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New Body in the UK Aims to Return Parthenon Marbles to Greece

Parthenon Marbles
The new body in Britain proposes a win-win solution for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. Public Domain

A new body was recently launched in the UK chaired by a former Conservative culture minister aiming to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

The Parthenon Project will be chaired by Lord Vaizey, a culture minister from 2010-2016. He told the BBC he is confident a deal is within reach.

“I am confident that a deal is within reach. Support for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens from the public, and in particular Conservative-leaning voters, is clear.”

He was referring to a poll of nearly 2,000 people, commissioned by the Parthenon Project, which suggests while 16% of the British public think the Parthenon Marbles should stay in Britain, 54% think they should be returned.

The strongest reason for supporting the return was because they “rightfully belong to Greece”. The Parthenon Project points to a breakdown of the poll which shows, amongst people who voted Conservative in 2019, 44% thought the sculptures should go to Greece and 28% didn’t mind either way.

Lord Vaizey said it would be “in the best interests of the British Museum and UK government to begin meaningful engagement on this issue”.

He is joined by other founding members on the advisory board of the Parthenon Project, an organisation founded by the Greek businessman John Lefas.

Lefas an industrialist with plastics and chemical plants, has been working actively but quietly for the sculptures’ return for the past two years.

How did this involvement come about? “Mainly from my love for Greece, for art and from the fact that I cannot abide injustice. And the situation with the sculptures is a grave injustice. A lot of lies have been told,” he recently told the Greek daily Kathimerini.

The board also includes two other Conservative peers, the renowned author Lord Dobbs and Baroness Meyer. They’re joined by Stephen Fry and the journalist Sarah Baxter.

Win-win deal for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece

The Parthenon Project plans to campaign for a “win-win” deal that will involve:

The return of the Sculptures to Greece

The Parthenon Sculptures is a single piece of art which is currently exhibited in a fragmented state. Their reunification in Athens would allow this magnificent work of art to be appreciated as it was intended.

Rotating exhibits of ancient Greek art at the British Museum

The British Museum is a “museum of the world” and Ancient Greek artefacts have an important role to play, the Parthenon Project says.

“We propose a cultural partnership that would include rotating exhibits of significant artefacts yet unseen in London. An agreement could be reached whereby a new exhibition would be staged every few months in the gallery where the Parthenon sculptures are currently displayed.

“These would induce fresh interest each time a new visiting collection is announced. The first could be of Mycenaean artefacts, the next from Classical Greece, then an exhibition on Philip II and Alexander the Great, another on the Hellenistic world, the next of Greek culture in the east and so on.”

The role of technology 

Early castings of the sculptures made before the originals were damaged offer an opportunity to use the latest technological advances to create facsimiles, increasing their artistic and educational value, the Parthenon Project proposes.

This process could be funded through philanthropic causes that support the preservation of ancient artefacts, including by leading technology companies, it adds.

In a statement, the British Museum said: “We will loan the sculptures, as we do many other objects, to those who wish to display them to the public around the world, provided they will look after them and return them.”

Asked recently about a potential deal that could lead to the return of the sculptures to Athens, Prime Minister Liz Truss said: “I don’t support that.”

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