March 20, 2008

Growing momentum for return of Elgin Marbles

Posted at 1:38 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Greece Archaeology, New Acropolis Museum, Similar cases

At the Athens UNESCO conference on the Return of Cultural Property to its country of Origin, The Greek Culture Minister used his opening speech to highlight the growing momentum behind the campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles.


Greece says momentum growing for Marbles’ return
Mon Mar 17, 2008 11:09am EDT
By Karolos Grohmann

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece said on Monday momentum was growing for the return of the prized Parthenon marbles, taken from the Athens Acropolis some 200 years ago by Britain’s Lord Elgin, as major museums handed back more ancient objects.

Museums around the world have in recent years started returning ancient artifacts to their countries of origin and have tightened checks on acquisitions to avoid buying objects that were illegally excavated or smuggled abroad.

“More and more museums are adopting tighter ethics codes and governments promote bilateral and international cooperation (for the return of ancient objects),” Greek Culture Minister Michalis Liapis told an international conference at the new Acropolis Museum.

“So an ideal momentum is being created … for clear solutions on this issue,” he said.

The trend towards returning artifacts was strengthened by the high-profile affair involving former J. Paul Getty Museum curator Marion True and smuggled artifacts that were acquired by the museum.

Italy dropped a legal case against the Getty Museum last year after the institution agreed to return 40 items Rome believed had been stolen and smuggled out of the country, and the Getty has returned several such items to Greece.

Both Italy and Greece have charged True with offences linked to trafficking in antiquities. She denies any wrongdoing.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum has returned a prized 2,500-year-old vase to Italy, which recently displayed nearly 400 looted ancient objects that have been recovered in the past three years.

The Parthenon marble friezes and sculptures were removed from the Acropolis above Athens by British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century, with permission from the Ottoman Empire officials then in power.

Lord Elgin acquired his collection between 1801 and 1810. It was bought by the British Museum in 1816 and has been a major attraction there since. The museum refuses to return them to Greece on the ground that its statutes do not allow it to do so.

Liapis told the conference “This museum is ready to embrace all important artifacts taken from the holy rock (the Acropolis) and I hope the same goes for the foreign-based Parthenon marbles… so the unity of the sculptures can be restored.”

Britain said for many years that the marbles were better preserved in London than in Athens’ polluted air. Greece has said this argument is now obsolete given the completion of the new museum, where an empty gallery awaits the Parthenon marbles.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

International Herald Tribune

Greece renews demand for Parthenon Marbles at UNESCO conference
The Associated Press
Published: March 17, 2008

ATHENS, Greece: Greece renewed its demand for the Parthenon Marbles on Monday at a gathering of world culture experts held at the foot of the Acropolis.

Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said Athens’ long standing demand for the collection — also known as the Elgin Marbles — was gaining momentum.

“A new wind is blowing” regarding looted antiquities, Liapis told an international conference, organized by UNESCO, on the return of cultural goods to their countries of origin.

“This creates an ideal climate, a new momentum for us to seek means of communication with a view to achieve clear solutions on the matter,” Liapis said.

The two-day event was held at a new Acropolis Museum, where Athens hopes to house the collection if it is returned by the British Museum in London.

The €129 million ($200 million) building designed by U.S.-based architect Bernard Tschumi is set to open in September.

“I hope (displayed artifacts) will include the Parthenon Sculptures, following cooperation with the British Museum,” Liapis said.

Until then, plaster copies of the 5th century B.C. sculptures will be used.

The British Museum says it will only consider a short-term loan — not necessarily involving its entire Parthenon collection.

Greece has recently stepped up efforts to reclaim allegedly plundered antiquities from museums and collections abroad.

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