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“We don’t return, we don’t lend” Parthenon Marbles, says British Museum

“We don’t return, we don’t lend the Parthenon Marbles, Greece is not the legitimate owner,” said Hartwig Fischer, German historian and Director of the British Museum since 2016. Fischer has been actively involved in the debate over the last few years on the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, defending the Museum’s steady position that the Sculptures should remain in London.

 

In an exclusive interview with daily Ta Nea, Fischer claimed that the Parthenon Marbles belong to the trustees of the British Museum.

“The Marbles will not permanently return to Greece,” he said ruling out the possibility of an “indefinite lending, if Greece does not accept that they belong to the Britons.”

Fischer spoke about “the legitimate owner of the Marbles” and described their shift either to London or to the Acropolis Museum as “constructive act.” He added that “it is a different thing if they are exhibited in front of their place of origin or on London.
“We exhibit the the Parthenon sculptures in a context of world cultures highlighting the achievements of cultural heritage under the same roof,” he said adding “the history of the sculptures is enriched by the fact that parts of them are been exhibited in Athens and London.”

Fished expressed understanding that “the Greeks have a special and passionate relationship with this part of their cultural heritage and want to see all the Parthenon sculptures in Athens.”

He stresses that the British Museum lends thousands of objects each year to other museums, including the Acropolis Museum, providing that they acknowledge the ownership of these objects.

he added that there are no talks in development with the Acropolis Museum with regards to lend the Parthenon Marbles.

As for the view that Greece is the legitimate owner of the Parthenon Marbles, Fischer said “I would not accept it. The objects of the British Museum’s collections are under the ownership of the museum’s commissioners and trustees.”

PS I suppose it was Fischer’s rigid approach that earned him the position of the British Museum director.  He is the first non-British director since 1866.

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One comment

  1. So far it is Greece’s rigid approach that will not recognise Britain’s legal ownership of those marbles in the British Museum. Those in the Louvre, removed by Louis-François-Sébastien Fauvel a few years before Elgin arrived, are almost never spoken of and it is not known whether the Greek government regards France as the legitimate owner or not.

    What we do know is that in 2008 the new Acropolis Museum borrowed a fragment of Parthenon Marble from the Archaeological Museum in Palermo under a two year loan arrangement, and then duly returned it, thus formally recognising the regional Government of Sicily’s legal right of ownership. (It is believed this piece was taken to Palermo by Lord Elgin himself.) There is no reason Greece should not negoiate a loan from London on the same basis as that accomplished with Palermo, but sadly won’t.