Times

The Great Giveback
Published: January 26, 2013

THE news has become astonishingly routine: a major American museum announces it is relinquishing extraordinary antiquities because a foreign government claims they were looted and has threatened legal action or other sanctions if it doesn’t get them back.

In the past two months, the Dallas Museum of Art has transferred ownership of seven ancient artworks, including a pair of Etruscan bronze shields, to Italy and Turkey; the Toledo Museum of Art has handed over to Italy a rare water vessel that had been on display since 1982; and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles has announced it will be transferring to Sicily a terra-cotta head believed to depict the Greek god Hades, which it purchased from a New York dealer in 1985 for more than $500,000. Other museums across the country — including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Cleveland Museum of Art — have also given up prized antiquities.
Read the rest of this entry »

January 24, 2013

Collecting the Parthenon – Talk by Dorothy King at the Wallace Collection

Posted at 9:29 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Events

Dorothy King is giving a talk at the Wallace Collection on 28th January, as part of their History of Collecting series of seminars.

The title is a little worrying – one hopes this isn’t the point at which she outlines that the marbles were just the start & now is the time to organise the the removal of rest of the Parthenon…

Wallace Collection

History of Collecting Seminars

Seminars in the History of Collecting Programme 2013. All lectures start at 17.30 in the Wallace Collection Lecture Theatre. Booking not required unless stated:

28th January: Dorothy King, Independent scholar, Collecting the Parthenon


January 16, 2013

Watercolours from Elgin’s artist go on sale

Posted at 2:11 pm in Elgin Marbles

Two paintings by Giovanni Battista Lusieri are going on sale. These paintings were displayed in Scotland last year in an exhibition of the artist’s work. Lusieri wass famous for being the artist employed by Lord Elgin to document the Parthenon Sculptures & their removal. None of those paintings survive, ass they were all destroyed when the ship carrying them was wrecked, but seeing the two pictured in this article, gives an idea of the level of detail & quality that they may have contained.

Daily Telegraph

Rare watercolours by Giovanni Battista Lusieri for sale
By Martin Chilton, Culture Editor online
7:10AM GMT 15 Jan 2013

Rare watercolours by Italian artist Giovanni Battista Lusieri, the man famous for his removal of marbles from the Parthenon for Lord Elgin, go on sale in New York after Scottish National Gallery show.

Two significant watercolours by Italian painter Giovanni Battista Lusieri (1754–1821), a man renowned for his involvement in the removal and shipping of the Elgin Marbles to England, are to go on sale in New York.
Read the rest of this entry »

January 15, 2013

Art courses at the New Acropolis Museum

Posted at 2:03 pm in New Acropolis Museum

Starting from January, the Acropolis Museum in Athens will be organising various workshops on ancient technology, with the first on on the way museum replicas are made due to take place today.

Greek Reporter

The Acropolis Museum Organizes Art Courses
By Christina Flora on January 5, 2013

The Acropolis Museum is organizing workshops on ancient technology, modern preservation and production of replicas. Courses will start in January to entertain and inform those interested in learning these arts.

On Jan. 15, the first scheduled course on the ways museum replicas are made will begin. This course will be taught from Tuesday to Sunday twice a day, at 11:00 a.m., and 12:00 noon. Classes will include 20 people with admission using the same-day ticket to the museum on a first-come, first-served basis.

Those who want to visit the museum should bear in mind that from Jan. 8, it will be operating on its winter program. Its restaurant will operate the same hours, except for Friday evening, when it will stay open until 12 midnight.

A London taxi driver tells a tourist the wrong story of the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 1:56 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

I have to admit, I’m not entirely convinced by this Taxi driver’s version of history – clearly he wasn’t one of the many Cypriot drivers that have driven me around London in the past. On the other hand, seeing the reputation of black cab drivers for having political views somewhere to the right of Colonel Charles de Laet Waldo Sibthorpe, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.

Chicago Reader

I needed to write this to claim a tax deduction on my vacation
Posted by Michael Miner on 01.07.13 at 06:40 AM


An excellent way to tap the pulse of a distant people is to take a taxi somewhere, one cabbie serving the busy fact finder as roughly the equal of two cocktail waitresses or three members of clandestine political movements organized to cadge free drinks and meals from visiting reporters. Our cabbie was excellent. He made it clear that England stole the Elgin Marbles fair and square, and if Greece actually values its cultural heritage it should pack up the rest of the Acropolis and ship it all to the British Museum.


Vote for 38 Degrees to petition for the Parthenon Marbles reunification in 2013

Posted at 1:46 pm in Elgin Marbles

38 Degrees are a campaigning organisation, that (amongst other things) creates online petitions for causes that they are supporting.

They are asking for suggestions on what campaigns to support in 2013.

I have submitted an idea for a Parthenon Marbles petition on their website. Please vote for this petition – you can place 3 votes for any one item on the site.

The petition is here.

38 Degrees

Reunifying the Parthenon Sculptures (AKA Elgin Marbles) in Athens

For nearly 200 years, half of the surviving Parthenon Sculptures (Also known as the Elgin Marbles) have been displayed in the Duveen Gallery in the British Museum in London. Greece has repeatedly asked for their return, yet the British Museum ignores all such requests and maintains that the sculptures now form an “integral part” of their collection.
The Acropolis Museum in Athens opened in 2009 and forms a far more suitable home for them, situated in the context of the Acropolis, allowing them to be understood in relation to the other surviving sculptures.
Keeping them in London is a continuing embarrassment for Britain, with most attempts to justify it harking back to a colonial era when such actions were acceptable.
Whether or not there is a legal requirement to return them is undetermined, but most people who are given all the facts believe that there is an overwhelming moral obligation to return them.

Who can make the decision for their return?
The decision to return the sculptures is a matter for the director & trustees of the British Museum. They are limited by law however, which means any campaign should also target the British Prime Minister & the Secretary of State for Culture.

How can people be persuaded to change their minds?
The biggest issue is one of education – the more people know about the case, the more they are likely to support it. This involves no propaganda style exercises – merely disseminating the provable facts.

How can I help?
Organisations such as Marbles Reunited & the BCRPM already campaign for the return of the sculptures, but their resources are limited & the campaign needs to reach a wider audience with the assistance of an organisation such as 38 Degrees.