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April 3, 2012

Why the Parthenon Marbles are a special case for restitution

Posted at 12:48 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

This article appears as a response to the previous article in the Guardian. There are many things that make the Parthenon Sculptures a special case – the fact that they form part of a greater whole & that they were designed to be seen in a specific context, not as an object could be easily relocated are just a couple of them. This is not to deny that other cases have merit to them as well – each case should be judged alone, as they are so different. The differences are not just in the objects themselves, but in their cultural significance, where they were taken from, when they were taken, the circumstances surrounding their removal etc.

In cases such as the Parthenon Marbles, Greece has previously made clear offers that if the sculptures were returned, they would provide Britain with other temporary exhibitions of similar value (a very hard thing to assess). Temporary exhibitions are the main thing that draws people back on return visits to the British Museum, so surely having these regularly arranged for them would result in win-win situation for the museum?

From:
Guardian

Are the Parthenon marbles really so special?
Mike Pitts
Monday 2 April 2012 20.30 BST

The British Museum has had only one request to return something from its vast collections that it regards as official. The Greek government has asked the British government if it can have the Parthenon marbles back. Stephen Fry also thinks the issue of these sculptures is unique. In December last year, in a blog picked up over the weekend by a restitution lobby group, Fry wrote: “The Parthenon affair is a special case.”

Which it is. That stunning building embodies the culture that gave us democracy, the Olympic Games and all that classical stuff we used to be taught at school. It inspired the Renaissance and Byron, and now the many who would like to see the bits in the British Museum – about half the surviving sculptures – given back to Greece.
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