Showing results 1 - 12 of 530 for the tag: Restitution.

May 20, 2015

Parthenon Marbles litigation still under consideration by Greece

Posted at 7:36 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Text of the original press statement by Greek Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis, clarifying the earlier comments about potentially taking legal action over the Parthenon Marbles.

As I already said, it is a great shame that more has not been made of this clarification, or that a more detailed statement was not made sooner. Many newspapers in the UK have already been spinning the original story as the campaigning for the Parthenon Marbles being over – that Britain was acknowledging Britain’s legitimate ownership of the sculptures. This was never the case – not in the original statement and definitely not in this one. This is not an issue that will go away, much as certain elements within Britain might wish that to be the case.

I have given the text as an automatically translated version, with the original Greek below.

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis

From:
Greek Ministry of Culture

05/14/2015
A journalist’s question about the Greek government’s strategy regarding the claim of the Parthenon Marbles, the if. Minister of Culture Mr. Nikos Xydakis made the following statement:

The legal advice is extremely useful and reinforce the arguments of Greece for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, but the Greek government has never stated its commitment in the near future to follow the court proceedings.

The judicial route is one of the many avenues open before us.
Read the rest of this entry »

May 19, 2015

Greece is not ruling out Parthenon Marbles legal action

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

Possibly, Greece did not realise how much the world’s press would seize on the relatively brief remarks made by culture Minister Nikos Xydakis regarding plans not to take legal action.

Whilst many newspapers have been busy printing stories some of which are mainly conjecture, based on a few lines from a speech, the Greek government were already backtracking, emphasising that they were not writing off the idea of legal action – but that it was just one of many avenues open to them that they were exploring.

So – we read from this, that Greece is not committed to opening legal proceedings in the immediate future, but the idea is still on the table for potential use at a later point in time.

One must go back though to the original statement a few days before – that Greece must “use it or loose it”. They might not have all the time in the world to wait before taking legal action.

I am disappointed to see that very few news sources outside Greece have chose to cover this retraction of the original story – continuing to go to town on the original news, despite the fact that it is no longer correct.

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis

From:
Greek Reporter

Greek Culture Ministry: Legal Action is One of Many Options Available for Parthenon Marbles’ Repatriation
A. Makris
May 15, 2015

Seeking legal action is only one of the options available to Greece on the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles, Alternate Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis said on Thursday, following his statement on Wednesday that the government will not sue the British Museum on the issue.

Asked about Greece ’s strategy on the issue, the minister said: “Legal opinions are extremely useful and reinforce Greece ’s arguments for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, but the Greek government has never stated it is committed to initiating court proceedings in the near future.”
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May 18, 2015

Greek minister argues against Parthenon Marbles legal action

Posted at 7:33 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Further coverage of the statement by Greek Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis not to take legal action over the return of the Parthenon Sculptures at the current time.

As I mentioned in the other batch of articles on the issue, there seems to be little new information in any of these stories over and above what was originally stated. The stories have instead become retellings of the narrative of the acquisition of the Marbles, adjusted according to the newspaper’s own leanings on the issue.

I have now been quoted in at least three of the articles, which is impressive, as I have only spoken to the writer of one of them.

David Hill, Amal Clooney & Geoffrey Robertson in Athens

David Hill, Amal Clooney & Geoffrey Robertson in Athens

From:
Artnet

Greece Says No to Amal Clooney’s Elgin Marbles Advice to Sue British Museum
Amah-Rose Abrams
Thursday, May 14, 2015

Amal Clooney is still working hard to win back the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum and return them to Greece, filing a 150-page document recommending the Greek government takes the British Museum to the International Court.

However, according to the Times, Greece has promptly snubbed Clooney’s efforts and decided not to follow her advice, despite Clooney and her colleague Geoffrey Robertson telling Greece that it was a case of “now or never” in the lengthy battle involving the ancient Greek artworks.
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Greece drops plans for litigating over Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 1:05 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Further coverage of the announcement by the Greek Ministry of Culture that they are not planning on taking legal action over the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

One thing that strikes me with all this coverage, is that the papers are essentially making full page stories from the short piece in Το Βημα – There is no more detail contained in any other stories other than speculation & interviews with others outside the process, on what their opinions on it are.

A metope from the Parthenon Sculptures, currently in the British Museum

A metope from the Parthenon Sculptures, currently in the British Museum

From:
To Bhma

Xydakis: “We will not claim the Parthenon marbles via the courts”
The Alternate Culture Minister explained that politics and diplomacy must be used instead
Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Alternate Minister of Culture Nikos Xydakis announced that the Greek government will not be seeking the return of the Parthenon marbles via the courts, but rather via political and diplomacy.

Mr. Xydakis, who spoke to Mega Channel on Wednesday morning, noted that Amal Clooney, of the Doughty Street Chambers legal firm, will be providing legal advice on the matter.
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May 16, 2015

Greece drops plans for legal action over Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 9:08 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

I was very surprised to hear this story, particularly with the timing of it coming only a day after much of the content of the press summary of the legal report was published.

My first issue is that the actual report has not yet been delivered to the Greek Government. It was commissioned by the previous ND / PASOK coalition government when Geoffrey Robertson, Norman Palmer and Amal Clooney visited Athens last year. Originally the report was due to be delivered in late April, but for various reasons has been delayed until the end of this month. We know from previous new stories about the way that this exercise has been funded, that the cost of researching and producing this report was not an insignificant amount.

So, apart from the lawyers working on the report, my understanding is that nobody has yet seen the actual final report – not the Greek Government, not the press and definitely not the plethora of armchair legal experts who are commenting on the press reports.

Even once the Greek Government has seen the report, something of this scale and importance would generally require extensive consideration and review, to understand the full impact of what was being proposed, to let the government’s own legal team assess its veracity etc. Once that had happened, further discussion would be required, to allow the government to weigh up the possible options available to them and decide how they wanted to proceed. None of this appears to have happened, and I don’t see how it could have, as nobody has yet seen the report. As such, it is hard to believe that the content of the report is what led to this decision.

The report on the legal options for the Parthenon Marbles, as I mentioned earlier was commissioned by the previous government, and the current government have not to my knowledge actually met with the lawyers who are working on it. Based on this information alone, any rejection seems to be more of a reaction to the fact that they are wanting to do different to those who came before them, rather than any other reason.

The Greek Government says that they want to use politics and diplomacy to resolve the issue. This is not a new approach however – if anything it is reverting to what has been tried in the past, as any consideration of other options by Greece has only happened in the last few years.

The diplomatic approach has been tried since the mid 1980s – and to an outside observer, any success has been very limited. The Parthenon Sculptures still do not appear any closer to returning than they were fifteen years ago. If anything, the British Museum has become more trenchant in their opposition during this time, first by dreaming up new arguments such as that of the Universal Museum and more recently loaning one of the pediment sculptures to Russia, while continuing to snub Greek loan requests.

The most recent initiative by Greece, mediation of the issue via UNESCO, which many had high hopes for, was rejected by both the British Government and the British Museum after an inordinately long period of consideration.

All the above actions took place during a period when the government in the UK (Labour – 1997-2010) although oficially rejecting return, had many members who were enthusiastic supporters of the restitution of the sculptures. During the government of the last five years (Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition – 2010-2015), although the major partner in the coalition was less supportive of the issue, the Liberal Democrat leader who was also Deputy Prime Minister had previously expressed strong support for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles in Athens.

This has now changed. The new Conservative government that entered won the General Election earlier this month, are entirely unreceptive to any hint of the the sculptures returning. Sure, there are a few enlightened individuals within the party – but they stand out like beacons of hope against the backdrop of so many others who are still in denial that the days of empire are over. Both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Culture have, in the last few years, stated publicly their opposition to returning the sculptures.

One must also bear in mind one of the themes of the precis report presented to the press – the idea that action must be taken now, otherwise the opportunity might evaporate. Its now or never.

All the above points make me feel that any rejection of the report so rapidly suggests that full consideration has not really been given to the issue. As such, I hope that this turns out to be some sort of misunderstanding on the part of the Greek Government and that whatever they decide, they will first think through their options carefully – and review the actions already taken in the campaign since the mid 1980s. I will happily support them in any initiatives that they believe will get the sculptures back to Athens, but a coherent plan is needed. The British Museum’s loan to Russia could well be a sign that they were starting to feel the pressure and wanted to try and assert their own dominant position as clearly as possible – backing off now, just when they were starting to feel uncomfortable will achieve nothing.

Amal Clooney nee Alamudin is shown around the New Acropolis Museum by Professor Pandermalis

Amal Clooney nee Alamudin is shown around the New Acropolis Museum by Professor Pandermalis

From:
Guardian

Greece drops option of legal action in British Museum Parthenon marbles row
Helena Smith in Athens
Wednesday 13 May 2015 17.13 BST

Cultural minister makes revelation despite dossier from human rights lawyers exhorting the Greek government to pursue legal channels immediately

Greece has ruled out taking legal action in its battle to reclaim the Parthenon marbles from Britain. The unexpected move abruptly ends the legal battle in one of the world’s most bitter cultural disputes.
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May 13, 2015

Greece advised to take Parthenon Marbles case to ECHR

Posted at 10:55 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Last Autumn, the Greek Government met with a team of Lawyers from the UK, to discuss the legal options available to them in trying to resolve the dispute over the Parthenon Marbles.

The Lawyers were commissioned to produce a more detailed report, which it was later revealed was funded by a wealthy Greek individual rather than by the government.

Since the process started, the government which started it has been replaced by a new SYRIZA led coalition.

This report has now been delivered to Greece and some details of it have managed to leak to the Greek Press.

The proposals suggest various possible options, including the International Courts of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. One key aspect of the proposals is the point that action should be taken now, otherwise the opportunity to take it may be lost for ever, through the doctrine of laches and acquiescence. Greece’s window of opportunity is limited, so if they are ever going to take this route, the time is now.

When the legal team first visited Athens, Greece was still awaiting a response from Britain regarding mediation through UNESCO. Since then, a negative response has been received by Greece and the nature of this response suggests that a change of policy is unlikely in the near future – meaning that litigation may now be the only option left for Greece.

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

From:
Independent

Elgin Marbles: Greece should take UK to court over sculptures, claim human rights lawyers
Ian Johnston
Tuesday 12 May 2015

Greece should take the UK to an international court to win back the so-called Elgin Marbles, according to legal advice prepared by senior human rights lawyers including Amal Clooney and Geoffrey Robertson.

Athens has the best chance of securing control of the sculptures if it takes action through the International Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights, according to a 150-page report prepared by its team of eminent global lawyers.
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The new stakeholders of the Parthenon Marbles dispute

Posted at 1:14 pm in Elgin Marbles

By the end of this year, the two sides in the Parthenon Marbles restitution debate may be very different from what they were a year ago – although apart from that, nothing may have changed.

Earlier this year, Greece got a new government in the form of a coalition led by Syriza. Despite limited success so far in achieving their manifesto goals of removing Greece from the Austerity programme, they are still doing well in the polls. They have yet to speak in any detail about how they plan to deal with the Parthenon Marbles.

In London, Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum announced a few weeks ago that he would be standing down later this year. Various potential candidates have been mentioned in the press and I will try to look at the credentials of some of them in a future post.

Finally, in an unexpected outcome to what the opinion polls told us, Britain has a new government. The Conservative party now has an outright majority, so is no governing alone, without the support of the Liberal Democrats. I will make a more details post on the breakdown of who is in and out of the new British Parliament, but the situation at present does not look particularly promising for restitution cases. You can refer back to my previous post, to get a rough idea of where different parties stand on the issue.

David Cameron continues as Prime Minister and has in the past made his anti-restitution credentials clear, both in relation to the Parthenon Marbles, and in his responses to questions about other cases such as the Koh-i-Noor diamond.

Finally, Britain has a new Minister of Culture, John Whittingdale. His name may well already be familiar to many people, as he has chaired the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee since 2005.

During this time chairing the Select Committee, he has made clear his anti-restitution stance on various occasions in the form of responses to statements and questions about the Parthenon Marbles.

His voting pattern on other issues indicates that he does not follow a particularly progressive line, even when compared to his own party, so we should not expect him to introduce any grand initiatives favouring restitution any time soon.

Once again, this highlights the need for Greece to increase the pressure on the British Government. While this government is in power (for five years, unless something goes badly awry), they are unlikely to make any concessions towards returning the Marbles, unless their hand is forced. In the previous Parliament, DCMS rejected the request for UNESCO mediation and unfortunately, this sort of approach is unlikely to change.

Ed Vaizey continues in in the cabinet as the Minister specifically responsible for culture serving under John Whittingdale.

John Whittingdale, secretary of state for culture, media and sport.

John Whittingdale, secretary of state for culture, media and sport.

From:
Art Newspaper

John Whittingdale appointed Culture Secretary
Patrick Steel
11.05.2015

Former chairman of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee promoted to cabinet

John Whittingdale, the Conservative MP for Maldon, was today appointed secretary of state for culture, media and sport.

Whittingdale has overall responsibility for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which includes museums and galleries in England.
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April 14, 2015

Liam Neeson calls for return of Parthenon Marbles to Greece

Posted at 1:01 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Liam Neeson joins a plethora of other well known actors & celebrites, in calling for the Parthenon Sculptures to be returned to Greece.

The comments were made during an interview about his new movie “Run All Night”.

Liam Neeson says that the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece

Liam Neeson says that the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece

From:
Greek Reporter

Liam Neeson: Give Stolen Parthenon Marbles Back to Greece
Joanna Kalafatis
Apr 13, 2015

Irish actor and action star Liam Neeson called on the UK to give the stolen Parthenon marbles back to Greece.

He joins legions of fellow actors and celebrities, such as George Clooney, Bill Murray and Steven Fry, who support the return of the Parthenon marbles back to their homeland.
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April 13, 2015

The nature of the rejection of UNESCO mediation for Marbles

Posted at 1:01 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Kwame Opoku gives his analysis on the British Museum and British Government’s rejection of mediation through UNESCO to resolve the Parthenon Marbles dispute.

A metope from the Parthenon Sculptures, currently in the British Museum

A metope from the Parthenon Sculptures, currently in the British Museum

From:
Kwame Opoku (by email)

BRITISH GOVERNMENT AND BRITISH MUSEUM REJECT GREEK REQUEST FOR UNESCO MEDIATION ON THE PARTHENON MARBLES.

Very few readers will be surprised by the negative response of the British Museum and the British Government to the Greek request for UNESCO mediation over the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum.(1) The real surprise is that it took such  a long time, from 9 August 2913 to 26 March 2015 to send the British response. We used to think that a prompt reply or a response within a reasonable period was the hallmark of politeness.

The negative response consists of two separate letters to UNESCO, one from the British Government and the other from the British Museum. Though both letters conveyed a negative reply, it appears better, for clarity to discuss them separately. We will also see clearly the division of labour between the two British institutions that are united in the final objective but adopt different paths and style.

BRITISH MUSEUM ANSWER

The response of the British Museum bears all the hallmarks we have come to associate with this institution in the matter of the Parthenon Marbles: arrogance, defiance and provocation.

In a letter dated 26 March to the UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the British Museum states in the opening paragraph:

“After full and careful consideration, we have decided respectfully to decline this request. We believe that the more constructive way forward, on which we have already embarked, is to collaborate directly with other museums and cultural institutions, not just in Greece but across the world”.

The request of Greece for mediation on the Parthenon Marbles in London is drowned in the area of collaboration with “other museums and cultural institutions, not just in Greece but across the world”. The specific question of the Greek sculptures, their ownership and location is not the object of attention and concentration.

The letter expresses admiration for the work of UNESCO in the area of “preservation and safeguarding the world’s endangered cultural heritage.”

The Chairman of the Board of Trustees immediately points out that the Parthenon Sculptures do not fall within this category. The method used here is fairly simple. You narrow the competence of UNESCO to the preservation and safeguarding the world’s endangered cultural heritage and declare UNESCO’s involvement in other areas as undesirable:

“the Trustees would want to develop existing good relations with colleagues and institutions in Greece, and to explore collaborative ventures, not on a government-to-government basis but directly between institutions. This is why we believe that UNESCO involvement is not the best way forward”

The Board of Trustees of the British Museum seem to have forgotten that UNESCO has a broad mandate that covers most areas of culture as well as disputes relating to cultural artefacts. Indeed the Organization has specifically, through its Intergovernmental Committee, (Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation) the duty to assist States in settling disputes such as those relating to the Parthenon Sculptures. This dispute has been before UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for a long time. The mediation procedure is one of several procedures available for dispute settlement. (2)

As we are now used to,, the British Museum’s letter contains the usual claim that the museum is there for the whole world and works on behalf of audiences from the whole world, forgetting that the majority of the world would have no visa to London and would also not be able to afford the costs involved in a visit to London.

The museum’s letter, as we could expect, is full of references to the alleged international role of the museum for the benefit of humanity:

“The British Museum, as you know, is not a government body, and the collections do not belong to the British Government. The Trustees of the British Museum hold them not only for the British people, but for the benefit of the world public, present and future. The Trustees have a legal and moral responsibility to preserve and maintain all the collections in their care, to treat them as inalienable and to make them accessible to world audiences”

“Museums holding Greek works, whether in Greece, the UK or elsewhere in the world, are naturally united in a shared endeavour to show the importance of the legacy of ancient Greece. The British Museum is committed to playing its full part in sharing the value of that legacy for all humanity.”

Most readers would be used to this standard propaganda of the British Museum in its role as self-appointed saviour of humanity’s cultural heritage. But what would come to many as a surprise is that the venerable museum advances its own wrong-doing as a demonstration of its commitment to humanity’s culture’

The letter of the museum refers to the notorious and controversial loan of Ilissos to Russia as an example of sharing the legacy of ancient Greece;

“In this same spirit, the Trustees recently lent one of the Parthenon Sculptures to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, and were pleased to learn that in only six weeks some 140,000 Russian visitors had the chance to see it there. This was a new audience for this extraordinary work of ancient Greek art, most of whom could not have visited either Athens or London.”

The loan of one of the contested Parthenon Marbles to Russia was condemned by many as wrong and was described by Peter Aspden, Financial Times critic  as “ill-conceived trip to Russia”(3)

It requires a great amount of arrogance, self-confidence and provocation to advance an action condemned by most people as evidence of international co-operation. (4)

The British Museum also refers to what it calls ”the historic distribution of the surviving Parthenon Sculptures:”

“Views on the historic distribution of the surviving Parthenon Sculptures naturally differ, though there is unanimous recognition that the original totality of the sculptural decoration cannot now be reassembled as so much has been lost, and that the surviving sculptures can never again take their place on the building.”

The use of the word “distribution” is in many ways misleading. It creates the impression that there had been a conscious and deliberate decision to divide the Parthenon Sculptures among the nations that hold them at present. This, as we all know, was never the case but it helps to divert attention from asking how the sculptures came to London. The statement that the sculptures cannot be all replaced in the ancient Acropolis is undoubtedly aimed, at the arguments for reunification of the sculptures in Athens. As far as I am aware, no one has ever suggested the Parthenon Sculptures could be put back at their old location. What has been suggested is that they should be reunited in the new Acropolis Museum where there is enough place for them.

LETTER FROM BRITISH GOVERNMENT

The British Minister of State for Culture and Digital Economy sent a letter dated 26 March 2015 to the UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture in response to the UNESCO letter of 9 August 2013.

The Minister’s letter acknowledges the important role of UNESCO in the settlement of international disputes through the Intergovernmental Committee. The letter adds that officials of Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the British Museum have attended regularly meetings of the Committee even though Britain is not a member of the Committee.

Contrary to the British Museum letter which seems to be contesting the competence of UNESCO to be involved in such disputes, the Minister’s letter acknowledges UNESCO role in such disputes:

“We would first like to express how much we value the role that UNESCO plays in helping to safeguard cultural heritage and in providing a forum for the resolution of international disputes through the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP”.

Are these differences of approach accidental? We can be sure that officials of both the Government and the British Museum worked together on both letters and that if there are any differences of approach or nuances, these are not accidental but intentional. You say nice things about them and we tell them where to get off.

The letter from Government declares that the sculptures in the British Museum were acquired legally by Lord Elgin under the laws then prevailing. The request for mediation was to seek the transfer of the sculptures to Athens and deny the British Museum’s right of ownership. The positions of the British and the Greeks are clear and mediation would not carry the debate forward:

“Given our equally clear position, this leads us to conclude that mediation would not carry this debate substantially forward.”

The global nature of the collections in the British Museum as well as legal restrictions on de-accession are thrown in for good measure.

Readers will no doubt have noticed the not so subtle attempts to relegate the dispute on the Parthenon Marbles to a dispute between museums and not States. As dispute between States, the British Government is under pressure from other States in the United Nations and UNESCO to settle the matter. As dispute between institutions there will be less pressure and the Greek museum will not be able to exert much pressure on the British Museum In their letters of rejection, the British Museum tells UNESCO to stay away from this dispute and concern itself with preservation and destruction of culture and not with the Parthenon Marbles that are very well kept. The British Government also agrees that the matter should be left to the museums that have excellent relations

The British Museum continues in its attempt to take hold of the narrative of Greek culture and history, presenting itself as major player in the dissemination of Greek culture by bringing the Greek legacy to Russia and elsewhere. The current exhibition, Defining Beauty, the Body in Ancient Greek Art is given as an example of the museum’s approach. Is it by sheer coincidence that the exhibition opens on the same date as the rejection of the Greek proposal was sent?

It is remarkable that the British Museum and the British Government continue to advance the museum’s propaganda that it holds the Parthenon Marbles on behalf of humanity. Does this humanity include the British people who have in countless opinion polls overwhelmingly and consistently decided that the Parthenon Marbles be returned to Greece. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, the majority of States through their representatives in the United Nations and UNESCO have in countless resolutions decided that the sculptures should be returned to Athens. So for which humanity is the British Museum working?

The British Government and the British Museum appear never to have seriously considered the possibility of resolving the Parthenon dispute. One can understand that when a party has no real chance of winning a fair game that it is not interested in entering the game. But is this attitude to be expected from States that are often telling others to follow the law and emphasize the need for democracy? Can there be democracy without a willingness to submit disputes with other States to the rule of Law and other peaceful methods of dispute settlement?

The double refusal by the British Government and the British Museum is surely not the last word on the question of the Parthenon Marbles which they both admit are Greek. Praising the grandeur and the legacy of Greek civilization but at the same time refusing to let the Greeks have their cultural artefacts so that they could also celebrate that legacy can surely not be right.

Kwame Opoku, 30 March 2015

 

NOTES

1. Elginism, http://www.elginism.com/elgin-marbles/uk-government-rejects-parthenon-marbles-unesco-mediation/20150327/7859/

www.newsingreece.com/…/british-museum-rejects-request-for-unesco-m

www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03…/greece…british…mediation…/6356390

2. UNESCO Mediation and conciliation www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/…/mediation-and-conciliation

3. Financial Times 28/29 March 2015, p.16.

4. Kwame Opoku, Arrogance, Duplicity and Defiance with no End: British Museum Loans Parthenon Marble to Russia£.

http://www.museum-security.org/2014/12/arrogance-duplicity-and-defiance-with-no-end-british-museum-loans-parthenon-marble-to-russia/

Read the rest of this entry »

April 9, 2015

Neil MacGregor to stand down as Director of British Museum

Posted at 10:41 pm in British Museum

Neil MacGregor has announced that he is going to stand down as the Director of the British Museum at the end of 2015. During his tenure at the museum, he has definitely raised the profile of the institution, along with his own public standing. He has done a lot of good in broadening the reach of the British Museum, through such things as the History of the World in 100 objects radio series and book.

During his time there, there have been many epic exhibitions, such as the Terracotta Army, although I am sure that while he played a key part, he was far from the only one involved in getting such endeavours off the ground.

However, whatever praise MacGregor might receive should be accompanied by some major caveats.

He is lauded as presiding over a period in which the Museum has risen in popularity, and whilst this is true, it is partly a result of things outside of his control. The Great Court at the Museum is now the iconic space that people remember the building for, but work on it was started well before his arrival and it finally opened a year before he took on the role of director. The previous director presided over a museum that was a building site, with awkward circulation though side corridors, yet the bright spacious museum of the new millennium was not MacGregor’s doing.

In some newspapers, it appears that MacGregor can do no wrong. Even former critics now unquestioningly praise his every move as the work of a genius. I have no idea of the actual arrangements that have been made, but to an outsider it has certain parallels to the embedded reporters accompanying military divisions – you can get the inside stories before anyone else, but only as long as you don’t publish anything negative.

While MacGregor has presented a far more educated approach to the running of the museum than many of his predecessors, with a more rounded global outreach programme, under his control, the museum has always been quick to apply spin to its own actions. Shortly after he took charge of the institution, a highly publicised document appeared – the Declaration of the Importance of the Universal Museum. Many major institutions were present on this list, although the British Museum was notable by is absence. It was clear to many that they were involved in this document, and as it turned out, the declaration fell flat & disappeared from public discourse fairly rapidly.

While the Declaration of the Importance of the Universal Museum might have faded from memory, its legacy is still very much with us. James Cuno continually tries to revive the discredited Universal Museum concept under the alias of the Encyclopaedic Museum. Yet, the whole idea of the Universality of institutions such ass the British Museum is something of a fiction concocted by MacGregor. Prior to MacGregor taking up a post at the British Museum, there are no news stories that mentioned the term Universal Museum, yet it is pushed on us as though it is something that has always existed. It may or may not be a coincidence that its inception followed soon after construction work on the New Acropolis Museum started, removing one of the British Museums previous arguments for retention of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Neil MacGregor receives praise for loaning the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran, yet people are quick to forget that for years leading up to this, it was a source of immense tension. The British Museum had earlier made an agreement to loan the artefact, in reciprocation for earlier loans made by Iran, yet when the time came, they did everything in their power to delay this process and avoid following through with the agreement.

While MacGregor talks a lot about cultural diplomacy and working with other institutions, during his 13 years at the museum, he has not moved even a millimetre closer to resolving the long standing dispute over the Parthenon Marbles. Despite Greece building a state of the Art new museum to house them, MacGregor and his representatives try to claim that such endeavours merely strengthen the case for keeping half of the surviving Marbles in Britain. While other museums (particularly in the USA) have gradually seen that old disputes need to be resolved, the British Museum has continued to respond by burying its head in the sand and pretending that the issue will go away.

The Museums recent actions, of lending one of the Parthenon Sculptures to the Hermitage in St Petersburg received much acclaim in the press, but in reality won little support from others in the museum world. Having previously denied denying a loan of the sculptures to Greece, a loan was made in secret to Russia. Once the loan as publicly announced with a multi-page feature in a national newspaper, the British Museum had the audacity to suggest that Greek complaints were ungracious. While once the British Museum claimed that the sculptures were too fragile to move, they are now talking about lending them to institutions around the world – pimping them to everyone except for their rightful owners. Finally, it became clear to many that the museum did not understand the sculptures as a part of a greater whole, something that was designed to be seen together.

Most recently, the British Museum has turned down a request made by Greece for mediation through UNESCO to resolve the Parthenon Marbles dispute. Surely if they were serious about trying to resolve disputes and their position was as strong as they claim it is, they would jumped at the chance to move things forward?

For many who campaign for the return of disputed artefacts, MacGregor’s tenure at the British Museum will be remembered as one of missed opportunities. Of being too blinkered to see the potential advantages of reunifying items with their rightful owners. A rejection of the potential win-win scenario of reciprocal loans of new and unseen works. Of missing out on an increased standing of the institution internationally as old differences were resolved. A failure in cultural decolonisation.

There was (and still is) the potential to reinvent the British Museum as an institution that can provide a moral lead, a new style of museum for the 21st Century, one that can revisit its past in order to create a new, better future. The opportunity has always been there, but MacGregor has never been willing to take it, instead leaving US institutions to take some of the first tentative steps along this path, creating places that exemplify contemporary values rather than the dodgy dealing of times past.

One hopes that perhaps MacGregor’s successor will be able to think different.

British Museum Director Neil MacGregor

British Museum Director Neil MacGregor

From:
Independent

Neil MacGregor announces departure from British Museum
Nick Clark
Wednesday 08 April 2015

Neil MacGregor, who has transformed the fortunes of the British Museum during his 13 year reign, is to leave the UK’s most popular visitor attraction at the end of the year.

The 69-year-old Scot told his colleagues of his decision to step down in December at a meeting. The director received prolonged applause from the staff, according to one onlooker, who said the announcement was “emotional for everybody”.
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April 7, 2015

Greece responds to UNESCO marbles mediation rejection

Posted at 10:27 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis has responded to the news that his country’s request for mediation over the Parthenon Marbles issue has been rejected by both the British Government and the British Museum.

Part of the Parthenon Marbles, the river god Ilissos in the Duveen Gallery

Part of the Parthenon Marbles, the river god Ilissos in the Duveen Gallery

From:
ABC News (Australia)

Greece condemns British Museum’s refusal to allow mediation over ancient Parthenon sculptures
Posted 28 Mar 2015, 10:02pm

Greece has condemned the British Museum’s decision to reject a UNESCO offer to help resolve a decades-old dispute over returning ancient Parthenon sculptures to Athens.

The sculptures are part of the collection popularly known as the Elgin Marbles which were acquired by Lord Elgin in the early 1800s when he was ambassador to the Ottoman court.
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March 31, 2015

Bishop calls on Church of England to support return of Marbles

Posted at 1:08 pm in Elgin Marbles

Prompted by Andrew George MP’s EDM, in a letter to the Church Times, The Rt Revd Dr Robert Innes calls for the Church of England to give their support to the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece. Dr Innes is the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, a diocese that although nominally based in the British territory of Gibraltar, oversees a (geographically) vast diocese, that covers all of Mainland Europe, plus Morocco, Turkey and the former USSR member states.

It is great so see such publicly expressed support for the restitution of the sculptures and it is hoped that the Church of England as a whole might follow this lead in due course.

The Rt Revd Dr Robert Innes - Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe

The Rt Revd Dr Robert Innes – Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe

From:
Church Times

Letters
It’s time to return the Elgin Marbles

From the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe

Sir,

Last week, Andrew George led a cross-party group of MPs in support of an Early Day parliamentary motion calling upon the Govern­ment to engage in the “gracious act” of returning the Parthenon sculptures removed from Athens 210 year ago by Lord Elgin.

I believe that members of the Church of England should take a national lead in showing their support for this motion.
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