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, “While we wait for the anniversary it is timely to reflect on the global significance of the Acropolis, and the Parthenon. 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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Statement from the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

”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.

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.

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 Christiane Tytgat
President IARPS

The Executive Board of IARPS

The 20 National Committees worldwide”

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Greece Offers to Loan Ancient Treasures to Britain in Bid for Parthenon Marbles

Following is the article titled, Greece Offers to Loan Ancient Treasures to Britain in Bid for Parthenon Marbles, written by Tasos Kokkinidis  and published by ‘Greek Reporter’ on 1 September”

“Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that he is willing to allow ancient treasures to be exhibited in London in exchange for the Parthenon Marbles being returned to Athens for 2021.

In an exclusive interview with Britain’s Observer, published on Sunday, Mitsotakis said: “Our wish and ambition is to create the necessary conditions for Greek cultural heritage to travel the world and in so doing convey the great and essential contribution of our country to western civilization.”

“In this context, given the significance of 2021, I will propose to Boris [Johnson]: ‘As a first move, 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’.”

The run-up to Greece’s bicentennial independence celebrations in 2021 offers an excellent opportunity for Athens to “step up its campaign to win back from the British Museum the Parthenon sculptures,” the newspaper says.

The Parthenon sculptures exhibited at the British Museum. Source: Wikipedia

Mitsotakis added that Greece’s “demand for the return of the sculptures remains in place.” He warned Britain that is fighting a losing battle on the issue. “I don’t think [Britain] should be fighting a losing battle. Eventually this is going to be a losing battle. At the end of the day there is going to be mounting pressure on this issue.”

The Observer notes that last week France responded with unexpected enthusiasm to Mitsotakis’ request to return part of the Parthenon frieze to Greece. The classical carving is regarded by the Louvre as the most precious in its possession.

In a move that will almost certainly embarrass Britain, the paper says, the French promised to look into returning the priceless objects in return for the loan of unseen Greek bronzes to the Louvre.

“As part of the concept of [promoting] our common European culture, there needs to be more fluidity and more movement,” Mitsotakis said. “If it happens, and I think it will happen, its going to be a first small crack.”

Although the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is against the return of the Parthenon sculptures to Greece, he is also a great philhellene, as his classical studies and constant references to ancient Greek figures show.

In an academic event which took place at Central Hall in Westminster on November 19, 2015, comparing the contributions of Greece and Rome to human civilization, Johnson argued that the Greeks had been first in everything.

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Emanuel Comino on Ahdaf Soueif’s Resignation

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In an open letter to the Trustees of the British Museum, Emanuel Comino AM, Chairman of the International Organising Committee – Australia – for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles[1] (IOC-A-RPM), said, “We strongly recommend that you urge the British Prime Minister to open negotiations with the Greek Government directed towards solving this cultural property dispute once and for all.”

“We also urge you call upon the UK Prime Minister to support changes to British Museum Act 1963 that will make this possible.”

His comments were prompted by the resignation of British Museum Trustee Ahdaf Soueif.

Writing on her blog Ms Soueif said,

” A few days ago I resigned from its Board of Trustees. My resignation was not in protest at a single issue; it was a cumulative response to the museum’s immovability on issues of critical concern to the people who should be its core constituency: the young and the less privileged.”

She is quoted elsewhere[2] as saying:

“The British Museum, born and bred in empire and colonial practice, is coming under scrutiny. And yet it hardly speaks.”

“It is in a unique position to lead a conversation about the relationship of South to North, about common ground and human legacies and the bonds of history.

“Its task should be to help us all imagine a better world, and – along the way – to demonstrate the usefulness of museums. This would go some way towards making the case for keeping its collection in London.”

In congratulating Ms Soueif  Emanuel Comino said, “We as members of the oldest Committee in the world campaigning for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, applaud Ms Soueif’s courage and principle.”

“Such intransigence also castes the Museum in a most negative light internationally and must be a great source of embarrassment to the government and the people of the British Isles,” he added

“Surveys of your own MPs have clearly shown more than 60% support for the return of the Marbles.”

“A Museum that was adapting to the 21st century would recognise that many opportunities exist for extensive collections of other Hellenistic objects, not well represented in the Museum’s collection, to be made available should a resolution to this dispute be achieved.  New technologies also enable highly realistic 3D laser simulations to be used in place of antiquities that have been returned to their countries of origin.”

“Restitution will allow the Marbles to be relocated in the specially conceived Acropolis Museum.  In this new setting, very close to their origins, the rich contribution of the Marbles to world civilization will have a gravity that cannot be achieved in other artificial settings.”

“Restitution will also allow the British Museum to shed the mantle of insensitivity and the emerging view that it is an institution somewhat out of step with present global developments in Museology. ”

“The call for restitution is becoming stronger and stronger internationally, it will never abate.  As a gesture of goodwill, that will be remembered through the ages, we urge you to call for the restitution of the Marbles now.”

For a full report on Ahdaf Soueif’s resignation go to her blog.

Russell Darnley OAM

Vice Chair and International Liaison Officer IOC-A-RPM

For further direct comment from EJ Comino

+6 1 2  9588 4144 

[1] Emanuel is also Vice Chair of the International Association for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures but is making this statement as Chair of the IOC-A-RPM

[2] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/07/16/british-museum-trustee-quits-bp-sponsorship-immovability-looted/

 

 

 

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Parthenon Marbles campaigners heartened

British Museum

After quitting as British Museum trustee, writer calls for honest discussion about return of artefacts

Βy Yannis Andritsopoulos, London Correspondent for Ta Nea, Greece’s daily newspaper (iandritsopoulos@gmail.com)

The Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif has resigned from the British Museum’s Board of Trustees in protest at the institution’s “immovability” on returning looted artefacts. She also cited the museum’s sponsorship deal with oil company BP and its treatment of workers as reasons for her resignation.

In a damning critique of the British Museum, published in the London Review of Books, Soueif condemned the institution’s lack of public engagement with the debate around the restitution of cultural artefacts.

Asked whether she thinks that the British Museum should be engaged in talks with Greece about returning the Parthenon Sculptures, Soueif told Ta Nea, Greece’s daily newspaper: “I believe it would be in everyone’s interests for the Museum to engage in open, honest and transparent discussions with everyone who feels they have a claim on objects held by the Museum.”

Asked if she thinks that the Parthenon Sculptures should be returned to Greece, Soueif said she “cannot really comment more specifically,” but added that “these claims can only be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”

“In November 2018, a French report commissioned by President Macron recommended the full restitution of looted African artworks. It burst open the debate over the repatriation of cultural artefacts. Museums, state officials, journalists and public intellectuals in various countries have stepped up to the discussion,” said the Booker Prize-nominated author and cultural commentator.

“The British Museum, born and bred in empire and colonial practice, is coming under scrutiny. And yet it hardly speaks. It is in a unique position to lead a conversation about the relationship of South to North, about common ground and human legacies and the bonds of history.

“Its task should be to help us all imagine a better world, and – along the way – to demonstrate the usefulness of museums. This would go some way towards making the case for keeping its collection in London. But its credibility would depend on the museum taking a clear position as an ally of coming generations.”

Soueif became a Trustee in 2012; her term would have ended in 2020.

“The Trustees regret Ahdaf Soueif’s decision to step down from the Board on which she has been a much valued voice since 2012. Ahdaf has made a significant contribution to the Board in all its endeavours and discussions, and has played a crucial role in deepening the British Museum’s engagement with Egypt and the wider Middle East, and with audiences and partners throughout the world,” said Sir Richard Lambert, Chair of the British Museum Trustees.

“Collaboration is about progressing as a whole and it is bigger than any one institution or any one individual, it’s a culture. The British Museum speaks of collaboration but it isn’t listening to Greece’s call for reunification despite the fact that the superlative Acropolis Museum celebrated its 10th anniversary less than a month ago, on 20 June,” Dame Janet Suzman, Chair of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, told Ta Nea.

“We salute Ahdaf Soueif for resigning because of the British Museum’s immovability on issues of critical concern. In her letter she writes: ‘the British Museum is not a good thing in and of itself. It is good only to the extent that its influence in the world is for the good.’ As a campaigning committee we strongly believe that if the British Museum wishes to set its stall out as a great and good universal influencer for the world – it must begin by putting old wrongs, right and the continued division of the Parthenon Marbles is a case in point,” Dame Janet said.

She added that “the revolt against colonial attitudes will not go away. It is high time the British Museum showed the heart within the beast and opened proper dialogue on the best place to display the sculptures from the Parthenon for all to understand that we are living in the 21st century and we can do what’s right by these sculptures for future generations to also take away the lesson that there is such a thing as a fairer world.”

This news report was published in Ta Nea, Greece’s daily newspaper (www.tanea.gr) on 18 July 2019. 

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