Actor-director-activist George Clooney, who has taken on worldwide causes such as the Sudan tragedy, now has unwittingly stepped into an age-old fight between Greece and England over the stolen Parthenon Marbles being housed in the British Museum.
He said they should likely be returned to Greece, which six years ago opened a new Acropolis Museum to house the treasures stolen almost 200 years ago by a British diplomat, Lord Elgin.
The friezes had been called The Elgin Marbles before the late actress and Greek Culture Minister Melina Mercouri, who was at the head of the fight for their return, called them The Parthenon Marbles, joining others in the renaming call.
And he’s being backed by his co-stars in the WWII movie The Monuments Men, about a group led by American and British art experts behind enemy lines trying to save some of the world’s most valuable heritage art goods from destruction by the Nazis.
At a press conference in London Fen. 11, Clooney called for “an open discussion” on the fate of the ancient friezes. Both the Vatican and the J. Paul Getty Museum had sent parts back, Clooney said, raising the question “of whether or not one piece of art should be, as best as possible, put back together.”
“There are certain pieces that you look at and think, that actually is probably the right thing to do,” Clooney said, the Associated Press reported.
Greek Culture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos thanked Clooney for his support, calling him “an active citizen and creative artist who adamantly defends what is just and good.”
The British Museum, which houses the marbles, says they “are a part of the world’s shared heritage and transcend political boundaries” and are best displayed in London, where the public can view them for free.
Clooney, who directed and stars in The Monuments Men, said he didn’t mean to rekindle the ancient fight when he answered a question from a Greek journalist about the marbles at the Berlin Film Festival last week. And he said he’d been told that, as an American, he couldn’t understand the issues.
“That can’t always be the British default setting,” co-star Matt Damon told British reporters, half-joking. “That’s not actually an argument, to say ‘Well you’re American.’”
Bill Murray, another star of the movie, had a firmer opinion on the ancient artwork. “It’s had a very nice stay here, certainly,” Murray said. “But London’s gotten crowded. There’s plenty of room back there in Greece.”