Showing results 25 - 36 of 553 for the tag: Restitution.

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.”
Read the rest of this entry »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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.
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”.
Read the rest of this entry »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

March 27, 2015

UK government rejects Parthenon Marbles UNESCO mediation

Posted at 10:56 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

In September 2013, after long deliberation, the Greek Government made the decision to invite the Britain (via UNESCO) into mediation to resolve the Parthenon Sculptures issue.

Since then, the issue of the Parthenon Marbles has risen far higher up the agenda, publicised first by George Clooney, and then the presence of his wife Amal, as a member of a team of lawyers invited to Athens to advise on potential legal action.

Most recently, the British Museum themselves pushed the case of the Marbles back into the limelight with an (arguably) ill received decision to secretly loan one of the sculptures to the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg.

All this time, despite the issue of the Parthenon Marbles making international news headlines on numerous occasions, no response to the request was forthcoming from the British Government or the British Museum, other than the fact that they were considering it and would respond in due course.

During this period, ICOMOS passed a resolution in support of the mediation request, letters were written to the Prime Minister and questions were asked in Parliament. Earlier this month, Andrew George MP tabled an Early Day motion intended to draw attention to this inaction.

Suddenly today, the British Museum published responses on their website from themselves and the British Government, that were sent to UNESCO to be forwarded on to the Greek Government.

As one might have predicted, the response was negative.

Now, maybe it just took seventeen months of careful thinking to arrive at the decision that they did not want to enter into mediation, but alarm bells are ringing regarding the timing of this. Following the 2010 General Election in the UK, the decision was made that from then on, Parliament would operate on five year fixed terms – so for the first time ever, the date of the next election was known well in advance.

Although Parliament is to be dissolved on 30th March 2015 prior to the election, it was prorogued on 26th March. What this means is that at prorogation, all parliamentary business ends, although that Parliament would still exist until dissolution.

It seems an unlikely coincidence that the date of 26th March is exactly the same one given on the top of the two letters of response to the mediation request. To me, this looks like the person who fires of an email that they know will be contentious, just before leaving the office for a two week holiday. They leave it until he last minute, hoping that someone else will deal with the fallout, or that it will be forgotten by their return.

In my day job as an architect, I have on occasion come across similar behaviour, in the context of planning application rejections. The objections were filed at the latest possible point in the process, where the other party had no time to respond, meaning that the whole process would be for an entire month until the next committee meeting. The end result of this process though, was that it was discovered that the objecting party was not being entirely honest – their awkwardly obstructive tactics merely drew attention to this fact, and in the end, it transpired that the validity of their objections was entirely cast into doubt by far greater transgressions on their own part.

I can not help noting a parallel between these two situations. If the British Government / British Museum felt that they were sitting entirely comfortable and had a strong case, why would they not respond on a timescale where the other party could reply at leisure if they so desired within the current session of Parliament? There has been more than enough time in which to do so, and the timing of this announcement merely highlights the level of awkward obstructiveness that is faced when anyone tried to actually engage the British Government or the British Museum in discussions on the issue.

I have previously highlighted the carrot and stick approach to cultural property negotiations. Like many, I was never convinced UNESCO mediation would work, as there was nothing to compel the British Museum to enter into the process. They feel that they are sitting comfortably, so why should they voluntarily enter into a procedure, the outcome of which might be that they end up significantly less comfortable? If a potential threat of legal action was also on the horizon though, then the mediation might have been perceived very differently. Suddenly, mediation would become a distinctly palatable alternative to a costly and high profile lawsuit, which could sully the name of the institution and drag on for years.

As yet, no official proposals have been made for litigation, although we know that it has been considered. Who knows whether if and when it does take place, mediation will still be available as an option. If the mediation offer is withdrawn, the British Museum / British Government might well regret not taking the offer when it was available.

All this highlights that importance of the Greek Government keeping up the pressure on Britain. The first serious attempt at negotiation may not have worked, but it should be followed up with alternative options, making sure that the UK realises that attempting to ignore the situation will not make it go away. The issue of the Marbles is one that needs to be resolved, and mealy mouthed talk of Universal Museums and denial of the existence of past loan requests is not the way to achieve this.

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

From:
British Museum

Alfredo Pérez de Armiñán
Assistant Director-General for Culture
United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation
1 Rue Miollis
75732 Paris Cedex 15
France

26 March 2015

The Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum: UNESCO mediation proposal

I write on behalf of the Trustees of the British Museum, who at their meeting of 19th March 2015 considered the request put forward by the Greek Government that they should enter into a process of mediation, facilitated by UNESCO, on the subject of the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum. 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 British Museum admires and supports the work of UNESCO, fully acknowledging the importance of its unique ability, as an intergovernmental agency, to address the serious issue of the threats to, and the destruction of, cultural heritage around the world. The Museum has a long history of collaboration with UNESCO, notably in Iraq in 2003-5, and is currently engaged with UNESCO in formulating responses to the crisis in Syria, including the illicit trafficking of antiquities. The Museum would wish always to align itself with UNESCO’s purposes in the preservation and safeguarding of the world’s endangered cultural heritage. However, the surviving Parthenon Sculptures, carefully preserved in a number of European museums, clearly do not fall into this category.

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.

In pursuit of this aim, 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. 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.

The potential of this approach can be seen in the British Museum’s current special exhibition Defining Beauty, the Body in Ancient Greek Art, which opened to the public today. Here some of the Parthenon Sculptures are displayed with other works that similarly show the intense humanism of ancient Greek civilisation, including masterpieces generously lent by museums around the world. Nowhere else in the world is it now, or has it ever been, possible to see these objects together. The aesthetic impact is considerable, and the intellectual content compelling. This seems to us to point the way forward, as an example of the great public benefit that arises from museums internationally using and sharing their collections in this way.

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. Visitor surveys revealed that the display of the sculpture was received with great interest and warm enthusiasm. After two and a half thousand years, this was Russia’s first glimpse of the splendours of fifth-century Athens that have played such a central part in shaping Russian consciousness and culture.

Such initiatives, arranged directly between the participating institutions, seem to the Trustees a natural way of building from the fact that the surviving Parthenon Sculptures are shared among a number of European collections. This means that the sculptures can already be seen in a different historical context in each museum, and the Trustees believe this to be to the great benefit of world audiences. The sculptures in London are already seen by more than six million visitors each year, free of charge.

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 scholars of the British Museum and of other institutions that hold Parthenon Sculptures enjoy excellent collaborative relationships with Greek museums and universities, in Athens and elsewhere. These have included collaboration on research projects, publications and exhibitions. The British Museum has routinely lent to Greece, and indeed British Museum objects are currently on loan to the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. This demonstrates the warm relationships of mutual trust and respect that have been built up between scholars in Athens and London. The Acropolis Museum and the British Museum are both centres for Parthenon studies, and curators and colleagues from each institution have together discussed their common efforts to seek new audiences and to find new ways of interpretation.

As Trustees we attach great importance to these joint ventures, and believe that both the study of the Parthenon Sculptures and their display to the widest possible audiences illuminates not only the Classical Greek achievement but also its impact on the world. In conclusion, therefore, we would invite our colleagues in Greek museums to continue to work with us and to explore new ways of enabling the whole world to see, study and enjoy the sculptures of the Parthenon.

We are sending this letter both in English and in Greek, and are copying it to the Ministers for Culture and Europe, who are replying separately to Mr Bandarin’s letter of 9 August 2013.

Sir Richard Lambert
Chairman of the British Museum Board of Trustees

From:
British Government

26 March 2015
Alfredo Pérez de Armiñán
Assistant Director-General for Culture
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
1 Rue Miollis
75732 Paris Cedex 15
France
Dear Mr
Pérez de Armiñán,

PARTHENON SCULPTURES IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM

We are writing in response to the letter of 9 August 2013 from your predecessor, Francesco Bandarin, to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Equalities, the Foreign Secretary and the Director of the British Museum.

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). The issue of the Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum has been the subject of much discussion over the years both within the Committee and elsewhere, and while the UK is not formally a member of the Committee, officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the British Museum have regularly attended and sought to assist the Committee in its work.

Mr Bandarin asked us to consider a request put forward by the Greek Government to agree to a process of mediation, facilitated by UNESCO, with a view to transferring the Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum to Greece. At the Nineteenth Session of the ICPRCP in October 2014, the UK acknowledged that UNESCO stands ready to facilitate mediation discussions and the ICPRCP adopted a recommendation that invites the parties to consider making use of the mediation process as proposed by Greece.

While we remain keen to cooperate with UNESCO in its work, the fact remains that the Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum were legally acquired by Lord Elgin under the laws pertaining at the time and the Trustees of the British Museum have had clear legal title to the sculptures since 1816. Neither the British Government nor the British Museum are aware of any new arguments to the contrary since 1985, when a formal Greek request for the return of the sculptures was turned down by the British Government. We have seen nothing to suggest that Greece’s purpose in seeking mediation on this issue is anything other than to achieve the permanent transfer of the Parthenon sculptures now in the British Museum to Greece and on terms that would deny the British Museum’s right of ownership, either in law or as a practical reality. Given our equally clear position, this leads us to conclude that mediation would not carry this debate substantially forward.

In addition to the matter of clear legal title, a further relevant factor is that the Trustees of the British Museum are prevented by law from de-accessioning objects in the Museum’s collections unless they are duplicates or unfit for retention. Successive governments have indicated their support for this important legal principle, which is in common with the legal obligations of all the UK’s major public museums and protects the integrity of the British Museum’s collections.

We acknowledge that the Greek Government has aspirations relating to the transfer of the sculptures to Greece and all of us who have had the opportunity to visit the Acropolis Museum greatly admire it. The Acropolis Museum has allowed a greater proportion of the rich collection of sculptures from the Acropolis in Athens to be exhibited than ever before, and has provided a fitting home for many of the Parthenon sculptures that have been removed from the temple in recent years.

Given the global nature of the collection held by the British Museum, the many millions of visitors who visit each year have the opportunity to understand the significance of the Parthenon sculptures in the context of world history and they can do so free of charge. While we understand the strength of contrary opinion, we think that this is something of incalculable international benefit.

In that spirit, the British Museum has a long history of friendly collaboration with colleagues in the Greek Archaeological Service and has contributed to discussions around the restoration of the Acropolis monuments. It has also worked on a project to scan elements of the surviving Parthenon sculptures in both Athens and London. The UK Government is keen that the process of mutual, bilateral cooperation that exists between the UK and Greece on cultural matters should continue to develop.

Setting aside the differences relating to the Parthenon sculptures, we believe that there is scope for further co-operation and collaboratio n between the British Museum and the Acropolis Museum in the years ahead, and we hope that this path can be pursued.

We are copying this letter to Sir Richard Lambert, Chairman of the Trustees of the British Museum, who is replying separately to Mr Bandarin’s letter.

ED VAIZEY MP
Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy

RT HON DAVID LIDINGTON MP
Minister for Europe