ATHENS – The British Museum is not the legal owner of the stolen Parthenon Marbles – Greece is – and the belong in the Acropolis Museum built to house and showcase them, the institution’s director Dimitrios Pandermalis reportedly told German public radio.
He said the marbles taken off the frieze some 200 years ago by a Scottish nobleman, Lord Elgin, and later sold to the British Museum must be returned to their real home permanently and not just loaned.
“The full return of the Parthenon Marbles is the only solution. Everything that is inextricably linked to the monument must be reunited,” he was said to have told Deutschlandfunk, saying the sculptures in London are a critical part of the monument.
He also said his museum would gladly offer something to the British Museum in exchange for the marbles’ return, without going into details.
Pantermalis was responding to Hartwig Fischer, the British Museum Director, who said his museum is the rightful owner of the stolen property and said they would never be returned to Greece, nor loaned temporarily without a declaration that the British Museum owns them outright.
“The Trustees of the British Museum feel the obligation to preserve the collection in its entirety, so that things that are part of this collection remain part of this collection,” he was quoted as telling Greek daily Ta Nea.
Asked if that is the reason why the Museum will not permanently return the Sculptures, he replied: “Yes,” without explaining why having part of a collection is whole collection.
In another part of the same interview he said they are “in the fiduciary ownership of the Trustees of the Museum.”
Fischer also said that the removal of the marbles from Greece in the 19th century could be seen as “a creative act,” albeit stolen.
The sculptures are the work of great Athenian sculptor Phidias who added them to the Parthenon in the fifth century BC. In the early 19th century, men working for the 7th Earl of Elgin dismantled a large part of the frieze and shipped the sculptures back to London.