The British Museum is discussing to loan more Parthenon sculptures to foreign museums, after loaning the statue of god Ilissos to Russia’s State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
British Museum director Neil MacGregor told “The Telegraph” that several museums from across the world are interested in borrowing the Parthenon Marbles and that he is discussing with them. He said that talks are underway for almost a year but declined to name the time of the loans or the museums, according to “The Telegraph.”
The sculpture of god Ilissos is the first piece of the Parthenon Marbles that has ever “left” the British Museum. The sculptures were taken by Lord Elgin from Greece in 1803, when the country was still under Ottoman rule. Despite the efforts of Greek governments of the past thirty years, the Parthenon sculptures – or Elgin Marbles, as the British like to call them – were never returned to Greece.
Last Friday, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras spoke of the Ilissos loan and called it “an affront to the Greek people,” who are infuriated that the Parthenon sculptures “travel,” but not to their home. The British Museum’s argument had so far been that the sculptures cannot be moved. Now that argument is invalid, Samaras said.
However, the British Museum insists that the marbles were acquired legally and that they can be loaned to other museums, if the trustees choose so. “This is a totally normal thing for the British Museum to do, to lend great objects to great museums,” MacGregor told “The Telegraph.”
Greece is in UNESCO-mediated talks with Britain over the sculptures’ repatriation, since the largest part of the Parthenon Marbles are on display at the Acropolis Museum. The Greek side firmly believes that the sculptures belong to their natural environment and they are part of a whole that is broken.