Greek hopes of recovering Parthenon friezes held by the UK appear to be dwindling. British Culture Minister Michelle Donelan said she ruled out on Wednesday January 11 a return to Greece of the carved marbles of the Parthenon, exhibited at the British Museum in London, rejecting reports that the museum and Athens were finalizing an agreement.
“I’ve been very clear about this: I don’t think they [les frises] should go back to Greece”, said the minister on the BBC. The president of the British Museum, George Osborne, “would agree with me: we shouldn’t send them back, and in fact they belong here in the UK, where we’ve taken care of them for a long time”she added.
Since 1983 and an official request from the Greek Minister of Culture, actress Melina Mercouri, Greece has been demanding the return of a 75-metre frieze detached from the Parthenon as well as one of the famous caryatids from the Erechtheion, a small ancient temple also on the rock of the Acropolis, both masterpieces of the British Museum. London, for its part, claims that the sculptures were “legally acquired” in 1802 by the British diplomat Lord Elgin, who sold them to the British Museum. But Greece maintains that it is a “looting” clerk when the country was under Ottoman occupation.
A “cultural exchange” mentioned
On January 4, the British newspaper The Telegraph had revealed that the president of the museum was in the process of concluding an agreement with Athens for the return to Greece of these treasures within the framework of a long-term loan, a ” cultural exchange “ which would make it possible to circumvent a British law of 1963 which prohibits the museum from giving up or selling objects from its collection. Greek media had already reported in December 2022 that secret negotiations had been going on for a year between Mr Osborne and the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
“I think his perspective on this has been misinterpreted and misrepresented. He [George Osborne] not going to send them back. This is not his intention. He has no desire to do so.”swept the Minister of Culture. “The concept of a 100-year loan has also been mooted, but that’s certainly not what he foresees either”she added, still saying that a return of these sculptures does not open ” Pandora’s box “.
Pressure has increased in recent years for Western museums to return works, particularly obtained during the colonial period, to their countries of origin.