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

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

The Parthenon marbles that are housed at the British Museum will continue to dominate the ongoing debate on art repatriation. After a series of secret meetings about the sculptures, the U.K. government has confirmed that there will be no law changes to facilitate their return.

Made between 447 and 432 B.C. The special-made Duveen Gallery displays the British Museum’s marble collection. They were once displayed on the Parthenon at Athens’ Acropolis. They consist of 15 metopes (sculpted relief panels), 17 pedimental figures and 247 feet of the original frieze. These sculptures show scenes of battle and festival procession as well as gods reclining.

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

Leto, Artemis and Aphrodite from the Parthenon's east pediment.

Leto, Artemis, and Aphrodite taken from the Parthenon’s east pedestal.
(VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

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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 series of “secret” discussions on the return of the marbles with senior Greek government officials, including Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Insiders claim that negotiations are at an “advanced” stage after the latest meeting between Mitsotakis, Osborne. “

Greece long believed that the marbles had been stolen and has campaigned for their return. The British Museum and the U.K. government have defended their right to display and possess them.

At issue are the actions of Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 19th century. Having been granted a permit, Elgin removed the sculptures and later sold them to the British government in 1816.

Elgin’s actions were investigated by a Parliamentary Select Committee in 1816 and found to be entirely legal, prior to the sculptures entering the collection of the British Museum by Act of Parliament. Arguments against Elgin’s legality have focused on the original permit. This was to determine if the Ottomans had authorized the removal of the sculptures, and if they had the authority to do so.

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

Part of a metope showing the battle between Centaurs & Lapiths.
(GraphicaArtis/Getty Images)

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The Greek government made its first official request decades ago, but for the first time in many years, the reunification of the Parthenon marbles in Athens’ specially designed Acropolis Museum looks like a real possibility. Mitsotakis stated that there was progress towards a “win-win” solution for both sides at an event held at the London School of Economics last Wednesday. Mitsotakis said, “I sense the momentum.”

A spokesperson for U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters that while the trustees are free to talk to whomever they want, the U.K. government has “no plans to change the law, which prevents removing objects from the British Museum’s collection apart from in certain circumstances. “

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Under the 1963 British Museum Act, objects can only be removed if they are “duplicates” or if “the object is unfit to be retained in the collections of the Museum and can be disposed of without detriment to the interests of students. “

A frieze which makes up part of the

A frieze that forms part of the “Elgin Marbles.”
(Graham Barclay, BWP Media/Getty Images)

The British Museum responded to the reports in a Monday statement.

” We are looking for new positive, long-term partnership with countries and communities all over the world, including Greece,” it stated. The Museum intends to continue operating within the law. It stated that its collection tells a unique tale of our common humanity and would not be dismantled.

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A compromise could see the marbles shared between the two countries. However, Ben Bradshaw, former U.K. Culture Secretary explained to Ta Nea that “I don’t think anyone is seriously imagining that the marbles will return [to Athens] permanently.” “

Jeff Zymeri works as a Fox News Digital Production Associate. Find him on Twitter @jeffzymeri
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