Quote of the Day

The problem is not legal, It’s ethical and cultural.

Professor Demetrios Pandermalis, Chair of OANMA

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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December 7, 2014

Arrogance & duplicity – the British loan of the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 2:01 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Kwame Opoku response here to the latest actions taken by the British Museum – sending one of the Parthenon Sculptures on loan to the Hermitage.

He makes some very good points. MacGregor talks about “cultural diplomacy”, but the method by which he practises it is likely to create just as much bad as it does good. What is the benefit of ingratiating yourself to one institution with whom you already have a close working relationship, if at the same time you cause deep anger and resentment to an entire country, which has regularly worked with and supported your institution in the past?

For reasons that still confound me, MacGregor believes that the Parthenon Sculpture was the most appropriate item to lend. How it was somehow more appropriate in this situation not to lend either a Russian, or British artefacts. Had they not been snubbed in such a peculiar way, I’m sure that Greece might previously have considered loaning Ancient Greek, or perhaps Orthodox Icons (showing the common heritage of Orthodox Christianity that the countries share) to Russia.

Greece has in the past made every effort to be cooperative with the British Museum. Even in the letter sent to them refusing a loan of the Marbles, the British Museum acknowledges this. Clearly cooperation counts for little in the game that MacGregor is playing and it is time for Greece to re-think their strategy.

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:
Kwame Opoku (by email)

Arrogance, duplicity and defiance with no end: British Museum loans Parthenon Marble to Russia
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday morning, MacGregor said he hoped the Greek government would be delighted that the sculpture would now be on display to a new audience”.

As if to reinforce its defiance against the will of the British people and the vast majority of States, the UNESCO, United Nations and all those who have urged that the British Museum return the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles to Greece, the venerable museum that is known to hoard thousands of looted artefacts of others, has sent one of the Parthenon Marbles to Russia on loan for an exhibition from 6 December 2014 until 18 January 2015. (1)

The headless statue of a Greek river god will be displayed in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg as part of the celebrations for the institution’s 250th anniversary. Though the Director of the Museum and the Board of Trustees are delighted with the loan, they have not disclosed the terms of the arrangement with Russia.
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December 6, 2014

Does cultural diplomacy deter human rights violations?

Posted at 1:41 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Neil MacGregor would love it is the world believed that his latest initiative with the loan of a Parthenon Sculpture to the Hermitage was all about “cultural diplomacy”. This is not the first time he has tried taking this line – one previous example was with the loan of the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran. Now, like Geoffrey Robertson, I would be very interested to know if there was any improvement in Iran’s human rights record (or for that matter it relations with the UK) as a result of this, but I know that the answer would have to be an unequivocal no!

Geoffrey Robertson QC, Currently providing legal advice to Greece over the Parthenon Marbles issue

Geoffrey Robertson QC, Currently providing legal advice to Greece over the Parthenon Marbles issue

From:
Independent

Geoffrey Robertson
Friday 5 December 2014
The British Museum has just lost the Elgin Marbles argument
This loan is welcome — in that it gives the game away

The British Museum has moved the river god Illisos from his plinth in the Duveen Gallery to St. Petersburg for a celebration of Russian art collection at the Hermitage.

This raises two issues: first, why give a propaganda windfall to President Putin at a time when his breaches of international law can only be deterred by sanctions that are beginning to bite? Second, if a part of the Marbles can now been seen for the next two months by visiting St. Petersburg, why should all surviving pieces of the greatest art in world history not be seen, reunited at the Acropolis Museum under a blue attic sky and in the shadow of the Parthenon?

The museum claims that “cultural diplomacy” can somehow discourage human rights violators. This is nonsense – it tends to embolden them. In 2010 the museum lent the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran, only to have it welcomed by a pageant staged by President Ahmadinejad, in which Cyrus wore the insignia of the Basij militia, which the previous year had brutally beaten and killed hundreds of “Green Movement” demonstrators.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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