For the love of the sculptures, Rodin's BM exhibition is not a justification for keeping them in London

The French artist, Auguste Rodin drew inspiration from the headless ancient sculptures. The Parthenon Marbles were his favourite works of art during his 15 visits to the British Museum from 1881 to 1917. Yet this is no argument for the British Museum's director Hartwig Fischer to justify retaining the sculptures from the Parthenon in the British Museum.

The new exhibition Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece (26 April – 29 July 2018) at the British Museum may place the sculptures 'in the context of world cultures' but does not justify the BM's refusal to allow Athens to display the surviving pieces as united as possible, and with views to the Parthenon itself.

'Although the marble stonework of the Parthenon had proven its durability against the ravages of time, it was not indestructible. In 1687, Venetian forces laying siege to Athens shelled the ancient city, igniting a powder magazine stored inside the Parthenon. The resulting explosion was catastrophic, obliterating the cella and the elaborate frieze that had adorned its exterior. Attempts by the Venetians to remove statues from the pediments were similarly disastrous, as multiple sculptures fell to the ground and were shattered beyond repair. Most of the remaining statues and reliefs (known as the "Elgin" or "Parthenon Marbles") were later spirited away in the early 19th Century by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Controversially, these pieces are displayed in the British Museum to this day. Meanwhile, the Parthenon itself has since undergone rigorous restoration and preservation work, with much of the damaged peristyle reassembled to give modern visitors a glimpse of the temple's ancient splendour atop the hill where it has stood for over two thousand years.' 

If understanding world culture also means understanding history's mistakes, then (where possible) putting right old wrongs can promote cultural and international relations. Reuniting the Parthenon Marbles in Athens ought to be a possibility that supports world cultures for all the right reasons and promotes greater understanding, respect and compassion.

We are certain that Rodin's exhibition at the British Museum will be exquisite and enjoyed by many, however it can never replace the sheer inspiration that would be enjoyed, by many more, if we could hope to see the surviving sculptures reunited in the superlative Acropolis Museum.

Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum, is also quoted as saying that although other artists had been inspired by the Parthenon sculptures, Rodin had responded "with a passion that was to last a lifetime". The passion and love for the Parthenon Marbles felt by millions of Acropolis Museum visitors will continue forever. A Rodin's exhibition at the British Museum would be equally possible with a loan from Athens to London too.

Whilst the BM might be trying to recontextualize the sculptures from the Parthenon, a building which still stands - it will never erode the natural thirst of millions of visitors to the Acropolis Museum, hoping to see the unity of this peerless work of art.

More articles on this include:

British Museum claims French artist Rodin proves why Parthenon Marbles should stay in Britain

Rodin's work to go on show in London next to Parthenon marbles

Rodin's love of the Parthenon sculptures revealed

Article in the Evening Standard and letter from Chair of the BCRPM to the Evening Standard

Rodin Eve Standard

Letters Page Evening Standard:

Dear Sirs,

I write as Chair of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, to remind interested parties that although Rodin was much excited by the sculptures he saw in the Museum, and found them inspiring, he nevertheless lamented their exile from the sweet Attic sunlight beloved of Homer: "Toutes les lumières électriques n'ont pas la force de les empêcher de rechercher éternellement la douce lumière d'Homère".

Those sculptures, which we prefer to attribute to the Parthenon from whence they were grabbed rather than to Elgin the grabber, should now be relinquished back to the city they once crowned. They have inspired artists and thrilled the curious in their gloomy rooms in Bloomsbury for long enough and now the country of their origin deserves their glory, in the museum built especially to house them facing the Acropolis and the still miraculously upright building that they once adorned.

Yours sincerely,
Janet Suzman DBE
London NW3 2RN

 

Acropolis treasures on display in Shanghai

Shanghai Museum's exhibition "Treasures from the Acropolis Museum"  will run until 08 April 2018 and include two treasures from the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

The marble statue of a Kore (520-510 BC), one of the most beautiful and well-preserved sculptures of the Acropolis, which retains traces of its old colours, and a red-figure Lekanis Lid with a Dionysian scene (350-325 BC).

These two treasures from the Acropolis Museum in Athens, the Kore and the Lekanis Lid, are part of a cultural exchange program between the Shanghai Museum and the Acropolis Museum, which was signed in December 2015.

'Through these masterpieces, visitors have an opportunity to acquaint  themselves with the place of origin of the gods of Olympus and the manner in which the ancient Greeks worshipped their gods.' 

The Acropolis Museum currently displays two Shanghai Museum treasures: the bronze pan of Zi Zhong Jiang (770 – late half 7th century BC) and the hand scroll painting "Travelling along the Clear River" (17th century). These two exhibits will remain on display until 30 April 2018 on the ground floor foyer during Museum opening hours. In this area of the Acropolis Museum, no admission ticket is required.

 

Chair Dame Janet Suzman writes fresh refutations to old objections

FRESH REFUTATIONS TO OLD OBJECTIONS

The location of the Parthenon Marbles and their acquisition has to be rethought in the light of a different world. If you know a great deal about this subject we hope that what we have written here will continue to engage you, and if you know nothing at all, that this will help you find greater understanding.

London and Athens

It is said if the British Museum ever agreed to return the Marbles to Athens, it would "open the floodgates", leading to the denuding of the world's encyclopaedic museums.
There is no hard evidence that museums would be denuded should the fragmented Parthenon marbles be returned to their other halves in Athens. For European and North American museums to suggest that they would be denuded is tantamount to admitting that part of their collections were dubiously acquired. They might not be wrong. Some items have already been returned and no great fuss has ensued.
In any event, the Parthenon marbles present a unique case in that the original building to which they belonged is still standing in plain sight. This makes the specific case for their return exceptional.
The great encyclopaedic or 'universal' museums in London, Paris, Berlin, New York - ex-colonialists to a man - are all subject to laws laid down in internationally agreed legal instruments such as the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the safeguarding of cultural property.

More on BCRPM's Chair Dame Janet Suzman's fresh refutations to old objections, here.

And a response, which continues to be relevant, made four years ago by our late Chairman, Eddie O'Hara too:

Acropolis museum eddie wrote

SEASONAL BEST WISHES FOR CHRISTMAS & 2018

SEASONAL BEST WISHES FOR CHRISTMAS & 2018

acropolis museum shop 2018 0

Image: The Acropolis Museum’s good luck charm for 2018 is inspired by an exhibit of wreath presented on a marble slab displayed in the Gallery of the Slopes (Mid-1st century, ΕΜ 8124). The Archon and Head Overseer of Justice (the ‘Thesmothetis’) Mitrodoras from Marathon was presented with a wreath of myrtle by the City of Athens on retirement in recognition of his good service.  He in turn dedicated a relief representing the wreath to the God of Justice ‘Apollo under Makrais’ that was worshipped in a cave under the ‘long’ rocks, west of the Acropolis.

Design: Kostas Dimopoulos

The Chair & Members of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles

Chair: Dame Janet Suzman, DEPUTY CHAIR: Professor Paul CartlEDge, Honorary President: Professor Anthony Snodgrass, Founder: Eleni Cubitt, MEMBERS: George Bizos, Christopher Stockdale, Professor Judith Herrin, Professor Oliver Taplin,      Professor Edith Hall, Dr Peter ThonemanN, Professor Constantine Sandis, BeNJAMIN RAMM,Alexi Campbell, KEITH HUNTER, VICTORIA SOLOMONIDIS,Stuart o’hara, Christina Borg, phil reeve,Marlen Godwin  Website: www.parthenonuk.com   Facebook: The British Committee for the reunification of the Parthenon MarblesTwitter:@BCRPM Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.