“My solution to the Parthenon marbles – let’s split them in half Britain and Greece should stop arguing about the Elgin marbles and share them. It wouldn’t be the first time a cultural war ended in a truce.” This opinion article is written by Florian Schmidt-Gabain, a Swiss lawyer specialized in art works taxation, and posted on The Guardian on Saturday. Another awkward proposal on the dispute between Greece and the British Museum, a proposal out of the blue with a think and oversimplified argumentation.
The good man takes aim at the recent statements by director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer, who claimed that the Parthenon Marbles should not be returned or even lent to Greece and that the removal of the Marbles from Athens to UK was a “creative act.”
“Both sides, the Britons as well as the Greeks, have valid arguments. Maybe even the Greek gods would have had difficulty in deciding whether the marbles -should be kept in the British Museum or returned to Greece. It may well be that they would have come to the same point as they did in Aeschylus’s play The Eumenides: a stalemate. An equal number of votes for and against restitution. However, and unlike what happens in The Eumenides, in the case of the marbles, this would not be a catastrophe.”
Undecided about who is right or wrong – the Brits or the Greeks – and wrongly assuming the position of Greek gods, he proposes a unique solution: a 50-50 share.
“For it is not necessary to decide whether they should stay in London or travel to Athens. Instead, there is an easier and obvious solution: a 50:50 share. The British Museum keeps one half of the marbles and Greece takes the other half. Of course, there would be disputes about who gets what. But those aren’t disputes that can’t be resolved. The marbles don’t consist of one major piece and a lot of minor pieces. There are almost only major pieces. This is a unique situation – and an opportunity – since in many restitution cases sharing doesn’t work. You cannot cut the Nefertiti in half or break the obelisk of the Place de la Concorde in two. Britain and Greece should take advantage of this situation and finally end their feud.”
The proposal is out of the blue and based on a thin and oversimplified argumentation. It lacks a serious -and the most important – justification: Why should there be a 50:50 share of the stolen Parthenon Marbles?
“Facsimiles could be made for each collection’s “missing” pieces, if either nation wishes to display a complete set. It will be hard for most people to differentiate the authentic ones and the copies. Maybe European Union funds could be made available, Brexit notwithstanding.”
Of course, facsimiles could be made and thus with the help of a 3D printer to save on expenditure. in an effort to downgrade the importance of the Parthenon monument as a whole he comes up with an example from a Swiss issue, the St Gallen Abbey Library.
A similar solution was found for a Swiss case. In 1712, Zurich troops invaded St Gallen and its abbey library and brought back precious books and a rare globe of extraordinary size. For decades, St Gallen demanded restitution of the looted items. Finally, in 2006, Zurich and St Gallen agreed that one of the most exquisite books would be returned to St Gallen, that 40 books remain on loan from St Gallen for at least 40 years, that the globe be moved from a museum of the canton of Zurich to the Swiss national museum and that a facsimile of the globe be produced for St Gallen and funded by the city of Zurich.
This sharing solution is not a Swiss idea. It was the ancient Greeks who invented it. Or, maybe more accurately, sung of it: [quote from The Eumenides follows]”
Of course, the author could also have come up with an even more groundbreaking solution: That Greece and the British Museum exchange the collection of the stolen Parthenon Marbles and each part keeps them… ‘lease’ them so to say for 99 years.
Thanks the Greek gods, Florian Schmidt-Gabain‘s imagination capacities are obviously limited as he seems to be lost in fiction literature and not the real world of legal claims.
From Aeschylus’ solution to Solomon’s judgement is just a toblerone away…
BTW: The term “Elgin Marbles” is normally used by those supporting the British Museum position, where everybody else knows that the correct name is Parthenon Marbles.