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Virtually reuniting the Parthenon Marbles

A new exhibition, titled Marbles Reunited aims to demonstrate how much is gained if the surviving Parthenon Sculptures are reunited in one place, rather than fragmented between different museums.

BBC News [1]

Monday, 27 January, 2003, 14:11 GMT
Science reunites Elgin Marbles

A virtual reality exhibition showing how the Elgin Marbles would look if they were reunited goes on display at the Houses of Parliament on Monday.

The latest technology is being used to simulate how the 5th Century BC sculptures will appear if they are reunited with the rest of the Parthenon Marbles in Athens.

The Marbles are displayed in London’s British Museum, but the Greek Government and a number of British MPs and celebrities are campaigning for the artefacts to be returned to Greece.

Among the campaign’s supporters is actress Vanessa Redgrave, who is due to attend the opening of the exhibition in the Macmillan Room of Portcullis House from 1900 GMT.

Richard Allan MP, a former archaeological student who is leading the British campaign, said: “The clock is ticking towards 2004 when the whole world’s eyes will be on Athens as the Olympic Games are held there.

“We believe that it is more important than ever that the UK engages in the debate about the future display of the Parthenon Marbles.”

The Greek Government is currently building the New Acropolis Museum – a £29m showcase for the marbles – which it hopes to complete in time for the Olympic Games.

The exhibition, entitled Marbles United, includes a computer simulated walk through the museum, showing the reunited marbles displayed in glass cases.

It features alongside a presentation of how the various elements from the Parthenon, currently divided between Athens and London, will come together.

The virtual exhibition was first presented to the UK by the architect of the new museum, Bernard Tschumi, during a visit by Greek culture minister Evangelos Venizelos.

The marbles, ancient sculptures which once adorned the Parthenon in Athens, have been held in the British Museum since 1811.

The Times [2]

January 25, 2003
Greeks use heads and feet in the battle for Elgin marbles
by Dalya Alberge

Athens has made a “virtual reunion” of the frieze in the campaign for its return
THE Greeks have mounted a new attack in their campaign for the return of the Elgin Marbles by publishing a photographic “virtual reunion” of the dismembered heads, limbs and torsos now thousands of miles apart.

The Greek Ministry of Culture has produced photographs that illustrate the extent to which fragments of centaurs, horses and gods remain split between the British Museum in London and the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

The foot of a Lapith woman is in London, but her torso is in Athens. Horses’ heads are separated from their bodies. A head of Iris is in Athens; the torso is in London.

In a battle scene between a centaur and a Lapith, the heads of a Lapith and a centaur are in Athens, and their torsos are in London.

In a booklet titled The Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, the Greek Ministry has used photographic overlays on transparent pages to re-create how all the pieces of this 5th-century BC jigsaw could look.

Evangelos Venizelos, the Minister of Culture, said: “Seeing these examples, the reader can appreciate the necessity of the reunification of all these sculptures: the head misses its body, the horses’ flanks need their legs and hooves, goddess Athena’s head calls for its torso.”

The request for the return of the sculptures was being made in the name of the world’s cultural heritage, he said. “Until restitution is made, the mutilated monument will be seen as a sad reproach to that heritage.”

Victoria Solomonidis, the cultural attaché at the Greek Embassy in London, said: “Short of reuniting all of these elements in Athens, there can be no more persuasive argument for their reintegration than this photographic montage of what the reunified pieces of sculpture will look like, given the will to go beyond the issue of ownership, in the name of bilateral cultural and educational co-operation between Greece and the UK, in the name of international scholarship.”

Although Britain has always argued that the Marbles were legally acquired in the early 19th century by Lord Elgin, the British Ambassador, Greece is building an Acropolis Museum crowned with an upper glass gallery called the Parthenon Hall, which will remain empty until the Marbles have been returned.

Anthony Snodgrass, Laurence Professor Emeritus of Classical Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, believes that the photographs reflect the importance of reuniting the sculptures. “It is an offence against scholarship to have them separated and an offence against art,” he said. “They could be brought together.

“There is more than one option. The British Museum hasn’t shifted an inch in response to the mile the Greek Ministry has shifted.”

The Greeks have said that the British Museum could loan the sculptures, while retaining ownership, and have an outpost in Athens.

Professor Snodgrass said: “They’re all drastic changes of position. In return . . . nothing.”

Although the Greeks want the entire collection returned to the Parthenon, swaps between international museums are not unknown. In October Italy promised to hand back to Greece a 35cm-square fragment of the statue of the goddess Artemis, which once stood on the east side of the Parthenon and has been in a museum at Palermo since the late 18th century.

In response, the Greek authorities are to return to Sicily the helmet of Hieron, the tyrant of Syracuse, which was discovered on Mount Olympus in the 1950s.

The ministry’s publication comes as numerous British Olympic medallists, including Linford Christie, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, are joining the campaign to persuade the British Government to return the Marbles for the 2004 Olympics.

Richard Allan, the Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam who heads the “Parthenon 2004” campaign, said: “They know better than anyone else the true spirit of the Olympics and have recognised that 2004 provides the perfect opportunity for Britain to make this gesture.”

He pointed out that a Mori poll last autumn showed that the number of people wanting to keep the Marbles in Britain under all circumstances had fallen to 7 per cent. Although 41 per cent said that they had visited the British Museum, only 9 per cent said they had visited the Duveen gallery to see the Marbles.

The Parthenon 2004 campaign has created a computer-simulated walk-through of the New Acropolis Museum alongside a display showing how the Parthenon Marbles are divided between London and Athens and how they could look together. A public exhibition will be staged in London this year.

A spokesman for the British Museum said that the fragmentary separation of works of art was very common. “The unification of fragments of sculpture has traditionally been solved by the exchange of plaster casts or the publication of photographic imagery. Museums are looking into the digital technology route, which would enable further virtual reunification.”

He reiterated that the museum’s position remained unchanged, referring to a statement from the director, Neil MacGregor: “The British Museum is the best place for the Parthenon sculptures in its collection to be displayed.”

The Parthenon was built on the Acropolis of Athens between 447 and 432 BC. A statue in gold and ivory representing Athena, patron goddess of the city, stood inside the temple, which was adorned with marble sculptures representing scenes from Athenian mythology. The British Museum’s collection includes 247ft of the original 524ft of frieze, 15 of 92 metopes, 17 figures from the pediments, and various other pieces of architecture.