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Parthenon Marbles “not particularly inspiring… return them to Greece,” says ex Museum trustee

“Return the Elgin Marbles to Greece,'” they are not inspiration to anyone, sculptor and former British Museum trustee Sir Antony Gormley said. In an interview with the British Archaeology magazine, Gormley said that the museum has to  detach from its ‘obsession with the classical world.’

As Greece disputes the presence of the stolen Parthenon Marbles and Gormley said: “I would be happy to return them.”

According to media reports, the British Museum should return the Elgin Marbles to Greece and make Africa the ‘absolute core of the museum’, Sir Antony Gormley has said.

The sculptor, who was one of the museum’s trustees from 2007 to 2015, also called for the institution to detach from its ‘obsession with the classical world’.

In an interview with British Archaeology magazine, he said the museum misrepresented certain areas of the world while under-representing others.

On the Elgin Marbles, which the museum says were acquired legitimately in the 19th century and Greece says were looted, he said: ‘I would be happy to return [them] because I think the present galleries are not a particularly inspiring place.’

Sir Antony, whose works include the Angel of the North sculpture in Gateshead, also described small displays of African artefacts in the museum’s basement as a ‘post-colonial iniquity’.

Last year the British Museum, which first opened to the public in 1759, found itself mired in the debate over the legacies of slavery fuelled by Black Lives Matter protests.

The British Museum’s most controversial artefacts  

The Parthenon Marbles: The Parthenon Marbles – popularly named the Elgin Marbles after the7th  Earl of Elgin, the man who took them from Greece – are a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures, inscriptions and architectural members that were mostly created by Phidias and his assistants.

The Earl of Elgin, Thomas Bruce, removed the Parthenon Marble pieces from the Acropolis in Athens while serving as the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803.

In 1801, the Earl claimed to have obtained a permit from the Ottoman authorities to remove pieces from the Parthenon.  

As the Acropolis was still an Ottoman military fort, Elgin required permission to enter the site.

His agents subsequently removed half of the surviving sculptures, as well as architectural members and sculpture from the Propylaea and Erechtheum. – full story dailymail,

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9 comments

  1. I am embarrassed and angry that my country, the UK, refuses to return the Parthenon Marbles to Athens. We had no right to take them in the first place and now that Athens has built a perfect museum to house them, there is no excuse for the UK to keep them.

    • As far as I am aware, the Greeks want them returned so that they can place them back on the Parthenon, where they were cut down from and not to put them in a Museum. Even so, they would still make more sense in the National Museum in Athens, below the Acropolis, rather than in an “uninspiring” room in London.

      The rebuilding of the Parthenon begun decades ago and it has been a slow and painstaking process as every care is taken but the real hold up is that they can’t fully proceed as certain things will have to be done differently, depending on whether the marbles are returned or not.

      As far as I am concerned, it’s not so much about the marbles per say or about ‘ownership’ but to see the Parthenon once again complete, in all it’s glory. Now that would be truly inspiring.

      In the meantime, the UK is not only denying the Greeks their cultural heritage but also the entire world of one of it’s most amazing buildings.

  2. Return them to Greece — they belong to the Greeks. If his horrendous sculpture (Angel of the North) is anything to go by, it’s patently obvious that Antony Gormley detached himself from the classical world a long time ago.

  3. Before I left the UK to permanently relocate in Greece I visited the British museum specifically to see the Parthenon marbles, because sadly I don’t believe the UK will ever return them to their rightful owners – i.e. Greece. I would only give credit to the museum for displaying the marbles in a completely plain hall, so attention is focused on the exceptional sculpting & carving skills of their creators, & I thought it was fantastic.

    It strikes me that Antony Gormley has a superiority complex if he thinks the Parthenon marbles are uninspiring – personally I think the Angel of the North is an ugly eyesore, & his other works boring & cliche. Added to the fact that wanting to make more of the African artefacts is clearly a PC based attempt to satisfy the BLM supporters. Surely those African artefacts should also be returned?

  4. As an American I visited the BM in 2019 and the very first thing I wanted to view was the EM. I disagree with Sir Anthony Gormley in that I found them truly inspirational. I would however agree with him that they should be repatriated to Greece.

  5. Send them back and concentrate on our own rich history.

  6. In my opinion, UK, just let go of the prestige and return the marbles to where they belong, in Greece! They are important and beautiful, whatever some people say!

  7. Apart from the obvious Cultural Heritage issue, I agree with him that the place where they are is uninspirational in order to see them. Am Artist too. Purely from an aesthetic perspective alone, they would be better off in the new Acropolis Museum in Athens.

  8. Headline also slightly misleading! He said the location where they were was “uninspiring” not the Sculptures themselves! Agreed.