In the past, Greece has on numerous occasions proposed the idea of long term loans as a solution to the dispute over the Parthenon Marbles – allowing the British Museum to neatly side-step any restrictions placed on it by the British Museum Act, as well as setting aside the issue of ownership. The British Museum has always rejected such requests for a wide variety of different reasons – questioning whether a long term loan is even a valid concept (if it is long term, then it is not really a loan) despite partaking in similar agreements elsewhere. The question has been raised over whether Greece would be trusted to return them, as well as putting forward the argument that they are unable to lend the most iconic pieces from their collection, while at the same time denying the existence of any sort of list of items that can never be lent.
The recent loan of one of the Parthenon Sculptures to Russia just highlights how contradictory some of these objections are.
Now, it seems that the British Museum has agreed to an unprecedentedly large loan to the Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi. The loan will include many iconic items from the Museum’s collection, including Assyrian reliefs. Some that were purchased with public money through the Art Fund, which aims to make artefacts accessible to the UK public. The loans will last for five years – far longer than the normal duration for inter-museum borrowing.
The Museum will be receiving a substantial fee for the loans.
So – if loans can be long term, if loans can be made of large numbers of items and if loans can be made of iconic artefacts, then why is it not possible for the Parthenon Sculptures to return on the same basis? Clearly, as with corporate funding from BP, money hass a role to play – although I imagine that even if Greece offered financial remuneration, their requests would still be rejected.
Artists impression of the Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi
British Museum to send star objects to the Gulf
Assyrian reliefs among the 500 loans earmarked for long stay in Abu Dhabi
by Martin Bailey
2 June 2015
The British Museum’s plan to lend 500 objects to Abu Dhabi for five years has expanded to include highlights of the London institution’s collection—and we can now reveal the list of objects that the museum has earmarked to send.
The loans are to the Zayed National Museum, which is due to open in 2016. The British Museum will get a substantial fee, although it has declined to reveal the amount.
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