March 20, 2008

Looted artefacts conference in New Acropolis Museum

Posted at 1:52 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum, Similar cases

More coverage of the conference organised by UNESCO held in the New Acropolis Museum earlier this week. Many delegates who were speaking there on other restitution issues also used the conference as a platform to explain their own views why the Elgin Marbles should be returned. The conference was notable for many reasons, not least the fact that despite its location, it was attended by two representatives of the British Museum, one of who was speaking there about the return of a mask to Canadian First Nations people.

Kathimerini (English Edition)

Tuesday March 18, 2008 – Archive
Greek push for return of Marbles

Changes in museum policies and an increase in instances of cooperation between different countries for the repatriation of looted artifacts could pave the way for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, Culture Minister Michalis Liapis told an international conference in Athens yesterday.

“More and more museums are adopting tighter ethics codes and governments are promoting cooperation, so the ideal momentum is being created for clear solutions,” Liapis told the UNESCO event at the New Acropolis Museum.

Museum officials and archaeologists gave several examples of repatriated artifacts, such as the Obelisk of Axum, returned to Ethiopia from Rome in 2005. Experts also remarked upon the increase of works being smuggled out of war zones.

Christiane Tytgat, former curator at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels and director of the Netherlands Institute in Athens, said the Parthenon Marbles, currently in the British Museum, should be sent back too.“I support their return unreservedly… this is where they belong,” Tytgat said.


Conference on looted artefacts opens
Tue, 18 Mar 2008

Museum directors, curators and archaeologists gathered in Athens on Monday for a two-day UN conference on stolen artefacts in the shadow of the Acropolis, whose famous frieze is now in the British Museum.

The meeting is being held in the new Acropolis Museum, which was built with an empty room ready and waiting for the return of the marble sculptures — which the Greek government considers to have been stolen by the 19th century British ambassador, Lord Elgin.

“We are here in the best possible place to house the (Elgin) marbles,” Greek Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said as he opened the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) conference.

The British Museum has consistently refused to return the artefacts, which once sat upon the eastern facade of the Acropolis, claiming that such objects are “universal” and don’t belong just to one country.

Greece argues that the universal value of an art object cannot define its moral and legal owner.

The conference will also examine legal cases and precedents for the restitution of art works, and the legal requirements for claiming works in an increasingly competitive art market.

A 1970 international law on antique theft signed by 115 countries cannot help countries claim back art objects that were stolen before then and under colonial rule.

UNESCO’s deputy director-general for Culture, Françoise Riviere said the legal aspect of who owns stolen artefacts is age-old and almost endless.

Thefts of archaeological finds in war zones are also on the agenda.

“Illegal excavations are proliferating, particularly in areas like Iraq or Afghanistan,” said Françoise Riviere, demanding urgent action against looting.


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