ATHENS – Challenging British Museum Director Hartwig Fischer who said the Parthenon Marbles stolen 200 years ago now belong to the institution and not Greece, Culture Minister Myrsini Zorba said they were “born” in Greece and belong there for good.
“Greece is the birthplace of the Parthenon Marbles, Athens is their city, and the Acropolis and its Museum their natural place.
Fischer’s comments about a “ legitimate owner” exhibit a narrow and cynical managerial mindset,” the minister said in the statement after the British Museum Director spoke to the Greek newspaper Ta Nea.
“It is regrettable to hear this by the director of the British Museum and a well-known art historian. His remarks downgrade cultural heritage from an invaluable universal value to a mere exchange sale. Such views are diametrically opposed to the prevailing perceptions in the international field of culture,” said Zorba.
She added: “They are remnants of colonialism and ignore the international debate and UNESCO declarations, all the more when they involve a mutilated monument, a timeless symbol of Greece, which deserves to be reunified and restored according to the basic principle of ‘integrity’, as required by the 1972 UNESCO Convention.”
Fischer is a German art historian and museum director. His country during World War II plundered Greece of art treasures. Since April 2016, he has been director of the British Museum, the first non-British head of the museum since 1866.
But Zorba didn’t say if Greece’s ruling Radical Left SYRIZA would fight for the return of the Marbles after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipas also said they don’t belong to Greece but the world and he wasn’t willing to take the issue to court, dropping a legal challenge that was being led by actor George Clooney’s wife, British lawyer Amal Clooney.
The priceless marble friezes stolen from the Parthenon two centuries ago by Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin won’t be loaned to the rightful owner Greece from where they are now on display, Fischer said, despite international outcries.
He ruled out any chance they would be loaned although the new Acropolis Museum designed a floor to show them off against the backdrop of the Acropolis and Parthenon through giant glass windows.
Fischer said that loans are only made to countries who agree her museum owns them without explaining why it does since they were stolen from Greece.