The UK Doesn’t Want To Return The Parthenon Marbles

The British Museum is retaining the stance that it acquired the items legally almost 200 years ago.
By Helen Holmes • 10/06/21 1:40pm

The Parthenon Marbles are stored in an antiquated museum space, without adequate climate control and sometimes separated and treated not as a part of a whole but as a singular artistic object

The Observer article follows

Despite the fact that the UNESCO intergovernmental commission recently unanimously voted for the return of Grecian Parthenon sculptures from the U.K. to their country of origin, the U.K. has summarily rejected this proposed order of events, new reports indicate. Despite ongoing conversations regarding the importance of returning ancient artifacts to the countries from whence they came, the United Kingdom is arguing that the specific Greek items currently housed in the British Museum were obtained legally; therefore, the country is arguing that it bears no responsibility to return the sculptures. The British Museum has retained the sculptures in question within the institution for almost 200 years.

Additionally, despite claims that the items were stolen, the British Museum has maintained the position that the sculptures were acquired legally by Lord Elgin, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. The museum claims that Elgin was granted a permit between 1801 and 1805 that authorized him to remove a significant amount of sculptures from the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaia. Additionally, the British Museum’s website states that a Parliamentary Select Committee in 1816 found Elgin’s actions to be entirely legal.

“We disagree with the Committee’s decision adopted in the closing minutes of the session and are raising issues relating to fact and procedure with UNESCO,” a U.K. government spokesperson told Artnet News. “Our position is clear—the Parthenon Sculptures were acquired legally in accordance with the law at the time. The British Museum operates independently of the government and free from political interference. All decisions relating to collections are taken by the Museum’s trustees.”

The British Museum has also recently fielded requests from artists and governmental representatives in Nigeria who’d very much like to see the return of the Benin Bronzes; these priceless cultural artifacts have also been housed in the U.K. for a long time. Around the world, several different countries have more readily agreed to return the Benin Bronzes in their possession; Germany, for example, has accelerated its talks to return the Benin Bronzes in the country to Nigeria.


Our commentary

The British response to Greek requests for return of the Parthenon Marbles has long been:

“Elgin was granted a permit between 1801 and 1805 that authorized him to remove a significant amount of sculptures from the Parthenon.”

Of course it can’t be substantiated, there is no permit.

Britain has also made the point that returning the Parthenon Marbles would be a precedent that could open the flood gates, meaning it would leads to demands for the return of other objects it holds.

In addition to the Parthenon Marbles, Elgin also removed a Caryatid from they Erechtheion, and elements from the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaia. Greece has not sought the return of these objects.

While the global campaign for return of the Parthenon Marbles focuses on what Elgin removed from the Parthenon, consistent with the position of Greece, a small group have begun to widen the demands for return of objects. Some are insisting on the return of all objects that Elgin removed most notably the Caryatid from the Erechtheion.

This widening of demands to include other objects and elements from Greek antiquity is not only in contradiction with the official position of Greece, but it likely stimulates the floodgate fears from Britain, and could well harden British resistance. It is not helpful to the global movement for return of the Parthenon Marbles.

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Parthenon Sculptures – The Trustees’ statement

Following is

the British Museum’s defence for their retention if the Parthenon Marbles. What do you think? Can you see the flaws in their arguments? We are happy to receive your comments.

Reproduced without further comment from the British Museum

The position of the Trustees of the British Museum

The British Museum tells the story of cultural achievement throughout the world, from the dawn of human history over two million years ago, until the present day. The Parthenon sculptures are a significant part of that story.

The Museum is a unique resource for the world: the breadth and depth of its collection allow a global public to examine cultural identities and explore the complex network of interconnected human cultures. The Trustees lend extensively all over the world and over 3.5 million objects from the collection are available to study online. The Parthenon sculptures are a vital element in this interconnected world collection. They’re a part of the world’s shared heritage and transcend political boundaries.

The Acropolis Museum allows the Parthenon sculptures that are in Athens (about half of what survives from the ancient world) to be appreciated against the backdrop of Athenian history. The Parthenon sculptures in London are an important representation of ancient Athenian civilisation in the context of world history. Each year millions of visitors, free of charge, admire the artistry of the sculptures and gain insight into how ancient Greece influenced – and was influenced by – the other civilisations that it encountered. The Trustees firmly believe that there’s a positive advantage and public benefit in having the sculptures divided between two great museums, each telling a complementary but different story.

Common misconceptions

All of the sculptures from the Parthenon are in the British Museum

This is incorrect. About half of the sculptures from the Parthenon are lost, having been destroyed over the 2,500 years of the building’s history. The sculptures that remain are found in museums in six countries, including the Louvre and the Vatican, though the majority is divided roughly equally between Athens and London.

As a guide to our readers we will critique this first statement about the sculptures from the Parthenon

This statement deliberately minimises the impact of Elgin’s removal of sculptures from the Parthenon.

In the British Museum there are: 
17 pedimental figures
15 of the 92 metopes, and
75.2856 metres of the original 159.7152 Meters of frieze.

Apart from the Acropolis museum there are fragments in other museums

The Parthenon sculptures now in the British Museum were stolen

This isn’t true. Lord Elgin, the British diplomat who transported the sculptures to England, acted with the full knowledge and permission of the legal authorities of the day in both Athens and London. Lord Elgin’s activities were thoroughly investigated by a Parliamentary Select Committee in 1816 and found to be entirely legal. Following a vote of Parliament, the British Museum was allocated funds to acquire the collection.

This is untrue. What is now modern day Greece was occupied by the Ottoman Sultanate. No official original documentation extending legal authority for Elgin, or any member of his team, to remove sculptures, or other elements, from the Parthenon has ever been presented.

Elgin took many other things from Greece and his team produced a form of sales catalogue prior to the British Government’s acquisition of his collection. Here is a copy attributed to his chaplain W R Hamilton.

The Greek government has asked for a loan of the sculptures which has been turned down by the British Museum

The Trustees have never been asked for a loan of the Parthenon sculptures by Greece, only for the permanent removal of all of the sculptures in its care to Athens.

The Trustees will consider (subject to the usual considerations of condition and fitness to travel) any request for any part of the collection to be borrowed and then returned. The simple precondition required by the Trustees before they will consider whether or not to lend an object is that the borrowing institution acknowledges the British Museum’s ownership of the object. In 2014 the Museum lent the pediment sculpture of the river-god Ilissos to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, on the anniversary of that museum’s foundation. The Trustees frequently lend objects from the collection to museums all around the world, including Greece. In 2015–2016 the Museum lent 5,000 objects to hundreds of museums worldwide. The British Museum is the most generous lender in the world.

The Trustees’ policy and their willingness to consider loans to Athens has been made clear to the Greek government, but successive Greek governments have refused to consider borrowing or to acknowledge the Trustees ownership of the Parthenon sculptures in their care. This has made any meaningful discussion on the issue virtually impossible.

The British Museum argues that the sculptures in their collection should remain in London because there’s nowhere to house them in Greece and that the Greek authorities can’t look after them

Neither of these claims is true, and the British Museum doesn’t argue this. The Trustees argue that the sculptures on display in London convey huge public benefit as part of the Museum’s worldwide collection. Our colleagues in Athens are, of course, fully able to conserve, preserve and display the material in their care. We admire the display in the Acropolis Museum, in which the Parthenon sculptures are complemented by casts of all of those in London and elsewhere, creating as full a picture as is now possible of the original sculptural decoration of the temple.

The division of the Parthenon sculptures is a unique case. The sculptures can only be appreciated as a complete set

This isn’t so. Europe’s complex history has often resulted in cultural objects, such as medieval and renaissance altarpieces from one original location being divided and distributed through museums in many countries. Bringing the Parthenon sculptures back together into a unified whole is impossible. The complicated history of the Parthenon meant that by 1800 about half of the sculptures had been lost or destroyed.

The sculptures could be reunited on the Parthenon

This isn’t possible. Though partially reconstructed, the Parthenon is a ruin. It’s universally recognised that the sculptures that still exist could never be safely returned to the building: they’re best seen and conserved in museums. For this reason, all the sculptures that remained on the building have now been removed to the Acropolis Museum, and replicas are now in place.

The matter could be solved by the British Museum setting up an outpost in Athens

The Trustees of the British Museum believe that there’s a great public benefit to seeing the sculptures within the context of the world collection of the British Museum, in order to deepen our understanding of their significance within world cultural history. This provides the ideal complement to the display in the Acropolis Museum. Both museums together allow the fullest appreciation of the meaning and importance of the Parthenon sculptures and maximise the number of people that can appreciate them.

UNESCO have offered to mediate on the issue but the British Museum has refused

The British Museum has a long history of collaboration with UNESCO and admires and supports its work. However, the British Museum isn’t a government body. The Trustees have a legal and moral responsibility to preserve and maintain all the collections in their care and to make them accessible to world audiences. The Trustees want to strengthen existing good relations with colleagues and institutions in Greece, and to explore collaborative ventures directly between institutions, not on a government-to-government basis. This is why we believe that UNESCO involvement isn’t the best way forward. Museums holding Greek works, whether in Greece, the UK or elsewhere in the world, are naturally united in a shared endeavour to show the importance of the legacy of ancient Greece. The British Museum is committed to playing its full part in sharing the value of that legacy for all humanity.

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UNESCO:Pressure grows on the British Museum for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures

The issue of the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures was one of the main items on the agenda of the 22nd Session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee on the Return of Cultural Good.

Translated from Greek using Microsoft Word Translate


The issue of the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures was one of the main items on the agenda of the 22nd Session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee on the Return of Cultural Goods to  X-Hoursof Origin(ICPRCP).

According to the Ministry of Culture,the Commission for the first time this year, in addition to the Recommentation,which it has consistently adopted on the subject, unanimously voted for an additional text that is Decision  22  COM  17, exclusively aimed at the issue of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.

The Minister of Culture and Sports,  Lina Mendoni, after the completion of the work of the Intergovernmental Committee, stated that “Greece’s request for the final return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Athens, is constantly on the agenda of the Meetings of the Intergovernmental Committee of  UNESCO,for the Return of Cultural Goods to the Xhours of Origin(ICPRCP),since1984,  when it was first raised by Melina Mercouri, until today”.

“At the 22nd Session, which was concluded last night, Greece succeeded, in parallel with the publication of the Recommendation – in which reference is made to the poor conditions of exhibition of the Sculptures in the British Museum – the issuance, for the first time, of a Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee concerning specifically the issue of the return of the Parthenonian Sculptures. The Commission urges the United Kingdom to reconsider its position and to talk to Greece, recognising that the issue is of an intergovernmental nature – contrary to what the British side claims that the case concerns the British Museum – and above all that Greece is rightly and legally claiming the Return of the Sculptures to its birthplace. Both texts, of the Recommendation and the Decision, constitute a particularly important development in the legitimate claim of our country”, added Mrs. Mendoni.

“I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart the members of the Greek delegation, as well as of our Permanent Representation to UNESCO,who, with particular dedication to the goal of the final return of the Sculptures, worked systematically and achieved this extremely positive result,” she added.

Read more:  Mendoni for Parthenon Sculptures: Insulting and dangerous conditions of their exhibition

The added value of the Decision

As the Ministry of Culture points out in a statement, the added value of the Decision lies in the fact that the Commission expresses its strong dissatisfaction with the fact that the resolution of the issue remains outstanding, due to the attitude of the United Kingdom. Furthermore, it urges the United Kingdom to reconsider its position and engage in a bona gueful dialogue with Greece, emphatically underlining the intergovernmental nature of the dispute.

Accordingly, the text of the Recommendation reflects, among other things, the Committee’s concern about the fact that the Duveen  Gallery,in the British Museum, in which the Parthenon Sculptures are exhibited, is closed to the public, due to the necessary works to repair its damage.

Read more:  British museum: The answer to the conditions of storage of the Parthenon Sculptures

Greece’s righteous request for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures was strongly supported by the majority of the members of the Committee.

At the 22nd Session of the Intergovernmental Committee, Greece was represented by the Ministry of Culture by the Secretary General for Culture, Giorgos Didaskalou, the General Director of the Acropolis Museum, Nikolaos Stampolidis, the Head of the Directorate for the Documentation and Protection of Cultural Goods, Vassiliki Papageorgiou, and on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the Legal Advisor of the Special Legal Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Artemis Papathanasiou.

Read more:  International support for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures


From: https://www.kathimerini.gr/society/561519493/unesco-megalonei-i-piesi-sto-vretaniko-moyseio-gia-epistrofi-ton-glypton-toy-parthenona/

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Leaks from the British Museum

We have been monitoring the progressive deterioration of Room 18, the Parthenon Sculpture gallery for some time now.

Our most recent contact with the British Museum is best summarised in this article.

British Museum: Finally the Truth Leaks Out

On my first visit to the British Museum (BM) Parthenon Sculptures gallery in 2015, I was surprised to see this strange pattern on the skylight. London is not a dusty place, so I was puzzled that the skylight had not been cleaned.

Figure 1 The skylight in the British Museum Parthenon Sculptures Gallery.
Photo by Russell Darnley OAM

The following year I returned with Emanuel J Comino, Chair of the International Organising Committee – Australia – for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles (IOCARPM). We were in London for the event marking 200 years since Elgin sold the Parthenon Marbles to the British Government.

To my surprise the skylight was still filthy. This set off an ‘alarm’. I wondered if this 79-year-old skylight was too fragile to clean, indeed whether the roof of the gallery needed extensive maintenance.

The answer came quickly, in December 2018, when the skylight began leaking. after heavy rainfall in the London.

Iris with evidence of leakage in Rm18

Witnesses reported seeing water the dripping just centimetres away from the west pediment figure of Iris. Clearly this was not a problem that was to be easily dismissed, it seemed something very serious was taking place.

In the January of 2019, Yannis Andritsopoulos, UK Correspondent for Greek newspaper Ta Nea interviewed Dr Hartwig Fischer, the Director of the British Museum and asked about the December leak. Dr Fisher’s reply was:

“We had a tiny leak in one area of the roof in the Parthenon Sculptures’ galleries. A small quantity of rain entered the gallery, but did not touch any of the Sculptures and this was fixed right away.”

Ta Nea

When on 18th of June this year parts of England experienced one of the wettest periods on record, flooding was extensive, and in some places a month’s rain fell in a 24-hour period. The British Committeee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (BCRPM) with their Chair Dame Janet Suzman were outside the BM to celebrate the 12th anniversary of the Acropolis Museum and to ask the BM to come clean handing out a flyer jointly produced by our two committees. Janet Susman commented:

“It was good to catch up with visitors as they were arriving for their booked visiting slot but more so with those leaving, especially those that could not access the Greek galleries. We were all most concerned given the museum had been closed for sometime during Covid19 lockdown. And on enquiring how long the work would take, the reply from BM staff “not too long”.

BCRPM

Contacting the British Museum

We knew the museum had been closed from 16 December 2020 until 17 May 2021 in response to the national Covid-19 lockdown. On Monday 21st June I rang the BM for an update.

They confirmed that while the museum was now open, reopening of the Greek rooms was postponed “until further notice”. After months of lockdown, this was most concerning.

They brushed aside enquires about the reason for this closure merely citing maintenance in some parts of the museum. When asked directly about leaking the response was, “There is no report of this, there is scheduled maintenance in parts of the museum.” Again, on 25 July, heavy rains fell over London, but the British Museum remained silent.

Now the truth has leaked out.
Writing for The Art Newspaper in an article, Is it raining again in the British Museum’s Parthenon gallery? Cristina Ruizz wrote, A leaking roof has delayed the reopening of seven galleries of Greek art.

Ruizz continued: Water seeping into the British Museum’s Greek galleries from a leaky roof has delayed their reopening.

Seven galleries of Greek art, including the museum’s display of Parthenon sculptures, were expected to reopen to the public at the end of July following a seven-month closure, museum sources say.

But this was pushed back after heavy rainfall on 25 July caused flooding in central London and led to water leaking into one of the museum’s Greek galleries, sources say.

A British Museum spokeswoman confirmed that “there was some water ingress in one of the [Greek] galleries” in July but said she could not identify the specific gallery. She also could not say when the displays might reopen.

Greece’s minister for culture and sport Lina Mendoni’s response

The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (IARPS) Chair Dr Kris Tytgat was quick to send our this comment from Minister Mendoni.

“This is not the first time that photographs have been published that reveal that the conditions for exhibiting the Parthenon Sculptures at the British Museum are not only inappropriate, but also offensive to dangerous, she wrote. In September 2019, when similar photos were published, we had stressed that these images fully strengthen the legal, ongoing and non-negotiable request of Greece for the reunification of the Sculptures. The Sculptures of the Parthenon, the top monument of Western Civilization, must return to their homeland, stop being cut off from the monument to which they belong and from which they were violently detached, and be exposed again to the Attic light.”

IARPS

Dame Janet Suzman’s statement

 
“We have noticed that since our celebration of the Acropolis Museum’s 12th anniversary, Sunday 20 June 2021, outside the BM with our call for the BM to ‘come clean’ and tell the story of why the Parthenon Marbles are still divided, mainly between two great museums…..The BM’s Room 18, was closed then and remains closed to visitors. What is going on? Are they trying to Anglicise the sculptures here in London by covering them in damp? BCRPM is a little bit concerned and add that these sculptures would be much happier bathed by the Attica light.”

a statement broadcast on ERT News on Friday 13th
Dame Janet Suzman outside the British Museum

More to the problem than leaks

The concerns are not just about the leaks or the damp. In summer with weeks of higher temperatures, the fire exit doors are left open, and in winter  large blow heaters are positioned in Room 18.

As a world-class museum, the BM needs to address the climate controls of their galleries, simply wanting to display all cultures under one roof takes more than stating the ownership of artefacts removed when the countries of origin had no voice. 

Monitoring the situation

It was the late Eddie O’Hara, Chair BCRPM, that first raised the problem of the roof and in that summer of 2015 when we met at the BM. It was the late William St Clair who introduced Eddie to Sir Richard Lambert then Chair of the BM Board of Trustees .

We are in daily contact with the BCRPM and will join them in monitoring this situation.

For further reports please visit our Facebook page where we are posting all relevant reports or join us on Twitter and Instagram . The article Museum: Finally the Truth Leaks Out has also been published by Neos Kosmos

Russell Darnley OAM
Secretary and
International Liaison Officer
International Organising Committee – Australia –For the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles

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Vale William St Clair

We would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere condolences at the passing of our dear friend William St Clair.

In his response to William’s passing our Founder and Chair Emanuel J Comino AM said:

I’m very sorry to hear the passing of my dear friend William St Clair. It was from his very first book that I learned so much of the back ground of the Parthenon Marbles tragedy, how they were taken in the most barbaric manner by Lord Elgin in order to decorate his mansion in Scotland. Yet, according to the British Government & the British Museum he took the Marbles in order to save them from vandalism, weathering and pollution. Frankly is is rubbish, an unsubstantiated assertion.

It was William who uncovered incident of the ‘cleaning’ & the irreparable damage caused to the Marbles by Lord Duveen in the 1930’s. Duveen caused them to be had them abraided with wire brushes ans chemicals in order to make the Marbles whiter than white.

William, may you rest in eternal peace and may your memory be eternal.

Russell Darnley OAM, Secretary and International Liaison Officer added:

William was a man of great authority on the history of the Parthenon Marbles . He was always generous in his willingness to share his knowledge and discuss ideas. He brought both warmth and patience to discussion.

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The Campaign Continues

We reproduce this comprehensive article about our founder and the chair of our committee Emanuel J Comino.

This is also a story about the movement he has inspired.

Βy Yannis Andritsopoulos, London Correspondent for the Greek daily newspaper Ta Nea (iandritsopoulos@gmail.com)

“My boy, do not ever stop the campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to our country.”

This affectionate exhortation came from the mouth of a tearful – but always dazzling – Melina Mercouri. She was one of the most emblematic figures of contemporary Greece and her words are unforgettable despite being made nearly 40 years ago.

“I made a promise. I looked at her and replied: ‘I will continue to fight for the return of the Parthenon Marbles until the UK promises to send them back or until the day I die’,” says Emanuel Comino.

Comino is the man who first started the international campaign for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures. They have been on display in the British Museum since 1817, a year after they were sold to the British government by Lord Elgin who had controversially removed them from the Parthenon.

Comino founded the first committee in the world advocating their return to Greece. His campaign commenced long before Mercouri began her world crusade for the Marbles’ return. 

He set up his committee in Australia ten days before the award-winning actress was put in charge of the Greek Ministry of Culture after Pasok won the 1981 election.

His campaign, though, started five years earlier, in 1976, when the then 43-year-old Greek-Australian began traveling the world in a bid to raise awareness for the plight of the Parthenon Marbles.

In the years that followed, he gave more than 300 lectures, sent letters to all the British prime ministers, and persuaded Australia’s most powerful politicians to support his cause.

Comino will turn 88 in May and is known among fellow campaigners and Greek government officials as the “father” of the Parthenon Marbles’ campaign.

Today, he says, his motivation and determination are stronger than ever. “I will not stop campaigning until Britain sends the Marbles back to Greece,” Comino, founder and chairman of the historic International Organising Committee – Australia – for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles (IOCARPM), and vice-chair of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (IARPS), told Greek daily newspaper Ta Nea.

Emanuel John Comino AM (Greek Εμμανουήλ Κομηνός) was born in Rockhampton on May 13, 1933. His Greek parents emigrated from the island of Kythera to Australia at the dawn of the last century.

In 1937, at the age of four, he lost his mother. The following year, Emanuel, his brother and their father travelled to Greece for a short holiday. While they were there, Greece was drawn into World War II and the family had no option but to stay in Kythera. Nine years later, they returned to Australia.

After serving brief stints in milk bars, cafes and a fruit shop, Emanuel entered the insurance industry in 1965, becoming an insurance broker and investor.

‘A magical moment’

Comino’s interest in the Parthenon Marbles began in 1976, during his second visit to Greece. “I vividly remember the moment I first saw the Parthenon. I was dazzled by its grandeur. It was a magical moment,” he says.

No alt text provided for this image

“I immediately realised the extent of damage caused by Lord Elgin. I had previously visited all the great museums of Europe and I felt a mounting anger as I saw, in each of these establishments, the exquisite treasures of ancient Greece. So, I decided to start a movement for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.”

He began reading everything that was written on the subject and soon started giving speeches in several countries.

On October 8, 1981 he founded the first committee in the world to campaign for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures, which was originally under the auspices of the Australasian Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA). Ten days later, Melina Mercouri became Minister for Culture.

‘A tear in her eye’

“In early 1982, I read in a newspaper Melina Mercouri’s comments about the Parthenon Marbles. She condemned the British government’s provocative refusal to return them to Greece, adding that she would support strongly an international campaign to reunite them,” Comino says.

Emanuel Comino with Melina Mercouri, Greece's Culture minister (Sydney 1984)

“I sent her the original motion of support for the founding of our committee and wrote to her that we wanted to be part of a coordinated world-wide effort. She replied that she enthusiastically supported my initiative”.

The following year, Mercouri travelled to Sydney; the Premier of New South Wales invited Comino to meet her.

“I approached the official who accompanied her and gave him a copy of the letter she had sent me. He walked to the other side of the room and handed it to her. She glanced at the letter, her face lit up, she threw up her hands, and turned towards me. She came straight across the room to me and greeted me very warmly, her hands on either shoulder,” Comino says.

As she was leaving, she came over to him and said in Greek: “My boy, do not ever stop the campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to our country.”

“I looked at her and replied, in English: ‘I will fight on for the return of the Parthenon Marbles until England promises to send them back or until the day I die’.”

“She embraced me and held my hand. There was a tear in her eye as she kissed me on the cheek and left.”

He remained in regular contact with Mercouri until she passed away on March 6, 1994. As she requested, Comino’s committee remains in very close contact with the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (BCRPM).

For 44 years, Comino travelled the world giving speeches and lobbying politicians on the Parthenon Sculptures.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard wrote to him in March 2002 that “the Parthenon Marbles are an irreplaceable part of Greek heritage and national identity”; later that year he raised the issue with his British counterpart Tony Blair.

Several prominent Australian politicians have made similar statements of support thanks to his lobbying. 

In March 2000 he established the New Zealand Committee and appointed Gerald O’Brien, former minister of the New Zealand government, as president.

His only grievance, he notes, is that “I was not invited to the opening of the Acropolis Museum, although I financially supported its construction.”

In 2016 Emanuel travelled to London. “My wife and I went on a sightseeing tour. As we passed the British Museum, the tour guide told our group: ‘I do not know why they call it British. There is nothing British in it! Everything in there is stolen’.”

Comino is confident that he will win the fight he started more than 44 years ago. “Only when the Parthenon Marbles will be reunited at the Acropolis Museum will they be able to tell their glorious story. There are no excuses. All together we will make the dream of many generations come true.”

This news report was published in the Greek daily newspaper Ta Nea (www.tanea.gr) on 13 February 2021. 

© 2021 Yannis Andritsopoulos and Ta Nea All Rights Reserved 

Click here for the Greek version Written by

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Only in the Acropolis Museum

There is only one fitting place for the Parthenon Marbles presently in the British Museum to be reunified, is the Acropolis Museum. Only here can their peerless beauty, the genius of their creation, their dynamic relationship with place, history, and culture, be fully realised.

Remind the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the Greek War of Independence began in 1821. Now, 200yrs on it’s time to return the Parthenon Marbles to a fitting place as a mark of respect for the Hellenic Republic, particularly at a time when the UK must build & strengthen bilateral relationships.

There is no other suitable place for these peerless creations.

Supporting the British Museum

Reunifying the Parthenon Marbles is a cultural imperative. Greece has already extended an offer to support the British Museum with other antiquities that will be of equivalent interest to those who visit the British Museum.

This can be of mutual benefit to both Museums.

Advances in digital technology particularly in Augmented Reality (AR) also open up numerous options for the British Museum to enrich its presentation of the Parthenon Marbles without holding onto creations that belong in Athens.

National Gallery of Singapore and Benaki Museum are
Pioneering AR

The use of AR is already well established in the National Gallery of Singapore.

The Benaki Museum is planning a major AR initiative to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence in 2021

Numerous Possibilities with AR

The possibilities for museology employing AR are numerous.  Here is another example.

 

Posted in Athens, Augmented Reality, Benaki Museum, British Museum, Greece, Parthenon, Parthenon Marbles, Parthenon Sculptures | Leave a comment

George Bizos, Anti-Apartheid Lawyer Who Defended Mandela, Dies at 92

Alan Cowell wrote

A champion of human rights, he represented his client and friend in the so-called Rivonia trial of leaders of the African National Congress in the 1960s.

George Bizos in 2011 touring the building where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo had a law office in Johannesburg.
George Bizos in 2011 touring the building where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo had a law office in Johannesburg.Credit…Denis Farrell/Associated Press

George Bizos, who fled the Nazi occupation of his native Greece at age 13 to become one of South Africa’s most prominent human rights lawyers, championing Black people who were denied those rights and devising a three-word phrase that may have shielded his client and friend Nelson Mandela from execution, died on Wednesday. He was 92.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the death in a televised news briefing. No cause was given, but he said Mr. Bizos’s health had recently begun to fail. His family said Mr. Bizos died at his home, though it did not say where he lived.

Over a long and combative career, Mr. Bizos was one of only a handful of lawyers who sought redress for victims of racial separation through the very legal system that sanctioned it. While deeply flawed by the pervasive prejudice of the times, South Africa’s legal establishment did offer some slim protection to the accused under a white minority regime that liked to boast of a commitment to Western values.

In his lawyer’s black robes and starched white bib, Mr. Bizos honed his skills throughout the 1950s in remote rural courthouses, where the authorities sought to deploy apartheid law against little-known offenders, long before the well-publicized trials that cemented his reputation.

“The new apartheid government was determined to use the law not only to crush all opposition but also directly to oppress people,” the University of Cape Town once said in an appreciation of Mr. Bizos. “These lawyers were just as determined to use the law in whatever way they could to protect their clients against the abuse of state power.”

In his later years, particularly after the death of Mr. Mandela in 2013, Mr. Bizos expressed disappointment and disillusion with South Africa’s swerve toward corruption and misrule two decades after its first fully democratic elections in 2004. “We have failed to live up to the vision of Mandela,” Mr. Bizos said at a memorial for the former president in December 2013.

Indeed, from 2012 to 2015 he was among the lawyers who represented the families of 34 striking miners killed by the police at Marikana — bloodletting that he likened to atrocities of the apartheid era.

Mr. Bizos with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, right, and Limpho Hani, the wife of Chris Hani, a leading anti-apartheid activist, who was assassinated in 1993.
Mr. Bizos with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, right, and Limpho Hani, the wife of Chris Hani, a leading anti-apartheid activist, who was assassinated in 1993.Credit…Reuters

While many of his trials were fought in the glare of publicity, which he often sought to exploit, Mr. Bizos claimed a particular contribution to the destiny of his adoptive land by urging Mr. Mandela to insert three words — “if needs be” — into his oft-cited address from the dock at the so-called Rivonia trial of leaders of the African National Congress in the early 1960s.

In his first draft, Mr. Bizos said, Mr. Mandela had written that he was prepared to die for “the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”

But at the urging of Mr. Bizos, who feared that the words might invite the death sentence, Mr. Mandela said: “It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

In 1964, Mr. Mandela and others among the accused were convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment — a term that ended for Mr. Mandela with his release in February 1990.

(Mr. Bizos was third figure from the Rivonia trial to die this year. The others were the last two surviving co-defendants, Andrew Mlangeni, who died in July, and Denis Goldberg — the only white defendant in the group — who died in April.)

In 1986, while still in prison, Mr. Mandela chose Mr. Bizos as his confidential emissary to brief exiled members of the A.N.C. on secret negotiations with the Afrikaner authorities.

In “Odyssey to Freedom,” a memoir published in 2007, Mr. Bizos wrote that he had harbored an enduring revulsion of injustice in South Africa from the moment he landed in Durban, on the Indian Ocean coastline, in the 1940s and saw Black men consigned to hauling rickshaws. It was, he wrote, the first time he had seen “a man doing work reserved for animals, and it shocked me greatly.”

Well after South Africa’s landmark 1994 election, which swept Mr. Mandela to power, Mr. Bizos continued his courtroom crusade to expose the bloody actions of the apartheid police, committed years earlier in the suppressing of adversaries like Steve Biko, who died in police custody in 1977.

In hearings called by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the 1990s, Mr. Bizos represented the families of leading foes of apartheid, including Matthew Goniwe, an educator who was one of three activists murdered by the police in 1985. They were known as the Cradock Four, named for the small, segregated township in the Eastern Cape region where they had built a challenge to white rule.

In the early 1990s, Mr. Bizos joined other lawyers in court proceedings to formally approve South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution, regarded as one of the most liberal in the world.

He acted as an independent barrister for many years, but from 1991 onward he was associated with the Legal Resources Center, a prominent firm of human rights lawyers in Johannesburg of which he became senior counsel. Mr. Bizos also worked in Botswana and Zimbabwe, where he defended Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, against treason charges in 2003.

Arriving for his 80th birthday with Nelson Mandela, a client and longtime friend, in 2008.
Arriving for his 80th birthday with Nelson Mandela, a client and longtime friend, in 2008.Credit…Denis Farrell/Associated Press

For decades Mr. Bizos represented Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a friend and activist in her own right during the imprisonment of Mr. Mandela, her husband. Soon after his release in 1990, the marriage ended in a bitter divorce, and Ms. Madikizela-Mandela faced charges related to the harsh mistreatment of boys staying at her home in Soweto.

The body of one of them, Stompie Seipei, 14, was later found in a field with his throat cut. Although Ms. Madikizela-Mandela was not charged in the killing, the boy’s fate became a byword for the brutal behavior of her bodyguards, known as the Mandela United Football Club. In early 1991 she was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for kidnapping and assault, but the sentence was reduced on appeal.

The charges, Mr. Bizos suggested in his memoir, were part of a progressive diminution of Ms. Madikizela-Mandela’s stature and judgment. “For Nelson, her family, the movement and the nation,” he said, the damage to her reputation in the late 1980s and onward “was a serious embarrassment.”

“For Winnie,” he added, “it was nothing less than a tragedy.”

Mr. Bizos’s close association with the travails of South Africans as they fought against apartheid and emerged from it seemed an improbable destiny for a man whose Mediterranean roots endured in a love of modern Greek poetry and in his marriage to a fellow Greek, Arethe Daflos, an artist who died in 2017. They had three sons, Kimon, Damon and Alexi, who survive him, as do seven grandchildren.

Such was his commitment to his heritage that, in 1974, Mr. Bizos took the lead in founding a racially-integrated Hellenic school in South Africa.

“I have lived through the joys and sorrows of the South African people,” he once said of his ties to his adoptive land. “That’s what really binds you to a country.”

Asked whether he would support Greece or South Africa in a soccer match, he replied, “It would be better for me if it was a draw.”

Mr. Bizos in 2018. “I have lived through the joys and sorrows of the South African people,” he once said.
Mr. Bizos in 2018. “I have lived through the joys and sorrows of the South African people,” he once said.Credit…Gulshan Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

George Bizos was born in November 1927. The exact date was never known because municipal records were burned during the Nazi occupation of Greece, Mr. Bizos said in his autobiography, although his mother, Anastasia Tomaras, recalled it as Nov. 14.

His father, Antonios Bizos, was the mayor of Vasilitsi, a village in the southern Peloponnese. George, one of four siblings, attended a school that he once likened to the overcrowded classrooms of Soweto. His mother was a homemaker who, in the traditions of rural Greece at the time, had been denied formal schooling and learned to sign her own name only as an adult.

After the Nazi occupation, the young Mr. Bizos became embroiled in an undertaking, led by his father, to spirit to safety seven New Zealand soldiers trapped behind the lines. In May 1941, the soldiers and their rescuers slipped out of Greece on a fishing boat and were themselves rescued by a British warship, the H.M.S. Kimberley, which took them to Egypt.

From there, Mr. Bizos sailed to South Africa with his father as refugees at a time when racial oppression seemed unchallenged and pro-Nazi sentiment among some Afrikaners ran high. The train taking them from Durban was forced to divert to a station in Johannesburg to avoid crowds of Nazi sympathizers protesting the arrival of the “filth” of Europe.

His father found work in a munitions factory in Pretoria, the capital, and later worked as a shop assistant there, while his son stayed with Greek friends of the family in Johannesburg. After struggling to learn Afrikaans and English while working as a shop assistant, and after scraping together tuition money, George Bizos enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He completed his law degree in 1950, two years after the National Party came to power and began codifying apartheid. He was admitted to the Johannesburg bar in 1954.

While Mr. Bizos’s two brothers later emigrated to South Africa, he did not see his mother for more than 20 years, until she traveled to South Africa in the 1960s. His parents seemed remote from each other by then, he wrote, with his mother expressing “no wish to see my father” before returning to Greece several years later.

His father died in a freakish manner in 1969. Recovering from a motorcycle accident, and wearing a plaster cast on one leg, he fell in a bathroom at his home after leaving a coffee pot on a stove. The coffee boiled over, extinguishing the flame, and his father “succumbed to the leaking gas,” Mr. Bizos wrote.

Working with two other lawyers — Mr. Mandela and Oliver Tambo, who went on to lead the A.N.C. — Mr. Bizos represented clients in obscure rural places in cases that revealed the minutiae as much as the ubiquity of laws devised to keep the races apart.

In a foreword to Mr. Bizos’s memoir, Mr. Mandela said that he and Mr. Tambo had frequently acted as the instructing attorneys for cases in which Mr. Bizos was the courtroom advocate representing victims of apartheid. Later, Mr. Bizos was the among the lawyers representing Mr. Mandela and others in epochal trials in the 1950s and ’60s that became landmarks in South Africa’s modern history.

At their most intrusive, apartheid laws decreed where people could live and where they would be buried; which schools they could attend and what they might learn; whom they could sleep with and where they could sleep. Buses were segregated by race, and so were park benches, railroad stations, beaches, stores and entire areas in the patchwork of urban townships and so-called tribal homelands that blanketed the land.

It was in those early cases that Mr. Bizos confronted the central paradox of his chosen profession.

“In South Africa there was at least lip service” paid to the legal principles, he wrote in his memoir. “And the courtroom often was the last forum available to condemn oppressive policies and the deprivation of fundamental rights.”

Only in court, he said, could one demand for all South Africans the rights “to meaningful citizenship, free and fair elections, dignity, equality and a fair distribution of goods and honors in a democratic state.”

After a long career as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times based in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, Alan Cowell became a freelance contributor in 2015, based in London.

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Battle for the Parthenon Marbles

Irina Korobina, President of the Russian Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (RCRPS), has sent us the Committee’s excellent video. We are most impressed by the Russian Committee’s work.

In Russian, but subtitled in English throughout, the work opens with quotations from Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage


Following is the English language script, with stills from the work.

Lord Elgin’s act caused outrage and condemnation from the very beginning. Lord Byron, a great countryman of Lord Elgin, frankly, called Elgin’s act theft and barbarism, in his poem the Pilgrimage of Childe Harold. It is often suggested that Elgin’s goal was to save and preserve the Parthenon sculptures. However, in one of the archives there is a letter in which Lord Elgin boastfully writes: “I have taken out of Greece as many antique values as Napoleon never dreamed of”

Click this image for the video

I don’t think we care about his motivations today, or whether he was a Saviour or a Robber. It is important for us that the Parthenon, which is for all humankind a symbol of harmony, a symbol of the architectural, artistic and living environment that all humankind throughout history recognizes as the ideal that gave rise to classical art, this symbol has been desecrated and violated. Its most valuable fragments, without which it is impossible to preserve the harmony of integrity, were broken out and taken to another country, where they are still located. Half of the Parthenon’s marble sculptures are in the British Museum, in London, and smaller fragments have spread all over the world. And all progressive humanity declares: they must be returned to their native place! Fragments of the Parthenon must be returned to Athens!

I don’t think we care about his motivations today, or whether he was a Saviour or a Robber. It is important for us that the Parthenon, which is for all humankind a symbol of harmony, a symbol of the architectural, artistic and living environment that all humankind throughout history recognizes as the ideal that gave rise to classical art, this symbol has been desecrated and violated. Its most valuable fragments, without which it is impossible to preserve the harmony of integrity, were broken out and taken to another country, where they are still located. Half of the Parthenon’s marble sculptures are in the British Museum, in London, and smaller fragments have spread all over the world. And all progressive humanity declares: they must be returned to their native place! Fragments of the Parthenon must be returned to Athens!

The debate about whether Lord Elgin’s act was a Saviour’s mission or Barbarism began in British society during his last expedition to Greece, and this debate continues till now.

Back in the 80-ies of the last century, the famous Greek singer and Minister of Culture Melina Mercuri officially announced the policy of “insistent return” of marble sculptures to the Parthenon.


EDITORIAL NOTE

Following Melina Mercuri’s initiative, the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles was formed, in 1983.  This followed the formation of the International Organising Committee Australia for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles. Later the IARPS (International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures) was created.


Today it [IARPS] includes 21 countries, including a very active British Committee. Their activity is very wide such as the appeals were made to the Queen of England, statements and petitions with demands to return to the Parthenon its treasures. In particular, there is a Russian Committee, which I agreed to become President of because for us, who were students of the Moscow Architectural Institute, the Parthenon and the culture of Ancient Greece are the Cradle of world Culture, including the Russian architectural culture.

Russian Classicism and Neoclassicism, the highest examples of Russian architecture of the 18th, 19th and early 20th century, would not have been possible without the Parthenon.

International committees of IARPS do everything for the return of sculptures – they conduct educational work, organize lectures, exhibitions, but most importantly, they express the position of the cultural community of their countries. It is clear that today the return of the Parthenon’s sculptures may not be the main concern of Russians who are going through the economical and other crisis. But this is only at first sight. In the culture of different countries, in architecture and art, sometimes incredible phenomena occur.  Something that becomes important for all humankind. And it is naive to think that these masterpieces belong only to one country. They belong to the world – all of humanity is interested in ensuring that these Points of Power that feed everyone are preserved intact. And it is immoral, even criminal, to take them apart… to destroy them, to break out pieces of them, to take them somewhere, to build new temples for them in other countries… this is a manifestation of barbarism and lack of elementary culture, which are often clothed with beautiful words about salvation, preservation, etc.

The counterargument on the part of the British, who for many years have categorically refused all Greek requests, is precisely that they are preservers of world heritage. They have a large scientific and custodial culture, they have a mission of Saviours. But there was an important event – the Acropolis Museum was opened, which was designed by Bernard Chumi and was the result of 4 international architectural competitions. The world recognition of this Museum-it is ranked 8th in the top ten museums in the world, which shows that not only Britain has great specialists and scientists, not only Britain can preserve the treasures of world heritage.

The architectural solution of the Acropolis Museum is unique. The space itself develops vertically and symbolizes the ascent of the Acropolis mountain, which is crowned by the Parthenon. And the exposition is located in such a way that the highest level represents the friezes and frontons of the Parthenon. Those parts of them that are in the British Museum have been replaced with plaster copies.

In the 21st century, the storage of sculptural treasures has acquired a Museum format, it is important that this is the Acropolis. But the removal of fragments of the Parthenon to other museums is unacceptable – the sculptures are taken out of context and deprived of their natural environment. There is an opinion that I share. It was expressed by scientists engaged in antiquity – the finding of fragments of the Parthenon in the British Museum humiliates them. They should be illuminated by the Acropolis. And the Acropolis Museum is the optimal place for them – it belongs to the Acropolis, forming a single whole with it. And there are all the conditions for perfect conservation. All conditions have been created at the highest level to ensure the safety of the priceless sculpture, which British colleagues and professional Museum workers around the world are happy about. If the British Museum delays the return of these great treasures, it will gain a reputation as a provincial, colonial, and regressive Museum.

I think that Perthenon problem has dragged on for a century, not only because Britain does not want to return the unique values that attract crowds of people from all over the world to the British Museum. Obviously, there is a great fear of creating a precedent that push many museums, many collections, and many countries will make claims against each other. This fear is understandable. We in Russia have been discussing the Shchukin collection for many years… Professional Museum workers are generally very careful about this issue. Throughout history, all the painful problems as it evolved and where it came from. And it is scarred to touch them – because explosion may occur. I believe that we need to touch it. I think that vicious and criminal decisions, as well as serious mistakes, must be corrected. And I believe that this will happen in future, because a culture was built on mistakes is like colossus on clay feet, which sooner or later will collapse. And it is better not to bring it to this!

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The Acropolis and the Parthenon in Neo-Hellenic art as emblems of national and world heritageNew Post

This article from Dr. Alexandra Kouroutaki is in French.

Dr. Kouroutaki is a member of the Specialized Teaching Staff at the School of Architecture of the Technical University of Crete. She holds a doctorate in art history from Bordeaux Montaigne University and a postgraduate degree in French Literature from the School of Humanities, Faculty of Letters of the Open University of Greece. She is also a graduate of the Department of French Language and Literature at the National and Capodistrian University of Athens. The following text is written by Alexandra Kouroutaki as part of the year 2020 “Melina Mercouri Year” and the vision for the reunification of the Parthenon sculptures.

We re-publish the article here from the online journal Grèce Hebdo, the original can be found here:

The Acropolis and the Parthenon in Neo-Hellenic art as emblems of national and world heritage


Le soleil me brûle et me rend lumineux Combien tout serait triste, triste, mon Dieu, si mon âme n’était pas consolée par l’espoir des Marbres par l’espérance d’un rayon brillant qui donnera une nouvelle vie aux merveilleuses ruines [1]

Introduction

Emblème de l’Hellénisme dans sa diachronie et symbole des principes et des valeurs fondamentales de la culture européenne, le Parthénon est l’un des monuments les plus éminents du patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO. L’article entreprend une étude du Parthénon qui apparaît sous la qualité de symbole dans l’art Néohellénique, tant dans la peinture de paysage du début du XXe siècle que dans la production picturale de l’Entre-deux-guerres.

Dans la première partie, l’étude porte principalement sur les variations autour de l’Acropole durant la période 1910-1930 afin d’explorer la dialectique directe et le rapport plus essentiel entre le Parthénon et l’espace attique. La vue sur le Monument qui domine de sa magnificence l’Acropole, donne aux artistes grecs l’occasion de capter sur toile “l’esprit du lieu” qui habite dans les rochers et les collines d’Athènes, dans les courbes du paysage et la végétation dense, dans la qualité même de la lumière éblouissante méditerranéenne et la pureté du ciel d’Attique. Dans cet endroit qui a conçu le modèle architectural d’un idéal de beauté, les marbres du Parthénon se mettent en dialogue avec l’histoire.

Dans la seconde partie, l’étude se concentre sur des œuvres picturales de la célèbre “Génération des années 30”: il s’agit des compositions aux sujets historiques, mythologiques et allégoriques, des peintures de portrait et des natures mortes. Dans ces œuvres, le Parthénon fonctionne comme symbole de l’héritage culturel. D’une part, le Monument constitue le miroir identitaire de la conscience ethnique des Grecs, d’autre part, il est inextricablement lié à un symbolisme beaucoup plus large qui inclut l’idéal de la démocratie Athénienne, les valeurs humanitaires, les conquêtes du rationalisme et de la philosophie dialectique.

Outre la présence symbolique du Parthénon, l’étude met en évidence le contexte idéologique de l’art Néohellénique, d’après le contexte historique des premières décennies du XXe siècle et les évolutions générales dans le domaine des arts. En particulier, l’accent est mis sur les variations du Modernisme Périphérique Grec. Référence est faite aux influences du Symbolisme et des tendances postimpressionnistes dans la peinture de paysage et aux influences du Cubisme et du Surréalisme dans l’œuvre des artistes grecs de la “Génération des années 30”.

Le Parthénon dans la peinture de paysage et la dialectique du Monument avec l’espace de l’Attique

Au début du XXe siècle, la peinture de paysage est considérée comme  l’événement majeur de l’art néohellénique qui entre désormais dans de nouvelles directions. [2] Les peintres progressistes grecs s’éloignent de la stérile représentation du réel et se libèrent de l’esthétique du Réalisme Académique de l’école de Munich. Leur intérêt se tourne désormais vers les pionniers du Modernisme et les mouvements d’avant-garde de Paris. [3]

Le contexte historique et politique en Grèce était favorable à cette évolution. La politique de Venizélos a décisivement contribué à la réorientation de l’intellect grec vers le Modernisme européen. Dans l’esprit du “Vénizélisme” associé au besoin de modernisation et de renaissance spirituelle de l’État Grec, le “Groupe Techni” (Groupe de l’Art) a été fondé en 1917 pour transmettre de nouvelles idées dans le domaine conservateur des arts visuels en Grèce. [4] 

La peinture de paysage de la période 1915-1930 se caractérise par une uniformité étonnante [5]: il s’agit d’un art subjectiviste, postimpressionniste, influencé par le Symbolisme. Des artistes importants qui étaient pour la plupart membres du “Groupe Techni” (Constantinos Parthenis, Constantinos Maleas, Nikos Lytras, Périclès Byzantios, Nicolaos Othonaios, Othon Pervolarakis, Lykourgos Kogevinas, mais aussi Michel Oikonomou et Spyros Papaloukas) prêtent au paysage des dimensions symboliques. Manos Stefanidis souligne cette évolution de l’art vers le subjectivisme: «On dirait que nos créateurs ont pu découvrir avec éblouissement le paysage, son énergie, le caractère unique des étés lumineux et les contours stricts des montagnes et abordent désormais le paysage de façon exploratoire, avec perspicacité. [6]

2 kokogevinas
Kogevinas Lykourgos, “Acropole”, huile sur toile, Galerie Averoff

Le subjectivisme et la tendance vers le symbolisme caractérisent les peintures de Lykourgos Kogevinas. Dans ses toiles, les volumes solides dans leur immobilité témoignent des influences de P. Gauguin et de M. Denis. [7]

Kogevinas aborde les paysages en suivant une approche antinaturaliste, par une schématisation des formes plates. Dans tous les cas, on doit souligner l’impression provoquée par ces peintures. Il ne s’agit pas de la représentation fidèle d’un espace naturel ou structuré mais de la mise en relief d’un Monument-symbole. L’éclairage théâtral et irréaliste des toiles relie le Parthénon à sa charge culturelle et capture la mémoire du ciel étincelant de la lumière éternelle de l’Attique.

3 Kogevinas
Kogevinas Lykourgos, “Parthénon”, huile sur toile, Galerie Averoff

On retrouve cette impression dans les peintures de paysage de Constantinos Maleas. En arrière-plan, les formes du Monument sont rendues avec un fort degré de simplification et d’abstraction, sous le ciel bleu ou doré d’Athènes. Au premier plan, on aperçoit la  végétation dense de la région qui se compose principalement de pins et de cyprès. Tous les éléments des compositions sont stylisés. Maleas applique des couleurs plates sur les surfaces. [8]

Antonis Kotidis souligne l’influence de Gauguin et de Bernard sur l’esthétique du peintre grec et attribue l’influence du Symbolisme d’une part au subjectivisme du paysage et d’autre part aux “correspondances” entre les couleurs et les émotions, entre le développement des lignes et des phrases musicales. [9]

En conclusion, dans les peintures de paysage, le Parthénon est conçu comme un Monument-symbole revêtu de la majesté des siècles, toujours animé d’un souffle vivant, et inextricablement lié au lieu de son origine. Cette dialectique du Monument avec l’espace est soulignée par Le Corbusier, dans sa conférence, en 1933: «C’est l’Acropole qui a fait de moi un révolté. Cette certitude m’est demeurée: Souviens-toi du Parthénon, net, propre, intense, énorme, violent, de cette clameur lancée dans un paysage de grâce et de terreur. Force et pureté. [10]

4 5 maleas collage
Maleas Konstantinos, “Acropole”, peinture à l’huile, 1918-1920. Source: http://www.nikias.gr
Cent trois ans après sa fondation, le “Groupe Techni” continue de susciter l’intérêt des amateurs d’art, étant associé aux débuts du Modernisme en Grèce. Il s’agit d’un art moderne grec qui était à la recherche d’un caractère international. [11]

Cependant, au milieu des années 1920, le besoin du retour aux sources de la tradition artistique grecque a mûri pour donner une nouvelle dimension au Modernisme Périphérique Grec. Le “Groupe Techni” et surtout Parthenis avaient préparé le terrain aux artistes de la célèbre “Génération des années 30” qui ont créé des œuvres d’une idéologie plus ethnocentrique. [12]

Le Parthénon dans la constellation de la “Grécité” et la “Génération artistique des années 30”

Des artistes importants de la “Génération des années 30″, tels Gerasimos Steris, George Gounaro, Costantinos Parthenis, Nikos  Engonopoulos, Nikos Chatzikyriakos Gikas, Yannis Moralis ont abordé le Parthénon comme emblème du génie grec, assurant la continuité de la Nation dans le temps, et en même temps lié à un symbolisme plus large, associé aux idéaux démocratiques et aux valeurs humanitaires.

Pendant l’Entre-deux-guerres, la création artistique en Grèce entre dans une nouvelle phase, oscillant entre Modernisme et Tradition. [13]

Le retour aux sources artistiques grecques est devenu impératif après l’expérience traumatisante de la catastrophe nationale en Asie Mineure. Cet événement a créé le besoin d’une auto-affirmation nationale, exprimée même dans les arts. La “Génération des années 30” était à la recherche de la “Grécité” dans son effort de création d’un art profondément grec. Cependant, elle est considérée comme le courant le plus caractéristique du Modernisme en Grèce car elle a su conjuguer des influences occidentales et orientales.

Le cas de Gerasimos Steris est révélateur des évolutions qui s’étaient produites dans le domaine des arts en Grèce, pendant l’Entre-deux-guerres. Son œuvre symbolique et métaphysique a marqué un tournant décisif grâce à la liberté plastique de son langage pictural orienté vers l’abstraction. La source d’inspiration de Steris, dans l’ensemble de son œuvre, est l’art grec ancien et l’art moderne européen. [14]

Dans sa peinture de paysage avec l’Acropole, le caractère symbolique du Monument est intensifié par l’extinction progressive de la couleur grâce à la lumière éblouissante. Par la limpidité de ses couleurs, Steris tente de capter cette émotion unique qui se cache dans l’atmosphère grecque. Une fois de plus, le Monument qui domine le Rocher sacré, fonctionne comme symbole illustrant l’idéal en Architecture.

6 Steris
Steris Gerasimos, “Paysage avec l’Acropole”, 1931-1935, huile sur toile, Galerie Nationale- Musée d’Alexandros Soutzos

L’influence du Symbolisme se retrouve également dans la peinture de George Gounaropoulos -Gounaro. En 1938, l’artiste a réalisé une peinture murale d’une superficie totale de 113 m²  dans la salle du Conseil Municipal de l’Hôtel de ville d’Athènes. [15] L’artiste tente “un développement micro-historique [16] avec des épisodes divers de la mythologie et de l’histoire de la ville, comme la lutte d’Athéna avec Poséidon, la bataille entre Thésée et le Minotaure, Égée qui attend du haut d’un promontoire le retour du bateau de son fils, Socrate en train de boire volontairement la ciguë, la bataille navale de Salamine, les guerres médiques, la scène de la mort de Georgios Karaiskakis, un héros de la guerre d’indépendance grecque [17] etc.

7 Gounaropoulos
Gounaropoulos George, “L’apothéose de Périclès”, section de peinture murale, huile et cire, 1938-1939. Hôtel de ville d’Athènes. Source: nikias.gr

Dans la représentation centrale du programme, le Parthénon est situé en arrière-plan, dominant le Rocher sacré. La figure de Périclèsest sans doute idéalisée. Le grand politique athénien était le chef charismatique du Ve siècle considéré comme le Siècle d’Or du Miracle grec. Gounaro associe le Monument aux idéaux démocratiques. Lorsque la Grèce demande qu’on lui restitue les marbres du Parthénon, elle réclame bien plus que de simples œuvres d’art. Elle cherche à rassembler les fragments épars de son idéal de beauté, mais aussi de démocratie et de liberté d’esprit, devenues depuis lors des vertus universelles.

BeFunky Collage gounaro final
A gauche: Gounaropoulos, “La lutte d’Athéna-Poséidon”. Peinture murale, huile et cire, 1938-1939. Hôtel de ville d’Athènes. Source: www.nikias.gr. A droite: Hôtel de ville d’Athènes. La salle du conseil municipal avec la fresque de Gounaropoulos. Source: Photo: Paris Tavitian. Lifo
La présence du Parthénon dans les compositions de Nikos Engonopoulos est tout autant symbolique (images 10, 11). Dans son œuvre surréaliste, Engonopoulos créé un collage “anarchique” de figures, d’objets-symboles et de scènes de différentes périodes de l’histoire, depuis l’Antiquité, l’Occident médiéval, la Renaissance jusqu’à l’histoire moderne de la Grèce, en associant son imagination reproductrice à la mémoire.

L’espace pictural d’Engonopoulos ressemble à une scénographie où ses fameux mannequins anthropomorphes (un emprunt à Giorgio De Chirico) jouent des rôles, comme des acteurs de théâtre. Les mannequins sont présentés soit nus soit habillés de costumes d’époque. La colline de l’Acropole est peinte à la manière byzantine. Le Monument emblématique du Parthénon constitue le point connecteur qui relie la Grèce moderne à son passé glorieux, tout en soulignant la relation interculturelle de la Grèce avec l’Occident.

egonopoulos10A gauche: Engonopoulos Nikos, “Alexandros Filippou et les Grecs sauf les Lacédémoniens”. Peinture à l’huile, collection privée, 1963. A droite:  Engonopoulos Nikos, “Le serment de la Société des amis”, 1952, huile sur toile, Galerie Municipale de Rhodes. Source: nikias.gr
Le Parthénon apparaît également dans la composition de Yannis Moralis intitulée “Par le photographe d’extérieur” (images 12, 13) en vue de mettre en relief l’importance du Monument et son pouvoir de fonctionner comme une présomption de continuité culturelle et historique pour le peuple grec. Dans cette peinture de portraits (deux femmes et un enfant), Moralis adopte un style byzantin et folklorique. Cependant, le Monument et le rocher de l’Acropole en arrière-plan, sont envisagés de manière abstraite. Les rapports intemporels entre Homme et Monument sont soulignés, ainsi que le droit moral de chaque peuple à jouir de son héritage pour se reconnecter avec ses origines.
BeFunky Collage moralis kourout
A gauche: Moralis Yannis, “Par le photographe d’extérieur “, 1934, huile sur toile. A droite: Moralis Yannis, Détail, huile sur toile, avant 1931. Source: nationalgallery.gr.

Le Parthénon apparaît dans la composition de Constantinos Parthenis “Nature morte avec l’Acropole en arrière-plan”,(image14). Parthenis crée une peinture cérébrale, émotive, de portée idéologique. Il utilise des données empruntées au Cubisme, cependant, les motifs sont bien reconnaissables, malgré leur traitement géométrique. Il est à noter que la morphologie du cubisme n’empêche pas le peintre grec d’attribuer un caractère spirituel à son langage pictural et d’exprimer ainsi sa réflexion philosophique sur le monde. Le spectateur est confronté au sens spirituel des éléments représentés sur toile. Même si l’“idéal” (le Parthénon) est transféré au “cadre humain” (la nature morte portée au premier plan) il semble que l’effort de Parthenis consiste à capturer la vision grecque ancienne avec des couleurs et des formes, grâce à la limpidité des tons et la spiritualisation des éléments matériels.

14 ParthenisParthenis Constantinos, “Nature morte avec l’Acropole en arrière-plan”, huile sur toile, avant 1931. Source: nationalgallery.gr.

Le parcours dans les variations autour de l’Acropole dans l’art néohellénique se termine avec une composition de Nikos Hadjikyriakos Gikas, intitulée “Vue d’Athènes”. En adoptant un style cubiste, Gikas représente les trois collines de la ville, l’Acropole, le Lycabette et la colline de Philopappou. Le rocher de l’Acropole, les humbles maisons grecques, la lumière brillante et dorée et la végétation dense composent les éléments du paysage de l’Attique. Une fois de plus, le Parthénon s’érige en symbole assurant la continuité historique d’une civilisation auréolée de son passé prestigieux.

15 Hatzikiriakos
Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Gikas, “Vue d’Athènes”, 1940, peinture à l’huile, Collection privée. Source

Conclusion

En conclusion, le Parthénon qui domine dans sa majesté le rocher de l’Acropole apparaît souvent dans l’art Néohellénique des premières décennies du XXe siècle, dans des peintures de paysage, des compositions aux sujets historiques et mythologiques, des natures mortes et des portraits. L’Acropole et le Parthénon constituent des points de repère pour l’identité du peuple grec, transmettant partout au monde le message de la civilisation, de la démocratie et de la liberté d’esprit d’une société ouverte. Les paroles de Melina Mercouri semblent plus actuelles que jamais: “La Grèce est ceci, son héritage. Ceci est sa propriété, et si nous perdons cela, on perd tout. [19]

16 William Gell
Sir William Gell, “La suppression des sculptures des frontons du Parthénon par Elgin”. Aquarelle sur papier, 1801, Μusée Benaki

Dans tous les cas, l’Acropole et le Parthénon apparaissent dans l’art Néohellénique comme emblèmes du patrimoine culturel national et mondial, doués d’une valeur symbolique et d’une force unificatrice incontestables. La vision de la Grèce pour la réunification des sculptures du Monument devient désormais universelle. Et le jour de la restitution des sculptures au Temple ne peut pas être loin, si l’on  considère le chaleureux soutien de l’opinion publique internationale.

D’ailleurs, les sculptures violemment détachées du Parthénon ne sont pas des œuvres d’art autonomes. Elles constituent une unité indivisible, naturelle,   esthétique et sémantique avec le Monument. Pour cette raison, les marbres antiques devraient être réunifiés dans leur environnement naturel et historique. Le rôle de l’art s’avère important en vue de la sensibilisation internationale à ce sujet. Le retour des sculptures au Parthénon est désormais une question européenne de culture et de morale. L’affaire est en cours.

Notes

[1] Engonopoulos, N. (1938)  extrait du poème «Tram et Acropole» coll. Ne parlez pas au conducteur,Poèmes, tome A, éd: Icare, p. 11-12. Pour la traduction du poème, voir Les Avant-gardes littéraires au XXe siècle(1986) direction de Jean Weisgerber, Centre d’étude des Avant-gardes littéraires de l’Université de Bruxelles, direction de Jean Weisgerber, Budapest: Akadémiai kiadó, vol.1, p. 449.
[2] Voir Kotidis, A. (1993) Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, Thessalonique: University Studio Press, p. 182, 192
[3] Voir Papanikolaou, M. (2006) L’art grec du XXe siècle, Peinture – Sculpture, Thessalonique: Vanias, p. 49.
[4] Voir Kouroutaki, A. (2018) «Les débuts du Modernisme dans l’art Néohellénique dans l’esprit du “Vénizélisme”», Kritiki Estia,  tome 15  (2014-18) Société Historique de Folklore et d’Archéologie de Crète, Héraklion: Typokreta, p. 243-249.
[5] Voir Kotidis, A. Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, op.cit., p. 182.
[6] Voir Stefanidis, M. (2009) Le Musée hellénique. Sept siècles de peinture grecque, vol. c.
Ingénieurs de lumière, Eleftheros Typos,p. 85.
[7] Voir Kotidis, A. Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, op.cit., p. 182. line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
[8] Ibidem, p. 196
[9] Ibidem, p. 196
[10] Le Corbusier (1933) « Air, son, lumière », conférence publiée dans les Annales Techniques, 15 octobre-15 novembre 1933 (Le IVe Congrès international d’architecture moderne) Athènes, p. 1140. Voir aussi Lucan, J. (2008) « Athènes et Pise: deux modèles pour l’espace convexe du plan libre ». Les cahiers de la recherche architecturale et urbaine: Le Corbusier, l’atelier intérieur, n. 22/23, p.66.
[11] Voir Kouroutaki, A. (2018) «Les débuts du Modernisme dans l’art Néohellénique dans l’esprit du “Vénizélisme”», op. cit. pp. 248-249.
[12] Voir Lambraki-Plaka, M. (2001) Galerie Nationale 100 ans. Quatre siècles de peinture grecque, collections de la Galerie Nationale et de la Fondation Euripide Koutlidis. Athènes: Galerie nationale et musée d’Alexandros Soutsos, pp. 122-123.
[13] Voir Kotidis, A. (1993) Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, op.cit., p. 15.
[14] Stavropoulos Costas, “Enregistrements de la mémoire intemporelle”, Musée Benaki. Exposition: Steris, Œuvres de la collection Koutoulaki, 23 mai – 27 juillet 2008, Athènes: Musée Benaki, p. 29.
[15] Voir Skaltsa M. (1990) Gounaropoulos, Centre culturel de la municipalité d’Athènes, Athènes, p. 55.
[16]  Voir Skaltsa M. Gounaropoulos, op. cit. p. 140-147. Voir  Kotidis, A. Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, op.cit., p. 118.
[16] Voir Kotidis, A. (1993) Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, op.cit., p. 118.
[17] Voir Skaltsa M. Gounaropoulos, op. cit. p. 140-147. Voir  Kotidis, A. Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, op.cit., p. 118.
[18] Melina Merkouri about the Parthenon Marbles (2009)  iPedia (2016) Melina Merkouri and the British museum director.Disponible ici
[19] Voir Kouroutaki, A. (2018) «Les débuts du Modernisme dans l’art Néohellénique dans l’esprit du “Vénizélisme”», op. cit. p. 249.
 * Image d’introduction: Kogevinas Lykourgos, “Acropole”, huile sur toile, Galerie Nationale -Musée d’Alexandros Soutzos

 

 

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