ANTICA GRECIA ARCHEOLOGICA & RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA. Parthenon marbles: Greece furious over British loan to Russia, THE GUARDIAN (05-07|12|2014).

ANTICA GRECIA ARCHEOLOGICA & RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA. Parthenon marbles: Greece furious over British loan to Russia, THE GUARDIAN (05-07|12|2014).

s.v., ITALIA BENI CULTURALI: “OPINION – The Great Giveback,” THE NEW YORK TIMES (03 February & 26 JANUARY 2013), p. SR12

ITALIA BENI CULTURALI: "OPINION - The Great Giveback," THE NEW YORK TIMES (03 February & 26 JANUARY 2013), p. SR12

Parthenon marbles: Greece furious over British loan to Russia – Greek prime minister says loan of statue from pillaged frieze puts end to British Museum argument that disputed antiquities are immovable, THE GUARDIAN (05|12|2014).

Greece has reacted with outrage to the British Museum’s surprise move to loan one of the disputed Parthenon marbles to Russia.

Within hours of learning of the unexpected decision to send the monumental statue of the river god Ilissos to the State Hermitage museum in St Petersburg, the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaris, hit back.

“[It] provokes the Greek people,” he said on Friday, insisting that the loan effectively ended the British Museum’s argument that the Greek antiquities were immovable.

“The last British dogma about immovability has ceased to exist … the Parthenon and its sculptures were the object of pillage. We Greeks are identified with our history and culture which cannot be torn apart, loaned and ceded.”

News of the move elicited shock and fury with Greek officials, and activists abroad, describing the gesture, variously, as sly, arrogant, provocative and rude. Campaigners suggested it would give added impetus to Athens to pursue the legal route in its quest to reclaim the Golden Age treasures from London.

Samaras’ conservative-dominated coalition is currently seeking advice from the human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, and two of Britain’s leading experts in cultural restitution, Geoffrey Robertson and Norman Palmer, in the fight to repatriate antiquities seen as the high point of classical art.

“[The loan is] appalling, no one had any idea whatsoever,” said Elena Korka, a senior culture ministry policymaker involved in restitution efforts since 1986. “For so many years they have argued that the sculptures could not be moved. At the end of the day this will turn against them,” she told the Guardian.

Veiled in secrecy until its announcement late on Thursday, the unprecedented step saw the collection being broken up for the first time since the British Museum took possession of the 5th century BC masterpieces in 1816. Roughly half of the 160-metre-long frieze has been in London since Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, oversaw its removal from the Parthenon as the British ambassador to the Ottoman empire more than 200 years ago.

Neil MacGregor, the British Museum’s director, said the loan would reinforce the argument that the museum was a universal institution with global outreach.

The headless river god, among the most recognisable of the classical carvings, is due to be unveiled at the Hermitage on Friday in celebration of its 250th anniversary.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday morning, MacGregor said he hoped the Greek government would be delighted that the sculpture would now be on display to a new audience.

“I hope that they will be very pleased that a huge new public can engage with the great achievements of ancient Greece. People who will never be able to come to Athens or London will now, here in Russia, understand something of those great achievements in Greek civilization.”

But Greek officials said if they were to be delighted it would be “for other reasons”.

With a purpose-built museum constructed at the foot of the Acropolis to exhibit the sculptures, the move not only boosted the argument that the marbles should be “reunited” for ethical, aesthetic and scholarly reasons, but provided the first glimmer of hope that, one day, they would return to the place where they were created.

“It’s a change of attitude,” Korka said. “Now that they have taken this decision, they can pack up the rest and bring them here where the climate suits them and where they belong. And when the [two-month] exhibition at the Hermitage is over they can bring the Ilissos over too.”

She rejected the British Museum’s claim that Greece had consistently refused to enter into talks over loaning the antiquities to Athens. “We have never said ‘never’ to anything. We have said, so many times, we are open to mediation and that means we are open to loans as well.”

Macgregor repeated the museum’s claim on Friday, saying: “The Greek government has always refused to borrow, to date, but the trustees’ position is very clear that they will consider any request from anyone who is prepared to return the object.”

Discussions with the Hermitage are believed to have begun in October before the deal was sealed two weeks ago.

Campaigners for the return of the marbles to Athens said the loan was all the more inflammatory for its timing. In July 2013, Greece called on Unesco, the United Nations’ cultural organisation, to intervene, urging David Cameron’s government to participate in mediation in an attempt to settle the long-dispute. London has yet to respond.

“It is not just rude, provocative and arrogant, it is a highly offensive thing to do when Britain has completely ignored a Greek request to mediate this issue through Unesco,” said David Hill, the Australian president of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures. “For the best part of 18 months Unesco has been waiting for a reply,” he told the Guardian from Sydney. “The only thing this will do is aggravate the situation. It’s extremely inflammatory.”


— THE GUARDIAN (05|12|2014).

ANTICA GRECIA ARCHEOLOGICA & RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA. Parthenon marbles: Squalid saga of Parthenon marbles loan to Russia, THE GUARDIAN (05-07|12|2014).

In loaning the Parthenon marbles statue of Ilissos to Russia (Loan shatters Elgin marbles claim, says Athens, 6 December), the British Museum has acted insensitively and foolishly. It is unseemly and squalid, after unanswered Greek requests for the marbles’ return, for the statue’s first move outside Britain to be to a country we ourselves have placed under sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine. At a stroke the museum has legitimised Putin’s Russia at a time when the latter’s unpredictable aggression threatens Ukraine’s existence and Europe’s wider security.

Does the museum think itself exempt from the dynamics of contemporary European politics, and that cultural diplomacy will smooth over the current crisis? Consider this: right now the Netherlands is refusing to return Scythian gold, loaned before the illegal annexation of Crimea, to four museums now under Russian control there. What is to stop Russia holding Ilissos hostage in return? In April the Russian Itar-Tass agency reported that the refusal to return the gold would result in non-cooperation between Russian and EU museums. The British Museum may well have placed one of its most priceless artefacts in serious danger. Putin has shown himself indifferent about far more.
Tony King
Barnt Green, Worcestershire

• If British people want to understand the point of view of the Greeks on the so-called “Elgin marbles”, please consider this hypothetical scenario: in the 15th century, Britain is occupied by the French. British people fall under oppressive French rule. Four centuries later, the Greek Mr Papadopoulos buys permission from French authorities to care for Big Ben. He moves half of it to his estate in Greece. Twenty years later, the British people start a revolution against the French and soon they acquire their independence. At the end of the 20th century, Britain asks for the repatriation of the “Papadopoulos steel”. Greece refuses to talk. The “Greek Museum” causes irreparable damage in the 1930s (see the Guardian, 14 April 2001), organises glamorous parties in the rooms where Big Ben (sorry: Papadopoulos Steel) is displayed in 1999 (see the Guardian, 8 November 1999) and it even gives some objects (say, the number 10 from the clock face) as a loan to a Chinese museum in 2014, while refusing to sit down with Unesco to discuss an offer of mediation on the issue in October 2013.

The director of the Greek Museum says publicly that the British government should be “delighted” with the loan, and that “the greatest things in the world should be shared and enjoyed by as many people in as many countries as possible”. Well done, Mr Director. The British public would certainly appreciate your views.
Andreas Stalidis

• Greece’s prime minister Antonis Samaras fulminates about Britain’s retention of parts of the Parthenon frieze. Meanwhile, one of the fragments of the frieze that remained in Greece, newly mounted in the Acropolis museum, is eroded by pollution and so horribly neglected by that long independent country that it can hardly be recognised.

Apart from other issues surrounding the marbles, how dare Greece put that sorry fragment on display and try to take the moral high ground about custodianship of the rest of the marbles? What is more, after years of overseas funding assistance, the Acropolis itself, the most famous archeological site in the western world, is still a dusty, un-energetic-looking, and disappointing mess. Where has all the money gone?
Richard Wilson

• If someone stole my family heirlooms (don’t worry, I don’t have any) I’d be unimpressed if the thief then loaned them to someone else, on condition that they went back to the thief after two months. I’d be even less impressed if the thief asked me if I’d like to borrow them, so long as I returned them all safely to him.
Alan Burkitt-Gray

• I’m wondering if the British Museum has checked on the potential for Greece to initiate legal proceedings in Russia to recover this item of the Elgin marbles. Does anyone out there really believe that Vladimir Putin thinks like a museum curator? The French have already said he can’t have the brand new French-built carrier that has been undergoing sea trials, with Russian sailors on board; they are contractually obliged to hand that over to Russia, but are refusing to do so.
Vaughan Thomas

• British Museum lends Elgin marbles to Hermitage; later, Putin forwards it to Athens: two fingers to London. You read it here first.
John Smith
Lindfield, West Sussex

• The British Museum’s attempts to improve the “frosty relations between Russia and the west in the wake of the invasion of eastern Ukraine” would have had more impact if the works of art loaned to the Hermitage museum actually belonged to Britain. Lending the Parthenon marbles, instead of, for example, some Turner landscapes or samples from the royal family’s vast collection, is simply provocative, and will do nothing but cause resentment in Greece, and display our hypocrisy to the world. How quick we are to offer judgments when Jewish-owned artwork is discovered in ex-Nazis’ homes (Modernist art haul, ‘looted by Nazis’, recovered by German police, 4 November).

Jonathan Jones has rightly argued that British museums must “face up to reality” and that “cultural imperialism” belongs in history’s dustbin, but clearly his passionate plea fell on deaf ears (The art world’s shame: why Britain must give its colonial booty back, 4 November). How can anyone justify, in the 21st century, the looting of Greek treasure by a greedy, profiteering British aristocrat, 210 years ago?

The return of the marbles is long overdue, would provide a welcome boost to an impoverished Greek economy, and would display some British acceptance of guilt for its imperial past. Lending some of the pieces to Russia is simply shameful, and questions must be asked about the role played in this by the secretary of state for culture.

Any political party with a sense of decency would include a promise to return the marbles to their rightful home in its election manifesto.
Bernie Evans


–THE GUARDIAN (05-07|12|2014).