British Museum Says It Wants ‘Realistic Solutions’ to Parthenon Marbles Restitution Debate

British Museum Says It Wants ‘Realistic Solutions’ to Parthenon Marbles Restitution Debate

The British Museum said it is interested in “realistic solutions” to its ownership dispute with Greece over the Parthenon Marbles following a UNESCO conference in which a representative of Turkey took aim at England’s claim to the contested sculptures.

The London institution has long claimed gave British forces permission for the removal of art from Athens in the early 19th century. According to the Greek newspaper Ekathimerini, the Turkish representative at the UNESCO conference questioned the legitimacy of those documents.

“The British Museum acknowledges Greece’s strong desire for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Athens. We understand and respect the deep emotions involved,” a museum spokesperson told the Greek news outlet SKAI TV on Tuesday. The spokesperson added that the museum seeks a “new relationship with Greece.”

Relations between Greece and the British Museum have grown strained over the past two years, with progress on a compromise to the centuries-long issue stalled amid public spats.

In 2023, the British Museum, which has held the sculptures since 1832, confirmed that it had been secretly meeting with representatives of the Greek government over a potential loan agreement. Greek culture minister Lina Mendoni said days later that that Greece would not agree to a deal that affirmed the United Kingdom’s ownership claim. She proposed a trade agreement that would ensure treasures from Greek antiquity—if not the Parthenon Marbles, then those of commensurate worth—would always be on display in London. 

That March, Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, stated that there were no plans for Parthenon Marbles to be returned to Greece, describing them as a “huge asset” to the country. Tensions rose again in November and December after a scheduled meeting in London between Sunak and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was abruptly canceled after the latter reneged on a promise not to use his trip to the UK as an opportunity to advocate for the repatriation of the sculptures. In a subsequent statement to press, Mitsotakis expressed his “annoyance” at the cancelation.

That same year, the debate gained a new dimension after the British Museum revealed that more than 1,000 items from its holdings were missing or confirmed stolen. Many of the items had not been cataloged or photographed by the museum, and a number had been identified to the museum as being for sale on eBay before the scandal broke. 

“Our position is clear,” Mendoni, the Greek culture minister, has said. “Should the sculptures be reunited in Athens, Greece is prepared to organize rotating exhibitions of important antiquities that would fill the void.

The post “British Museum Says It Wants ‘Realistic Solutions’ to Parthenon Marbles Restitution Debate” by Tessa Solomon was published on 06/05/2024 by