Silent protest for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles outside the British Museum – 20 June

An article from UK correspondent for Ta Nea, Yannis Andrtisopoulos

On Saturday 20 June, the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (BCRPM) organised a silent protest outside the gates of the British Museum, which remains closed. The protest follows on for those held in previous years and since 2009 when the then ‘New Acropolis Museum’ in Athens was officially opened. This Saturday’s protest was held to mark the 11th anniversary of the Acropolis Museum, which post-Covid19 lockdown re-opened to the public on Monday 15 June 2020.

The four large banners that were tied to the British Museum’s railings were the four original banners that hung down from the 4th Plinth in Trafalgar Square, when 19 year old student from Central St Martin’s College, Sofka Smales stood to protest, 12 September 2009, on behalf of the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. On the following day, accompanied by Eleni Cubitt and Marlen Godwin, Sofka visited the British Museum to hand the letter she had written on a roll of wallpaper during her protest on the plinth to the then British Museum Director, Neil MacGregor.

On Saturday the London protesters, Luke, Zara and Tayo wore the 2020 Melina Mercouri t-shirts that made their debut at the 08 February 2020 BM protest. They hung the 4 posters with a few additional scribbles on them (11 years later, there was more to say!) and held the ‘Reunite the Parthenon Marbles’ flag that Professor Edith Hall held out for the first time on 22 February 2020 in the British Museum’s Room 18, the Parthenon Galleries, at the end of Natalie Haynes recital of ‘A Thousand Ships’ the voices of the women of Troy.

On Saturday, 20 June, the Acropolis Museum reduced its entrance fee and there were a number of  talks and additional exhibitions for visitors to take part in, including: ‘Chisel and Memory’, ‘The lost statue of Athena Parthenon’ and ‘A walk through the Museum with an archaeologist’.

The Director of the British Museum, Dr Hartwig Fischer spoke to UK correspondent for Ta Nea, Yannis Andrtisopoulos  that the Acropolis Museum and the British Museum “are complementary in their approach,” adding that the museum “looks forward to continuing our collaboration and fruitful dialogue with our colleagues at the Acropolis Museum.”

Minister of Culture and Sport for Greece, Dr Lina Mendoni commented :“ Perhaps the main argument that the British Museum has been making for years in order not to return the Parthenon Sculptures – since 1982, when Melina Mercouri raised the issue at a UNESCO Conference of Ministers – was that Greece did not have a modern museum that could house the masterpieces of Phidias. Since September 2003, when the construction work for the Acropolis Museum began, Greece has been systematically demanding the return of the Sculptures, which are on display in the British Museum, because they are products of theft. The current Greek government – like any Greek government – is not going to stop claiming the stolen sculptures, which the British Museum continues to hold illegally contrary to any moral principle.”

Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale reflected: “while I do not hold to the view that all artefacts should be returned to their country of origin it does seem to me that the Parthenon Marbles have a good home to be returned to and a facility in which they can be properly displayed in home surroundings for the benefit and enjoyment of visitors from all over the world.”

Labour MP Mary Glindon also added: “I have enjoyed several classical tours of Greece and a highlight of those tours has always been the visit to the Acropolis and the Parthenon. But it’s sad that the Parthenon Marbles are in London.  While they are seen in the British Museum by many people, as many, if not more, would appreciate seeing the Marbles as part of the amazing cultural experience to be enjoyed when visiting the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum. The Marbles belong in Athens.”

Dame Janet Suzman , Chair of the BCRPM concluded: “there’s always an anniversary to celebrate. June 16th marked the 44th year since the student uprising in Soweto that was a turning point in the downfall of the apartheid state. A global reaction to the murder of a black man in America is sweeping the world, and those same students, grown much older if they survived at all, want to honour that murder by urging “a move away from a world centred on white supremacy and violence to one centred on justice and equity”.

“That argument was taken further when last week a statue was torn down from its plinth in the city of Bristol in England and thrown into the waters of the harbour where the slave ships used to anchor. Bristol, aware too well of its past, has decided that the statue should now be placed in the city museum with a full explanation of how the trader became so rich. Visitors can then understand that the defaced bronze figure is not just a benefactor of the city but a man who grew rich on other people’s misery, by exploiting the cruellest of white supremacies – the slave trade.
 
“And in Greece, the end of the Ottoman Empire’s occupation will be celebrated next year. Taking over bits of the world and ruling them according to your own values is an occupation that the British know only too well; at its height that Empire ruled a third of the world. So when Lord Elgin, British ambassador to the Ottoman court, decided he wanted to send back bits of the Parthenon to adorn his house in Scotland, he didn’t bother to ask the subject Greeks, he greased the palms of functionaries from Istanbul, persuaded his own king to provide a ship and made off with the glory that was Greece. They landed up in Room 18 of the British Museum and for 200 years have been one of its star attractions.
 
“So we need to ask the British Museum, hiding from the tsunami of anti-colonialist feeling sweeping the whole world, whether they would have the decency to provide visitors with the full story: how did these incomparable pieces of sculpture torn from the greatest building in the western world get to sit – out of context – in the grey grandeur of Room 18? Reunification of the Marbles would seem to be a move away from white British exceptionalism and a move towards a world the survivors of Soweto are desperate to see. White supremacy stole them away and a white sense of justice should see them restored. But until that time comes, as it surely must: tell the story. Let the people judge the fairness of their captivity in London. There is a museum waiting for them in Athens.”

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Celebrating the 11th Anniversary of the Acropolis Museum

This state of the art museum is the future home for all of the sculptures from the Parthenon. For too long the Parthenon Marbles, that Elgin had removed from the Parthenon, have languished in an entirely inappropriate place.

The British Museum By Comparison

This decrepit hall is where the Parthenon Marbles are exhibited in London.

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The Acropolis Museum

We can’t compete with such a beautiful presentation, our budget does not permit it. This is an exquisite presentation of the Acropolis Museum.

Directed by Konstantinos Arvanitakis, with an original soundtrack by Yiannis Drenogiannis, with post Production by digimojo Production House
Copyright: Acropolis Museum.

Stay tuned for our humble sequel made on a very low budget

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Celebrating the 11th anniversary of the Acropolis Museum

Visit our new Acropolis Museum @Pinterest gallery in celebration of the museum’s 11th anniversary. Time to return the Parthenon Marbles to this world’s best practice museum, beneath the Acropolis.

Click the image and be linked to our gallery.

If you have a Twitter account there is more you can do.

Tell The UK Prime Minister @BorisJohnson, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport @OliverDowden & the cross-party Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, @CommonsDCMS , that it is time to amend the British Museum Act 1963 & send the Parthenon Marbles back Athens and the Acropolis Museum

A note on Pinterest images. If you intend republishing outside Pinterest, please check their copyright status.

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Virtual Tour of the Acropolis

Though museums & historical sites are opening in Greece, we can’t simply board a flight and fly there, at the moment. So, here is a virtual tour of the Acropolis from the Acropolis Restoration Service & Hellenic Ministry of Culture.

#greece #acropolis #athens #culturalheritage #parthenon #bringthemback #reunitetheparthenon #acropolismuseum

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Dame Janet Suzman Responds

The BCRPM concurs with our Australian colleagues in their eloquent plea to the Director of the British Museum and would add: “Yes, Mr Fischer, as you say, indeed there is much more to do. The movement unleashed in the world today needs to force those who have profited by peoples deprived of their selfhood by force Majeure, to acknowledge that fact, and make restitution.” Dame Janet Suzman

Dame Janet Suzman is Chair of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

Support since the beginning

BCRPM has been campaigning for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles since 1983 and has had our consistent support from the beginning of its campaign.

We value their tireless efforts.

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Greek Minister of Culture and Sports, Dr L Mendoni, Announces Reopening of Museums in Greece

“It is with a great sense of pleasure I learned that the Greek Minister of Culture and Sports Dr. L Mendoni has announced the reopening of all museums in Greece from June 15, said Emanuel J Comino AM, founder, and Chairman of the International Organising Committee – Australia – for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles.

“The timing is auspicious as on June 20, a mere five days later, we celebrate the eleventh anniversary of the opening of the Acropolis Museum.

The Acropolis Museum is rated one of the 10 best museums in the world. The reason why is obvious as soon as anyone steps inside. It’s a place deeply and dynamically connected with the Acropolis and the Parthenon.

Every time I visit, I’m not only moved by its superb design and the beautiful presentation of the remaining Parthenon Marbles, but I’m touched with a little sadness. I’m reminded of Elgin’s vandalism, and the Parthenon Marbles now kept in the British Museum. This strengthens my commitment to the campaign for their return.

The Parthenon Marbles kept in the British Museum must be returned to Athens and placed in the Acropolis Museum. This is the only place where the people of the world can begin to appreciate the fullness of their beauty and their contribution to the modern world. Only when they are together can people understand what they are telling us about more than 2000 years of glorious Greek history.

I have long recognised that the British Nation and its people strongly espouse and believe in justice, freedom and friendship. They have demonstrated this over the years, wherever these such values are threatened anywhere around the world.

So, it was with interest I also noted comments from Hartwig Fischer, British Museum Director, this week, he said:

“We stand with everyone who is denied equal rights and protection from violence in the fullest sense of these terms. These are challenges that we as a society must address, injustices that must be overcome.” [1]

These are sentiments that accord with my understanding of Britain as a country that espouses justice, freedom, and friendship.

Mr. Fischer added:

“We will continue to research, acknowledge and address the colonial history of Britain and its impact on our institution in exhibitions like Collecting Histories and Reimagining Captain Cook: Pacific perspectives from 2019. But there is much more to do.”

 

“Yes Mr Fischer, there is much more to do. The Parthenon Marbles were taken while Greece was under Ottoman occupation, and Britain was an expanding colonial power in the eastern Mediterranean. They were never given to Britain.

Let us hope your comments are not just empty words.  It is time to act.”

 

A response from the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles

Read the response from Dame Janet Suzman Chair of the BCRPM Damer Janet

 


[1] https://blog.britishmuseum.org/a-message-from-director-hartwig-fischer/

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Acropolis re-opened after a 60-day #Covid19 quarantine

Recently, after a 2-month period of quarantine, the Acropolis has opened to the public again. The Acropolis Museum remains closed for the moment but the 11th anniversary of its opening to the public approaches, we look forward to a post-pandemic re-opening.

Yesterday, Emmanuel J Comino AM, the Founder and Chairman of this Committee said, “It is timely to reflect on the global significance of the Acropolis, and the Parthenon, as we wait for the anniversary. It is the most outstanding among all of the ancient sites on the Acropolis.”

Figure 1 The Acropolis in late afternoon light. Viewed from Filopappou Hill.

Mr. Comino went on to make the following points

While we wait for the opening of the Acropolis Museum, we are taking the opportunity to restate the reasons why we have been calling for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, or as we prefer to call them the Parthenon Marbles.

Of course, the site has not always been in a state of peace.

In 1687 while Greece was under Ottoman occupation the Venetians, under Captain-General Francesco Morosini, mounted an attack on the Acropolis. At the time the Turkish garrison was using the Parthenon to store munitions. A Venetian bombardment ignited the explosives and caused extensive damage to the Parthenon.

Figure 2 An artist’s impression of Ottoman munitions store exploding in the Parthenon

It was with the Parthenon in this damaged state, yet far from being a ruin, that Thomas Bruce, 7th lord of Elgin, began the removal of marble sculptures from the Parthenon. Beginning in 1801 and continuing up until as late as 1812, Elgin and his teams removed large quantities of antiquities from Greece, but the most notable and the most beautiful were the Parthenon Marbles.

When facing bankruptcy in 1816, Elgin sold these extraordinary sculptures from the Parthenon to the British Government. They are now installed in the British Museum.

Ten key statements about the Parthenon Marbles

The Acropolis Museum in Athens is the rightful home for all of the remaining sculptures from the Parthenon.  Sitting below the Acropolis it is a world’s best practice museum, where the remaining sculptures are displayed in an authentic manner.

Figure 3 The Acropolis Museum

Why the Parthenon Sculptures should be returned by the British Museum.

1. The sculptures from the Parthenon, the Parthenon Marbles, otherwise known as the Elgin Marbles, are an integral part of the Parthenon. This beautiful Doric temple is the architectural wonder of the world. No other building has ever equalled its beauty, symmetry, and symbolism.

2. When we speak of the Parthenon we are not speaking of a single column or a single statue we speak of an integrated architectural, artistic, cultural, and spiritual expression, a unique symbol of Greece.

3. The Parthenon as an integrated whole has also become a symbol of Western civilization, and a global icon. Such a symbol is not divisible.

4. Lord Elgin was given permission to make architectural drawings and plaster casts from the Parthenon to improve the fine arts in Great Britain. He was also permitted to expose the ancient foundations and to remove fragments thrown to ground by the 1687 explosion. He was never granted permission to remove anything from any buildings on the Acropolis.

5. Greece had no say in the matter. Elgin took the Marbles from Greece while the country was under Turkish occupation. This was during a time when larger powers were pillaging antiquities from smaller countries, notably Greece and Egypt. Also, Britain was the dominant power in the eastern Mediterranean at the time.

6. The British Museum has not protected the sculptures. In the period 1936-1939, the sculptures were irreparably damaged when they were scrubbed back to make them white, destroying their patina of ancient colours. Today the sculptures in the Athens museum are in far better condition than those in the British Museum, they are also being cleaned with the latest laser technology to retain their ancient patina.

Figure 4 Meticulous laser cleaning of the Parthenon Frieze

7. The British Museum does not display the sculptures in a manner that is meaningful to the world at large. They are presented as mere specimens, as curiosities, facing inwards not outwards to the world. They are kept in a room with poor lighting, inadequate climatic controls, and a skylight that sometimes leaks. Out of context in this poorly conceived space, it is impossible to gain a full understanding of their meaning.

Figure 5 The gloomy hall, Room 18, where the Parthenon Marbles are kept

Figure 6 The filthy skylight in Room 18 the British Museum’s Parthenon Sculpture Hall

Figure 7 Unlike the state-of-the-art Acropolis Museum the British Museum has the Parthenon Marbles in a space without effective climatic controls. This was a mid-summer’s day

8. In recent years the British Museum has divided the collection lending a sculpture to Russia and then moving others for specific exhibitions within the Museum. This further obscured their meaning.

Figure 8 A hoarding covering the space from which sculptures have been removed for the ‘Defining Beauty’ exhibition in 2015.

9. For years opinion polls and surveys in the United Kingdom have shown strong support for the return of the Marbles. Anyone visiting the Acropolis and the British Museum can see at firsthand the injustice of the British Museum and Government’s refusal to return them. Britain has an opportunity to show leadership in addressing cultural property disputes by returning the Marbles.

10. The Acropolis Museum has dedicated a special place for the Marbles. Here those remaining in Greece are displayed in the correct orientation, within clear view of the Parthenon, where they are bathed in natural light in the very context that gave rise to them and. It is time to correct a long-standing wrong and reunify these outstanding works.

The Parthenon Marbles cannot be separated from the context that gave rise to them.

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Reunification of the Sculptures of the Parthenon: A Gift to the International Youth

Invitation_SAKA Reunification Parthenon Sculptures event_12 nov 2019.jpg

Invitation 2.jpg

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Greek PM told he must recognise British Museum ownership of Parthenon marbles to secure sculptures on loan

Following is the full English language text of an article by Yannis Andritsopoulos, London Correspondent for Ta Nea, Greece’s daily newspaper. See below for contact details.

Follow this link for the original Greek text.

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“The Greek government must acknowledge the British Museum’s ownership of the Parthenon sculptures before its Trustees consider whether or not to lend the marbles to Greece, a museum representative told Ta Nea, Greece’s daily newspaper.

“A precondition for any loan would be an acceptance of ownership of those objects by the Trustees / the Museum”, a British Museum spokesperson told Ta Nea, commenting on Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s recent statement that he will ask Boris Johnson to approve a loan of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens in a temporary swap with other ancient artefacts.

“The Trustees will consider any loan request for any part of the collection. As yet there has been no direct contact from the Greek authorities regarding the proposal made over the weekend”, a British Museum’s spokeswoman said, stressing that “as an arms-length body, this would be a matter for the Trustees not the UK Government.”

“The British Museum is committed to sharing its collection as widely as possible, as one of the leading lenders of objects in the world we lent over 5,000 objects to venues in the UK and internationally last year,” she added.

“The Parthenon Sculptures are legal property of the British Museum. They are free to view, have been on display for over two hundred years, and millions from across the world have seen them”, a Downing Street spokesperson told Ta Nea.

“Decisions relating to their care are taken by the Trustees of the British Museum – free from political interference,” the UK government’s spokesperson said.

Mitsotakis told the Observer on Sunday that he would ask the new British prime minister to lend the marbles to Greece as part of its bicentennial celebrations in 2021.

“Given the significance of 2021, I will propose to Boris: ‘As a first move, loan me the sculptures for a certain period of time and I will send you very important artifacts that have never left Greece to be exhibited in the British Museum’,” said the Greek premier.

On 7 June 1816, British Parliament voted to purchase from Lord Elgin his collection of sculpted marbles from the Parthenon and elsewhere on the Acropolis of Athens. They were then passed to the British Museum, where they are now on display. The British Museum is an arms-length body not under the control of the UK government.

“The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (IARPS) and the twenty National Committees worldwide congratulate and firmly support Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in his efforts to reunite the Parthenon Sculptures in the Acropolis Museum in Athens for the festive bicentennial commemoration of the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in 2021”,

Dr Christiane Tytgat, President of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (IARPS) told Ta Nea.

“The loan proposition Prime Minister Mitsotakis successfully agreed with French President Macron last week – the South metope X of the Parthenon on display in the Louvre in return for a collection of bronze artefacts from Greece – was a first step on the way to making a breakthrough in the long ongoing claim by the Hellenic Government for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens,” she added.

“We warmly welcome the announcement Prime Minister Mitsotakis made in an interview with The Observer stating that he is going to propose to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, [quote] “as a first move, to loan me the sculptures for a certain period of time and I will send you very important artefacts that have never left Greece to be exhibited in the British Museum.”

“We sincerely hope that Prime Minister Johnson, as a philhellene and Classically educated person, will give this proposition the consideration it demands, and we wish Prime Minister Mitsotakis every possible success in his campaign to reunite the Parthenon Sculptures in the Acropolis Museum in 2021,” Dr Tytgat said.

“The difference between Macron’s thoughtful, sensible and sensitive attitude to ill-gotten colonial gains stands as an admonishment to the BM’s present snooty inflexibility, which won’t deign to enter a discussion on the matter but maintains radio silence through diplomatic channels and tells outdated stories through public ones, but we fervently hope for better things from the dear British Museum very soon, as times they are a-Changing,”

Dame Janet Suzman, Chair of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, told Ta Nea.

“A twinge of discomfort might be starting to manifest itself since the BM has, we are told, printed up in the Duveen Galleries for the general public to digest, A pamphlet telling its ageing trope about universality. We would like them to show a further inclination to fair debate by publishing alongside their screed the now current view that it is high time the Parthenon marbles were graciously returned to be exhibited next to their other halves in the Parthenon Gallery of the superlative Acropolis Museum,” Dame Janet said.

She added that “it would be nice if the Museum manifested a more Macronesque largesse of spirit in regard to what belongs to the Sacred Rock and the people of Greece.”

“A mutually agreed exchange of loans is certainly far preferable to the BM’s shameless soft diplomacy ‘loan’ of ‘Ilissos’ to President Putin some five years back. That I thought was a calculated insult to the Greek government. President Macron’s statements on the unconditional return/reunification of 26 African art objects from France paved the way for the recent talks between Greece and France,” Professor Paul Cartledge, A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture emeritus, University of Cambridge, Vice-Chair of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, told Ta Nea.

“But of course we of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles and the International Association for the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures hope for and expect much more in due course – namely, the total reunification in the Acropolis Museum of ALL pieces originally from the Parthenon that are currently held in museums outside Greece (not only in the BM)! But of course we campaign especially on behalf of the Marbles currently held (prisoner) in the BM,” Professor Cartledge said.

“For that eventual reunification the Greek Govt of the day will certainly reciprocate most handsomely with spectacular loans – such as those that are scheduled or will be scheduled to go to the Louvre no doubt will be,” he added.

Published in Ta Nea, Greece’s daily newspaper (www.tanea.gr)
Publication date: 03 September 2019

English version: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/greek-pm-told-he-must-recognise-british-museum-secure-andritsopoulos/

Yannis Andritsopoulos
London Correspondent for Ta Nea, Greece’s daily newspaper
Tel.: +44 (0) 7521 633 467
Email: iandritsopoulos@gmail.com
Connect with Yannis: Twitter, LinkedIn

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