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UK government rules out law change for return of Parthenon marbles to Greece after ‘secret’ meetings


The Parthenon marbles housed within the British Museum proceed to occupy the foreground of an ongoing debate about artwork repatriation. After stories of a sequence of “secret” conferences concerning the sculptures, the U.Ok. authorities confirmed there can be no legislation change to facilitate their return to Greece. 

Made between 447 and 432 B.C. below the supervision of the sculptor Phidias and his assistants, the marbles within the British Museum’s assortment are displayed within the special-made Duveen Gallery, having as soon as adorned the Parthenon atop Athens’ Acropolis. They encompass 15 metopes (sculpted reduction panels), 17 pedimental figures and 247 ft of the unique frieze. The sculptures depict spectacular scenes of battle and competition procession, in addition to gods reclining. 

Altogether, the British Museum’s assortment makes up half of the Parthenon’s surviving sculptures.

Leto, Artemis and Aphrodite from the Parthenon’s east pediment.
(VCG Wilson/Corbis by way of Getty Photos)

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On Saturday, Greek newspaper Ta Nea revealed that since November 2021, the chair of the British Museum, George Osborne, has held a sequence of “secret” discussions on the return of the marbles with senior Greek authorities officers, together with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The most recent assembly between Mitsotakis and Osborne was final week and insiders declare negotiations are at an “superior stage.”

Greece has lengthy maintained that the marbles have been stolen and have campaigned for his or her repatriation. However, the British Museum, alongside the U.Ok. authorities, has defended its proper to own and show them.

At problem are the actions of Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire originally of the nineteenth century. Having been granted a allow, Elgin eliminated the sculptures and later bought them to the British authorities in 1816. 

Elgin’s actions have been investigated by a Parliamentary Choose Committee in 1816 and located to be fully authorized, previous to the sculptures getting into the gathering of the British Museum by Act of Parliament. Since then, arguments in opposition to the legality of Elgin’s actions have centered on the unique allow – specifically, whether or not the Ottomans particularly approved elimination of the sculptures and whether or not they had the authority to take action within the first place.

Part of a metope depicting the battle between Centaurs and Lapiths.

A part of a metope depicting the battle between Centaurs and Lapiths.
(GraphicaArtis/Getty Photos)

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The Greek authorities made its first official request a long time in the past, however for the primary time in a few years, the reunification of the Parthenon marbles in Athens’ specifically designed Acropolis Museum appears like an actual risk. 

At an occasion on the London College of Economics final week, Mitsotakis defined that progress was being made towards a “win-win answer” for the 2 sides. “I do sense the momentum,” Mitsotakis added.

A spokesperson for U.Ok. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak informed reporters that whereas the trustees are free to speak to whomever they need, the U.Ok. authorities has “no plans to alter the legislation, which prevents eradicating objects from the British Museum’s assortment other than in sure circumstances.”

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Beneath the 1963 British Museum Act, objects can solely be eliminated if they’re “duplicates” or if “the item is unfit to be retained within the collections of the Museum and will be disposed of with out detriment to the pursuits of scholars.”

A frieze which makes up part of the "Elgin Marbles."

A frieze which makes up a part of the “Elgin Marbles.”
(Graham Barclay, BWP Media/Getty Photos)

The British Museum responded to the stories in a Monday assertion.

“We’re searching for new constructive, long-term partnerships with international locations and communities world wide, and that after all consists of Greece,” it mentioned.

The Museum nonetheless intends to function throughout the legislation, explaining it will not dismantle its assortment “because it tells a singular story of our frequent humanity.” 

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A compromise might see the marbles shared between the 2 international locations.

Nonetheless, former U.Ok. Tradition Secretary Ben Bradshaw defined to Ta Nea: “I do not suppose anybody is critically pondering that when the marbles return [to Athens] they gained’t return completely.”

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