LONDON – A British artist and illustrator who is Director of ArtWatch UK said that the British Museum should keep the stolen original Parthenon Marbles and give Greece only facsimiles instead of returning them.
With pressure growing for return of the treasures, Michael Daley wrote to the British newspaper The Guardian in response to a column by Chief Culture Writer Charlotte Higgins who said they belong in Greece.
“It would be much more beneficial to make two sets of facsimiles of all the surviving Parthenon sculptures and install one on the Parthenon building itself and another in the Acropolis Museum in Athens (which was unwisely constructed on stilts above a major archaeological site in an earthquake zone,)” he said.
“Such a project would retain the inestimable benefits of large culturally comparative museums like the British Museum and the Louvre, and help deflate regressive nationalistic calls for a kind of cultural cleansing in which all works of art are returned to their (geographical) countries of origin,” he said, arguing that the museum should keep plundered goods.
He said he supported the 2006 argumente of the museum’s former chief, Neil MacGregor that, “Repatriation is yesterday’s question,” Daley saying: “That view was right and remains so,” backing the museum’s repeated refusal to send back the marbles that were created in Greece.
They were stolen 200 years earlier by a Scottish diplomat, Lord Elgin, who said he had permission of the occupying Ottoman Empire, which didn’t own them. He later sold them to the museum when running into financial difficulty.
Daley said, “Facsimiles do indeed offer extraordinary cultural possibilities, but they should not be pressed as a stratagem in an already highly politicixed restitution dispute,” and that the marbles belong to the UK.