June 12, 2009

Was an Elgin Marbles loan offer ever made?

Posted at 8:38 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

Without further information, it seems to me that the latest story regarding the rejection of a potential loan of the Parthenon Marbles does not make sense. There was never a loan offer as such – everything seems to be based on the prerequisites laid out by the British Museum in many previous statements on what conditions would need to be met before a loan could take place (not specifically of the Parthenon Marbles – in theory it would be the same with any artefact). This situation has not changed, so is hardly newsworthy, although the Marbles are obviously on the agenda for the press this week with the imminent opening of the New Acropolis Museum in a few days time.
Further to the above point though, it is not clear that there was never any loan offer made by the British Museum. Even if it is take as an assumed offer based on other statements, this does not sound very definite, as many other potential loans may meet the prerequisite condition, but then be rejected for other reasons.

Bloomberg News

Greece Rejects British Museum’s Terms for Elgin Marbles Loan
By Maria Petrakis

June 11 (Bloomberg) — Greece said it won’t accept the British Museum’s conditions for allowing the Elgin Marbles, a collection of disputed ancient artworks, to go on display at the New Acropolis Museum.

Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said the museum’s loan condition — that Greece acknowledge the fifth-century B.C. antiquities as the property of the British Museum — would be unacceptable to any Greek government.

“Accepting this is tantamount to legitimizing the snatching of the marbles and the carving up of the monument 207 years ago,” Samaras said in an e-mailed statement.

He said Greece would be willing to loan other antiquities to the British Museum “to fill the gap when the marbles are returned to the country they belong.”

The New Acropolis Museum, constructed to house antiquities from the 2,500-year-old Parthenon Temple, officially opens on June 20. Replicas of the artworks in London, which were taken from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin in the 19th century, while Greece was under Ottoman rule, will be displayed alongside relics left in Greece.

Successive U.K. governments have declared that the marbles will not be returned. The British Museum’s director, Neil MacGregor, said in a 2007 interview that objects in the collection could in theory be loaned for three or six months, though this would be impossible while the Greek government refuses to acknowledge that his trustees are the legal owners of the stones.

The fifth-century B.C. frieze depicts gods, giants, people and centaurs in the annual Panathenaic procession.

For more information on the museum, go to http://www.newacropolismuseum.gr/eng/.

To contact the writer on the story: Maria Petrakis in Athens at mpetrakis@bloomberg.net
Last Updated: June 11, 2009 10:06 EDT

Agence France Presse

Greece rejects Parthenon Marbles loan offer: ministry
21 hours ago

ATHENS (AFP) — Greece on Thursday turned down a British Museum loan offer for the long-disputed Parthenon Marbles, arguing that acceptance would “legalise their snatching” by a 19th century British diplomat.

“The government, as any other Greek government would have done in its place, is obliged to turn down the offer,” Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said in a statement.

“This is because accepting it would legalise the snatching of the Marbles and the monument’s carving-up 207 years ago,” Samaras said.

He was responding to statements by British Museum spokeswoman Hannah Boulton who told Greek Skai Radio on Wednesday that the museum could consider loaning the Marbles to Greece for three months.

But Greece would have to recognise the museum’s ownership rights to the sculptures, she said.

Samaras on Friday said he is prepared to discuss other Greek antiquity offers to “fill the gap” in the British Museum should the Marbles return home.

Greece has long pursued a campaign for the return of the priceless friezes, removed in 1806 by Lord Elgin when Greece was occupied by the Ottoman Empire and later sold to the British Museum.

A new museum for the remaining parts of the frieze and other sculptures from the Acropolis is scheduled to open on June 20.

Greece has invited foreign leaders and museum officials to attend the five-day inauguration which it hopes will pile pressure on the British Museum to return the Marbles.

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