Welcome to the site of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. These pages contain detailed information on the Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles, together with the case for their return to Athens, Greece. If you would like to find out about the various ways to get involved with the campaign, or simply to learn more about the subject, then please read on.
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The sculptures’ seizure remains a disgraceful chapter in our history.
16 December 2014
Letters page Evening Standard
Lord Elgin did not save the marbles
It is the height of disingenuousness for the British Museum’s Neil MacGregor to claim that Lord Elgin “rescued” the Parthenon sculptures for the sake of art (December 12). There is convincing evidence in Elgin’s correspondence that he sought to place them in his own home, only agreeing to their sale to the government as security on a bad debt.
Contrary to his claims, he had no authorisation to hack the sculptures from the Parthenon. Even contemporary British accounts criticised his actions as “the most flagrant acts of spoliation”. The sculptures’ seizure remains a disgraceful chapter in our history.
Why has the British Museum loan of Ilissos to Russia's Hermitage Museum caused a stir?
The river god Ilissos has been loaned by the British Museum to St Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum, Russia and will be on display there until mid-January 2015 before returning to London
So the British Museum "under a cloak of secrecy both for security and to ensure maximum impact" has lent a pedimental sculpture from the Parthenon to the Hermitage. Could we suggest a third reason? To delay and manage the predictable surge of outrage which this action has caused not only in Greece, of course, but in many countries around the world where groups campaign for the reunification of the sculptures of the Parthenon, not least here in Britain where opinion poll after opinion poll returns a substantial majority in support. The sculpture was transported by air and not by the more obvious means of road transport, perhaps to avoid formal or informal intervention en route. However the British Museum may well find that it has shot itself in the foot. Its action will widely be construed as at best insensitive and at worst frankly provocative and give a fresh stimulus to the campaign for the reunification of the sculptures of the Parthenon.
The accompanying news management by the British Museum scales new heights of disingenuousness. Lord Elgin did not "rescue" the sculptures. He collected them. His original purpose was not to introduce the British public to the wonders of Greek art. It was to decorate his home in far northeast Scotland, where precious few of the British public would have had the chance to see them. By cutting them from the building he was not setting an example followed by the later Greek Government. It was mutilation. It never occurred to anyone to demount the sculptures until the advent of industrial pollution and acid rain. Their "reputation as art rather than decoration" was not "forged in London". They were art from the moment of their creation. They were never mere decoration. They were integral elements of a building which was itself a work of art.
The 7th Lord Elgin
The cultural warming of "chilled" relations with Russia is at the expense of a bonfire of relations with Greece and public relations in other countries and closer to home. The display of the Cyrus cylinder in Iran is not a good comparison. Are there no Russian treasures in the museum's collection which they could have loaned? Why a Greek treasure which they will not allow into Greece?
It is not true that they would loan to the Greeks but they would refuse a loan on grounds of disputed ownership. In 2002 they refused a request from culture minister Venizelos for a loan, and in 1995 culture minister Pangalos said, "Let's put aside arguments about ownership and talk about where the sculptures should be". It is not only for "more than 40 years" that Greece has requested their return. Published documents exist to show that the demand has been constant from the very inception of the Greek State as a legal entity.
Then what about the statistical conjuring trick of saying that 30 per cent of the 30 per cent that has been lost is in other museums. That sounds a lot until you realise that that is 9 per cent. And even that is an exaggeration when you add up one metope and one slab of maybe a metre of frieze in the Louvre and a few small fragments elsewhere. But perhaps the most egregious example is the way in which the funeral oration of Pericles is traduced. Yes, Pericles did say that the whole world is a monument to those who die in war. It was his equivalent of our "age shall not wither them..." Intoned annually at memorial services. It stretches his meaning too far to transfer this to the sculptures as ambassadors of Athens in foreign lands. In fact Pericles in the same oration refers to "mighty monuments of our power which will make us wonder of this and succeeding generations." He did not need to point. His audience would almost certainly have looked across the Acropolis, crowned with the Parthenon. The Parthenonis still there. It does indeed immortalise Periclean Athens. Half (to be precise, just under half) of its surviving sculpted elements are there. Just over half in London. Surely the onus of justification is on NOT bringing them all together, and Athens is the only place where that can happen.
The Parthenon Gallery in the Acropolis Museum, the one place on earth where it is possible to have a single and aesthetic experience simultaneously of the Parthenon and its sculptures
Let us be clear: the case for the reunification of the Parthenon sculptures rests on the fact that those in the British Museum are part of an artistic unity with those in the Acropolis Museum and together they are part of a unity with the Parthenon. Separated, their artistic integrity is impaired. In some cases single sculptures are separated thus.
It is not a matter of who owns them, it is a matter of where they should be. Indeed argument about ownership is a diversion and distraction from the cultural arguments on which this matter should properly be resolved.
The sculptures of the Parthenon do not need the British Museum to demonstrate their quality and importance. No more does the British Museum need the Parthenon sculptures to prove its excellence. Sure they enhance it. But in essence they are essentially exemplars to illustrate its cross cultural narrative, chosen because of their existence in the museum's collection as a result of an accident of history - the divorce do the 7th Lord Elgin which bankrupted him and forced him to sell his collection to the government in a fire sale.
Q & A with Eddie O'Hara
Q: WHY, AS BRITISH CAMPAIGNERS, ARE YOU FOR THE RETURN OF THE PARTHENON MARBLES TO GREECE?
A: The issue of the reunification of these sculptures is a a matter of universal concern. We as British campaigners have a particular responsibility in this as it is a British museum, which holds half of the surviving sculptures from the Parthenon.
We also have a particular responsibility to convince the British press, public and politicians of the need to reunify them with their counterparts in Athens.
We have had much success in persuading the British public, as indicated by numerous opinion polls, and also professional opinion, as demonstrated by a 2012 poll in the Museums Journal showing a majority of 73% in favour of reunification, but less so with politicians and the cultural establishment.
Much of our campaigning is focused on informing and educating a critical mass of the general public which could not be ignored by elected politicians and the cultural establishment.
Q: IS THE MODERN GREEK STATE THE LEGITIMATE OWNER OF THE PARTHENON MARBLES.
A:Legal title to the ownership of these sculptures is extremely difficult to establish conclusively.
It is well documented that The British Government purchased the sculptures legally from Lord Elgin.
However Lord Elgin acquired the sculptures in questionable circumstances, the evidence for which is difficult to determine in full detail. There is much evidence that he exceeded what he had been given authority to remove by the Ottoman authorities.
The Ottoman state could be argued to have had legal title at the time of Elgin's acquisition; but the modern Turkish state is a different entity.
The Greek national state did not exist at the time of Elgin's acquisition of the sculptures and had never existed before that.
The only entity that could be argued to have had undisputed legal title was the demos of ancient Athens, but that did not survive antiquity.
Then there have to be taken into account differences of property ownership across time and countries, including the British Museum Act 1963.
But anyway, this should be seen not as a legal but essentially as a cultural issue. The sculptures belong to the Parthenon.
Q:IS THE BRITISH MUSEUM'S REFUSAL TO RETURN THE MARBLES LEGITIMATE.
A: Over the years the British Museum has advanced a number of arguments which have been described as "historical curiosities discredited variously as inconsequential, disingenuous, debatable, statistically dubious or just plain wrong" (E O'Hara, Museums Journal, 112/06, 01/06/2012).
The one that continues to have specious public resonance is the "floodgates" argument - that to concede to the demand for the return of these sculptures would set a precedent leading to a flood of similar requests which would, if conceded, denude the galleries of the great museums.
This argument is incidentally close to an admission that much of the cultural property in the great museums is of questionable provenance. It is also overstated. The great museums have on permanent display a mere fraction, perhaps 20%, of the property in their collections. Also, not every demand would be of equal merit and each would be considered on its merits.
But anyway, the "floodgates" argument does not apply to the Parthenon Marbles. They are probably uniques in being integral elements of a fixed monument which is a UNESCO world heritage site, sawn off and divided for display, mainly in museums 2,000 miles apart. Thus their reunification would set no precedent.
The British Museum has recently rested its case on its status as a "universal" museum which transcends national cultural boundaries and presents the sculptures in a global context, unlike the "parochial" Acropolis Museum.
The status of "universal" museum is self serving and self designated by the Bizot Group of major museums. It is by no means universally accepted. There is evidence that most visitors do not seek or make the claimed cultural crossconnections. Rather they treat the collections as a smorgasbord of disparate delicacies.
Thus in essence the Parthenon Marbles are at best exemplars in the British Museum's collection and at worst trophies. Whichever way, their presence is essentially elective.
The Acropolis Museum makes no pretensions to being " universal" museum. It is focused on providing a comprehensive and holistic narrative of the Acropolis and is associated monuments. The role of the Parthenon Marbles in this narrative is not elective but integral and essential. This arguably gives the Acropolis Museum greater entitlement than the British Museum to the inclusion of the Parthenon Marbles in its display.
Q: COULD GREECE USE ANY LEGAL MEANS IN THE INTERNATIONAL/EUROPEAN LAW SYSTEM ....... TO RECLAIM THE PARTHENON MARBLES.
Greece is currently pursuing the matter through the UNESCO mediation process. An approach has been made to the British Government which has said it will respond in due course. However the issue has been on the agenda of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Promotion of the return of Cultural Property since 1987.
Also the Swiss Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures is currently pursuing a number of initiatives through the processes of the European Union.
However it is notoriously difficult to secure a judgement from an international organisation such as these against one of its members.
Q: IS THE MARBLES ISSUE A CULTURAL PROBLEM OR ONE OF MODERN NATIONALISM?
It is certainly a matter of visceral concern to the Greek people.
This is sometimes misrepresented and criticised as nationalism, a political concept of dubious pedigree.
In fact it is rather a matter of ethnicity: the Greek state and people regard the Parthenon as an iconic symbol of their ethnic identity. This is a cultural concept.
According to the Faro Convention (2005) an identified cultural group have a human right to the enjoyment of their cultural heritage.
An Affair without Ending: The Parthenon and its Sculptures
Antonia Georgiadou (MA Tourism Management, University of Westminster)
As a matter of fact, life appears to unfold through a series of events, which involve rituals and movements with a certain purpose and way of conduct, and depend on space and time to acquire meaning and fill us with memories. Travelling as an event during one’s lifetime encapsulates by definition the need to escape, explore, learn and remember…something different, unique and original. What is more, it said that the more intense the emotions of the traveller, the more genuine their experience.
My MA thesis entitled “Exploring Authenticity in Heritage Tourism: The Dialectic Between the Visitor, the Setting and the Experience at the New Acropolis Museum and at the British Museum” has aspired to foster the legitimacy of the New Acropolis Musem as the first better home to accommodate the artefacts from the Acropolis, predominately the Parthenon Sculptures. It took me precisely two (2) weeks to compile 100 questionnaires answered by visitors to the New Acropolis Museum, last June, whereas I barely managed to gather 50 at the British Museum carrying out my survey for another two (2) weeks, the following July. Of course, I still remain convinced that would I have been granted permission to just enter the British Museum courtyard-which I only found out later that constitutes “public space”-the target of the 100 samples would have been more surely reached. For this reason, I find it more appropriate to limit the discussion to the results of the first on-site survey, discarding the others for the sake of authenticity, which is what the whole research has sought for, after all.
About a year ago (summer 2013), people from 31 different countries aged between 18-69 years-old, 42 men and 57 women, were asked to fill in a questionnaire about their experience at the New Acropolis Museum on the day of their visit. Surprisingly, it occurred that more than half of them (i.e. 65 out of 100) had also visited the Parthenon (Duveen) Gallery at the British Museum. Their responses are quite enlightening. Most of them motivated purely by personal interest thought of the museum overall atmosphere as quite positive and lively during their tour, while they were also pleased with the exhibition design, particularly the ease of circulation, signage/directions, info on exhibits, position of artefacts, lighting, meaningful interconnection of the collection. According to their answers, the most helpful tools to comprehend the meaning of the exhibition were their own perception and individual interpretation, the labels as well as the atmosphere, in general.
Drawing on the psychological and socio-cultural aspect of the museum experience, it becomes evident that the visitor experience at the New Acropolis Museum showcases three (3) main affective states towards the exhibits: respect (72%), admiration (65%) and reflection (38%). On the other hand, guests upon their exit from the museum building admitted to have felt “satisfaction” (57%) followed by an equal share of “introspection” (24%), “pride” (23%), and “nostalgia” (22%). Last but not least, 78/100 visitors answered that the “location of the museum enhanced [their] experience” while 70/100 agreed that “the surrounding environment supports the character of the museum”. Finally, at the end of the questionnaire, interviewees were given room to provide freely their own feedback-either positive or negative-about their visit. The whole survey had no intention whatsoever to touch upon or challenge people’s opinion on the return of the so-called Elgin Marbles.
Returning the Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum to the New Acropolis Museum had always been a subject for high culture discourse on the part of the elite, but also a communal vision of national identity for the Greek society. Decades of political confrontations and diplomatic negotiations have gone by without having achieved the desired effect yet. Personally, I have come to believe that the case is hardly ever going to be resolved. Paraphrasing the words of Melina Mercouri, I would advise that before arguing for their return we should all try to understand what the Parthenon Marbles mean to the rest of world, to each and every tourist who visits the Acropolis-not just the New Museum. Thus, it should not be all about having them back, but, instead, it should all be about ensuring that they are being taken good care of so as to be able to instil into their viewers the same sentiments and sensibility, until the day of them coming home…
Greek Ministry of Culture:Resolution 18GA 2014/40 passed at ICOMOS General Assembly in Florence, Italy
Greek Ministry of Culture:Resolution 18GA 2014/40 passed at ICOMOS General Assembly in Florence, Italy, 14 November 2014
DRAFT RESOLUTIONS – ICOMOS 2014
Dr. ATHANASIOS NAKASIS
PRESIDENT ICOMOS GREECE
Dr. ELENA KORKA
ICOMOS GREECE – International Issues
General Director of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage
Hellenic Ministry of Culture
BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND JUSTIFICATION:
In the 19th century Lord Elgin removed integral architectural sculptures from the frieze, the metopes and the pediments from the Parthenon. The Parthenon Marbles that are on display at the British Museum make up approximately 60% of the total remaining sculptural material of the monument. The need for their reunification with the other 40%, now exhibited in the Acropolis Museum in Athens, is a cultural desideratum. It will be to the benefit of every visitor (scholar or not), who seeks to view the Parthenon and its historical environment. The issue of the Parthenon Marbles is continuously on the agenda of the Committee for the Promotion of the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin (ICPRCP) since 1984. Twenty two (22) Committees all over the world were founded in support of the reunification, while polls carried out through the years, show the high public interest on the issue.
For many years Greece has requested from the British Government on various occasions and on a consistent basis the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles on the basis of collaboration and good will. This is probably the most famous and longstanding request of cultural heritage ever. It concerns this most exquisite monument of classical Athens and the most representative manifestation of the classical spirit.
At a meeting held between the Greek Minister of Culture and Sports and the Director General of UNESCO, in July 2013, the former asked UNESCO for its good offices, in order for Greece and the UK to enter into mediation for the issue of the Parthenon Marbles. UNESCO sent a letter to the Secretary of State of the U.K., Mr. William Hague, the Secretary of Culture, Ms Maria Miller and the Director of the British Museum, Mr. Neil MacGregor, informing them of Greece’s request that UNESCO examine the possibility of resorting to the process of mediation as foreseen by the relevant bylaws of the Organization, in order to reach an amicable solution concerning the Parthenon Marbles.
Moreover, on 1st and 2nd October representatives of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports met within the context of the Unesco Intergovernmental Committee for the Promotion of the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin (ICPRCP) with representatives of the British Government in order to discuss the Parthenon Marbles issue. The main point of the bilateral discussions this time was the lack of reaction of the UK to the invitation sent in August 2013 by UNESCO in regard to the mediation with Greece on the Parthenon Marbles issue.
The meeting resulted in a consensus, adopted by the Committee. The Recommendation invites Britain to consider the proposal for mediation.
In this framework UNESCO will use its good offices in order to facilitate further meetings between the two sides.
It is the first time that Member States of Unesco are invited to mediation since these rules have only been adopted in 2010.
The Rules of Procedure for Mediation and Conciliation are conceived under the general principles of equity, impartiality and good faith, which are intended to promote harmonious and fair resolution for disputes concerning the restitution of cultural property. Each State is invited to nominate and submit to the Secretariat the names of two individuals who may serve as mediators and conciliators. Their qualification is contingent on their competency and mastery in matters of restitution, resolution dispute and other specific characteristics of the protection of cultural property.
The rules of procedure are meant to be complementary to the work of the Intergovernmental Committee. It is noted that the text adopted by the Intergovernmental Committee represents a legal tool that does not constitute a binding normative obligation.
Regarding the above, the National Committee of ICOMOS Hellenic, deems it necessary to request the approval of the following proposal regarding the Greek request for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles in order, for the integrity of the monument, to be restored in its historic, cultural and natural environment:
1. Use of the procedure of mediation
2. UK should enter into mediation with Greece on the Parthenon Marbles issue, on the basis of UNESCO’s 2010 mediation rules.
Mediation is a new procedure, which is not binding and will encourage collaboration and discussion between the two sides to find a win-win solution.
RESOLUTION ADDRESSED TO:
The resolution addresses the following public agencies and other competent institutions:
1. Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports
2. UK Ministry of Culture, Media and Sports
3. National Committees for UNESCO
AGENCY RESPONSIBLE FOR IMPLEMENTING THE RESOLUTION:
1. State Public Services (e.g. Ministries of Culture)
3. ICOMOS (National Committees)
DRAFT TEXT FOR THE RESOLUTION:
The 18th General Assembly developed in Florence, Italy, from 9 to 14 November 2014, considering the the 19th Recommendation of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting The Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation and the basis of UNESCO’s 2010 mediation rules, resolved:
To support the mediation process proposed by Greece for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles on the basis of UNESCO’s 2010 mediation and to encourage both parties (Greece and United Kingdom) to open a fruitful dialogue aiming at a mutually acceptable solution.
Further reading :
“ACROPOLIS – A Unique World Heritage Monument - The Return of the Marbles”
Why it’s right to repatriate certain museum artefacts: a response to James Cuno by tom flynn
Defeatist outlook by British Museum Director, Neil MacGregor
From the Times article by Richard Morrison, published 07 November 2014
Neil MacGregor: ‘There is no possibility of putting the Elgin Marbles back’
The British Museum director explains why the Parthenon Sculptures will not be returned to Greece during his tenure
During his 15 years in charge of the National Gallery, Neil MacGregor was nicknamed Saint Neil by his adoring staff, partly because of his Christian beliefs and partly because he ran that place with a heavenly touch. After 12 years at the helm of the BM the halo is still in place — just.
It’s hard to recall now how disunited and financially adrift the mighty Bloomsbury institution seemed before MacGregor arrived. He has pulled it round and his own adroit media achievements — notably the marvellous BBC Radio 4 seriesA History of the World in 100 Objects— have given its treasures a much higher profile. With a new book and another Radio 4 series, he is doing the same thing for the BM’s latest big exhibition:Germany: Memories of a Nation.
Yet in some quarters, particularly around southern Europe, MacGregor is regarded more as devil than saint. He has never wavered from his view that the Elgin Marbles (or the Parthenon Sculptures, as the BM officially calls them) should stay in Bloomsbury rather than be returned to Athens, from where they were removed by Lord Elgin between 1801 and 1805. Now the Greeks are mounting their strongest attack on the BM’s position since the 1970s heyday of Melina Mercouri. They have hired a team of media-savvy human rights lawyers, including Geoffrey Robertson and Amal Clooney (wife of George). With a film about wartime art looting to publicise, Clooney himself also joined the attack earlier this year. Unesco, no less, has now called on Britain to take part in a “mediation procedure” with the Greeks to resolve the issue.
Saintly or not, MacGregor visibly bristles at that suggestion. “Unesco is an intergovernmental organisation but the trustees of the British Museum are not part of the British government,” he says. “The British government does not own the great cultural collections of this country. The pictures in the National Gallery, the objects in the British Museum, are held by the trustees and their duty is to preserve the objects for the study and enjoyment of the whole world. They have a charitable responsibility imposed by law to ensure that those objects give maximum public benefit.”
It’s the belief of MacGregor and his trustees (who, he points out, include “two Nobel prize-winners and distinguished people from all over the world”) that the Marbles will give “maximum public benefit” by staying in London, rather than going to a new museum in Athens. “From its beginning 250 years ago, the point of the BM was gathering together objects in one place to tell narratives about the world,” he says. “When the Parthenon Sculptures came to London it was the first time that they could be seen at eye-level. They stopped being architectural details in the Parthenon and became sculptures in their own right. They became part of a different story — of what the human body has meant in world culture. In Athens they would be part of an exclusively Athenian story.”
Athenian? “Yes. It’s not even a Greek monument. Many other Greek cities and islands protested bitterly about the money taken from them to build this in Athens.”
Surely one of the strongest Greek arguments is that all the Parthenon Sculptures should be reunited — and the obvious place for that to happen is as close to the Parthenon as possible. “Well, about 30 per cent of the Sculptures are in Athens and 30 per cent are here,” MacGregor counters. “You don’t have to be very mathematical to see that quite a lot of them no longer exist. So there’s no possibility of recovering an artistic entity and even less of putting them back in the ruined building from which they came. Indeed, the Greek authorities have continued Lord Elgin’s work of removing sculptures for exactly the same reason: to protect them and to study them.”
Another argument put forward by the Greeks is that the Marbles were illegally removed by Elgin. He certainly negotiated with the ruling authorities in Athens, but in the early 19th century that was the Ottoman empire, not the Greeks. “Was the acquisition legal?” MacGregor asks rhetorically before answering himself with a rather optimistic generalisation: “I think everybody would have to agree that it was.”
Isn’t the vital document giving Elgin the right to remove the Marbles missing? “You had to surrender the document as you exported,” MacGregor replies — now every inch the tenacious Scottish lawyer he once trained to be. “That’s the point. Everything was done very publicly, very slowly. In 1800 you couldn’t move great slabs of marble quickly. At any point the Ottoman authorities could have stopped it.”
Nevertheless, if artefacts acquired the same way as Elgin acquired the Marbles were offered to the BM today, wouldn’t modern ethical guidelines prevent their acceptance? MacGregor refutes even this, pointing to what he considers to be a present-day parallel. “The BM excavates in Sudan today at the invitation of the authorities,” he says. “And the Sudanese authorities allow us to keep some of what we find.”
So for all Mrs Clooney’s glamorous entreaties, is the BM still determined not even to talk to the Greeks about the future of the Marbles? “On the contrary,” MacGregor says. “The trustees have always been ready for any discussions. The complication is that the Greek government will not recognise the trustees as the legal owners, so conversations are difficult.”
Then how about lending the Marbles (or the parts fit enough to travel) as a temporary exhibition? After all, the BM is (as MacGregor points out) the most generous lender of all the world’s great museums. “The Greek authorities are not interested in borrowing them,” he replies. “That’s sad because these sculptures do belong to everyone. Letting them be seen in different places is important.”
Although the Elgin Marbles row may make him seem like one, MacGregor is far from being a conventional member of the British establishment. He accepted his appointment to the Order of Merit in 2010 but declined a knighthood in 1999 — the first National Gallery director to do so. When I ask him why, he clams up. “We have a convention in this country that we don’t discuss these things,” he says.
He is no more forthcoming about how much longer he might run the BM. “That’s for the trustees to decide,” he says. “I will say that this is a wonderful place to work: living daily with the greatest objects in the world and looking at them with the world’s greatest scholars.” From the fierce glint in his eye I surmise that he’s not going to quit just yet. And while he stays, so do the Marbles.
And our response to the Times
The one entity to which the Parthenon marbles indisputably and inalienably belong is the Parthenon, arguably the most significant of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They can never cease to be integral elements of its architecture. Together they are one artistic entity, albeit no longer entire but still exceptionally so after 2,500 years. Such a separation of such an important monument is surely unparalled. They can no longer be displayed in the open air, anywhere, but in Athens alone you have the nearest possible alternative. In the Acropolis Museum they can be viewed in direct line of sight with the Parthenon which can itself be part of the same visit. The case for their reunification is unique and overwhelming.
Chairman, the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles
Other related articles:
Letters from BCRPM to: Times, Independent and Telegraph
The British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles responds and justifies the reunification of the sculptures from the Parthenon.
In response to Jeremy Paxman, The Telegraph, 25/10/14
27 October 2014
The Elgin Marbles belong in Britain, Mrs Clooney
Please allow me to respond to just some of Mr Paxman's most egregious excesses. He suggests that Elgin saved these works of art from a fate as building rubble. He must know that it was standard practice until very recently for older buildings to be raided for building materials. The foundations of the Parthenon itself were recovered from a predecessor temple. However I am not aware that the Parthenon itself was so raided, nor that Mary Beard said so. The Parthenon and its sculpted elements are a single artistic entity. Their integrity is compromised as long as they are divided. Clearly the sculptures can no longer be replaced on the building, but the Acropolis Museum is unique in being the only place where these sculptures can be viewed in line of sight with the Parthenon itself.
UNESCO recognises the Parthenon's exceptional importance not only with World Heritage Status but by basing its own logo on it. We campaign only for this single restoration. It is surely unique. It offers no precedent for other returnist demands.
Finally, our case has nothing to do with the legitimacy or otherwise of Elgin's acquisition of his collection. After such a passage of time and change we believe that it is impossible to get a conclusive judicial determination, either way. Anyway to us a legal determination would be unworthy of the case. The moral and cultural case for reunification is overwhelming and enough.
Chairman, the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles
In response to Dominic Selwood, The Telegraph 22/10/14
The 7th Lord Elgin: hero or villain
22 October 2014
Dominic Selwood's article was interesting not least because it is rare nowadays to find someone defending the 7th Lord Elgin in such detail. However his article is littered with inaccuracies and categorically stated non-truths which require correcting, and contentious opinions which deserve a response. Perhaps in the interests of fairness you might give us space in your columns to reply in full. For the moment however let us just point out:
1. Whether or not Elgin "rescued" these sculptures, that is no excuse for holding on to them now;
2. The Greeks fought their war of independence in the name of Hellenism, a concept and a spirit preserved and transmitted through their language throughout centuries of conquests and occupations;
3. The Parthenon is a monument of unique significance not just for Greece but for western civilisation;
4. It is fixed monument and it is in Greece;
5. The sculptures are integral architectural elements of it;
6. Both the Parthenon and it's other sculpted elements lack artistic integrity while they are separated;
7. Admittedly, the sculptures can no longer be re fixed to the Parthenon or indeed displayed anywhere in the open. However in the glass walled Parthenon Gallery of the magnificent Acropolis Museum, glassed walled and in line of sight of the Parthenon, and only there, they can be viewed simultaneously with the building to which they belong. Thus the case for reunification of the Parthenon marbles is not a legal one about rights of ownership, current or historic, but cultural and ethical. The onus of justification should be on those who resist restoring the integrity of the sculptures from the Parthenon - the Parthenon a UNESCO World Heritage monument, the very emblem of UNESCO itself.
Chairman, British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles
In response to Nathalie Haynes, The Independent, 14/10/14
14 October 2014
Would returning the Elgin Marbles be the thin end of the repatriation wedge?
Let us start with where Natalie Haynes is correct: Yes, the British Museum did acquire the Parthenon marbles in good faith. Yes, the 7th Lord Elgin was a chancer. He exploited Nelson's victories over Napoleon's navy to seek personal favours as British Ambassador to the Ottoman court. He exceeded his licence from the Ottoman authorities to collect bits and pieces ("qualche pezzi di pietra") lying around on the acropolis. His purpose was to adorn his country home. He displayed his collection for profit and only sold it to the nation in a fire sale when his wife divorced him and took her money with her. His actions were criticised at the time, not least by Lord Byron, as plunder and vandalism.Now to where Natalie is wrong: the Duveen gallery is a relative dungeon where the marbles are displayed inside out compared with the glassed walled Parthenon Gallery gallery of the Acropolis Museum where they are displayed in the correct configuration AND in line of sight with the Parthenon itself.That they are a jewel in the crown of the British Museum is no more relevant than the fact that the Boscotrecase frescoes are such to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It does not justify their presence there. The question is: should the aesthetic integrity of the sculpted elements of the Parthenon, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the most important such site in Europe and the very emblem itself of UNESCO, remain impaired by their display in two museums 2,500 miles part?
The overwhelming verdict of public, academic and professional opinion, when it is canvassed, is overwhelmingly 'No'. Would it be the thin end of the wedge? Hardly likely. The ethical and cultural case for this reunification is overwhelming and unique. Not much precedent there.
Chairman, The British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles
In response to the Leading Articles in The Times 14/10/14
No Losing the Marbles, The Parthenon sculptures should remain at the British Museum
14 October 2014
Whose marbles are they anyway?
Where to start with the errors and misconceptions in your leader on the sculptures of the Parthenon? Perhaps with that, their correct description. They are integral, sculpted architectural elements of the Parthenon, sawn off by Elgin's agents who thereby mutilated and destroyed the artistic integrity of what is now recognised as the prime UNESCO World Heritage Monument in Europe, in fact the very emblem itself of UNESCO. He did not have the "keen agreement" of the Ottoman authorities but far exceeded the licence which they had given him to remove "qualche pezzi di pietra" lying on the ground. His actions were criticised at the time, not least by Lord Byron as both plunder and vandalism. Nor was this an expensive act of altruism. He wanted them to adorn his country home, displayed them initially for profit and sold them to the nation only when he was bankrupted by the consequences of his divorce. Your comparison with the Folger collection of First Folios is also misconceived. Folger was a collector of copies of books which were originally published as editions for the open market. His service to the world is to have collected and preserved them for public view and study. Nor is it the case that Greek politicians have been interested in these sculpted pieces only since the 1980s. There is published evidence of demands for their return from the very inception of the modern Greek nation state.
Finally it is specious to say that some of these sculptures are in the Louvre. The Louvre has one metope and one slab of the frieze. The BM has 15 metopes, a major portion of the pediments and over 50% of the surviving length of the frieze. Successive polls of professional and public opinion have overwhelmingly supported the reunification of the sculptures of the Parthenon.
Britain is shamed in the eyes of millions of visitors from around the world when they see the ghostly representations in the magnificent Acropolis Museum of the pieces absent in London. It is time for the British Museum and the British Government to open their eyes, raise their sights and respond appropriately. And, please, no more cheap jibes about losing our marbles.
Chairman, British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles