British Museum management calls for ‘Parthenon partnership’ over Elgin Marbles

The British Museum’s deputy director has called for a “Parthenon partnership” with Greece that could result in the controversial Elgin Marbles returning to Athens after more than 200 years.

The sculptures – 17 figures and part of a frieze that decorated the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple on the Acropolis – became the subject of a long-standing dispute over where they should be displayed by Lord Elgin in the early 1900s.

In conversation with the Sunday times Deputy director of culture magazine Jonathan Williams said the British Museum wanted to “change the temperature of the debate” surrounding the marble artworks.

Sections of the Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum in London (Matthew Fearn/PA)

(PA Archive)

Mr Williams said: “What we are calling for is an active ‘Parthenon partnership’ with our friends and colleagues in Greece.

“I truly believe that there is room for a truly dynamic and positive conversation where new ways of working together can be found.”

The British Museum has not said it will be returning the sculptures, with Mr Williams arguing they are an “absolutely essential part” of the collection.

However, he said they want to “change the temperature of the debate,” adding that all sides must “find a way forward to advance cultural exchanges to a level, an intensity and a dynamism previously unimaginable.” .

He added: “There are many wonderful things that we would like to borrow and lend. That’s what we do.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has reiterated that his country is open to negotiations (Chris Jackson/PA)

(PA Archive)

The Greek Prime Minister has on many occasions called for the Parthenon Marbles to be returned to Greece and even offered to loan some of his country’s other treasures to the British Museum in exchange.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis has reiterated that Greece is open to negotiations but said: “Small steps are not enough. We want big steps.”

The director of the Acropolis Museum, Nikolaos Stampolidis, also said that with the offer of the “positive Parthenon partnership” there could be a “basis for constructive discussions”.

He added: “In the difficult days we live in, their return would be an act of history.

“It would be as if the British themselves were restoring democracy.” British Museum management calls for ‘Parthenon partnership’ over Elgin Marbles


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