“The Parthenon Marbles were made by the citizens of Athens under the direction of renowned artist Phidias to celebrate the pride and majesty of the City of Athens. To not house and view these citizen contributions in the city they were originally intended does a disservice not only to the people of Athens, but also to the civilization that paved the path for modern democracy and freedom.”
The appeal to the original intention of the sculptor is a strong one. These sculptures were an integral part of a building, incidentally now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Athenian Akropolis.
Is now the time for these sculptures to be returned to Athens so that they can be displayed in line of sight of the Parthenon?
The British Prime Minister has stepped into the debate about cultural property currently held in the British Museum by making a statement about what he considers to be the legal status of the Parthenon architectural sculptures (“Greek culture minister challenges British PM’s claims on Parthenon sculptures“, ekatherimini.com 12 March 2021). These sculptures were once an integral part of the Parthenon, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Athenian Acropolis. The proposal is to display them in line of sight with the Parthenon.
Some of the issues relating to cultural property are explored in my Context Matters: Collating the Past (20202) [see here].
It is the 200th Anniversary of the Parliamentary Vote that led to the Parthenon Marbles forming part of the British Museum (see Looting Matters). The Parthenon forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Athenian Acropolis. Yet the architectural sculptures are displayed in London. Is it time to display the sculptures in sight of the temple for which they were created?
The J. Paul Getty Museum is to hand over a terracotta head to Italian authorities tomorrow (details on Looting Matters). It will then be put on display in the museum at Aidone, alongside other objects returned from North American collections.
The head’s return raises wider questions about how the Getty acquired material from private collections in the 1980s in spite of the 1970 UNESCO Convention.
The Cultural Heritage debate has been reopened with the publication of Michael Bennett’s study of the so-called Cleveland Apollo. Bennett’s study reopens the “due diligence” process required before museum’s acquire recently surfaced material.