Have you heard the news? Not only does the British Museum hold onto stolen property and refuses to give it back, but now it has loaned it out!
The stolen item, the monumental statue of a Greek river-god, Ilissos – part of the Parthenon marbles that Lord Elgin took from Athens two centuries ago – has gone to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, told the press, “The British Museum is a museum of the world, for the world and nothing demonstrates this more than the loan of a Parthenon sculpture to the State Hermitage.”
To hear him tell it, the British Museum is the most generous lender in the world – with another country’s treasure, that is.
Well, if you feel that magnanimous, MacGregor, why not loan something your museum actually owns. http://zoomdune.com/article/art-who-owns-what
And why give anything to Russia? Why reward a country that invaded Ukraine and shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight that killed 298 people? After all, it’s not like the Hermitage goes without antiquities. The St. Petersburg treasure house has so many Greek and Roman statues, they fill 31 halls.
MacGregor’s answer: “The politics of both museums have been that the more chilly the politics between governments, the more important the relationship between museums.”
With that kind of logic, if MacGregor were museum director when Germany was run by Nazis, an Elgin Marble would have ended up in Hamburg Kunsthalle.
Naturally, the Greeks are outraged. Antonis Samaris, the Greek prime minister, said that the loan cancels out the Brits’ contention that the marbles couldn’t be moved:
“The last British dogma about immovability has ceased to exist … the Parthenon and its sculptures were the object of pillage. We Greeks are identified with our history and culture which cannot be torn apart, loaned and ceded.”
Isolating one of the marbles is like separating the six figures in Rodin’s commemorative sculpture “the Burghers of Calais” – the heroes who volunteered to die to save the townspeople from slaughter following defeat to the British. (Those Brits get around, don’t they?)
Clearly, MacGregor doesn’t get it. Speaking to BBC Radio he said he hoped that Greece “will be very pleased that a huge new public can engage with the great achievements of ancient Greece. People who will never be able to come to Athens or London will now, here in Russia, understand something of those great achievements in Greek civilization.”
Here’s an idea for you, MacGregor. Now that you’ve sent a marble to another land, why not pack up the rest of them and send the lot back to the land it belongs to. http://zoomdune.com/article/the-cheekiness-of-the-british-museum