The Pros and Cons of the Osborne Article on Sculptures

If one does not carefully read the article by George Osbourne on the Parthenon Marbles, one may mistakenly arrive at the wrong conclusion. Osbourne, the Chairman of the Board of the British Museum, writes to establish the conditions for their return to their natural space, the Acropolis Museum.

However, that is just an illusion and, in fact, he seeks to do the exact opposite.

However, not everything contained in this article is negative. In fact it is quite revealing.

Invisible hands, those of public opinion and history, and also the hand of the Greek Prime Minister, contributed to forcing Osborne to make this sneaky offer to deceive public opinion.

If he were not feeling the pressure, he would not have even written the article.

Here are some excerpts:

“Sure, there are those who question our right to exist — they did back in 1753 and then do so again in 2021. Of course, there are those who demand the return of objects they believe we have no right to hold. That is not new either. Lord Byron thought the Elgin marbles should be back at the Parthenon.”

“Our response is not to be dismissive. We are open to lending our artefacts to anywhere who can take good care of them and ensure their safe return — which we do every year, including to Greece.”

“But nor are we embarrassed or defensive. Almost three centuries on, we remain one of the very few places on earth where you can see the great civilisations of the world side by side.”

His message is clear. The Sculptures belong to them and on this basis he intends to lend them to Greece. Should Greece agree to borrow them, it will recognize that they truly belong to England.

That is something that will never happen.

In addition, Osborne is trying to convince us that our demand for the return of the Sculptures is just a fad and will pass.

He reasons that even Lord Byron asked for their return and yet they are still there. The same will happen now he imagines.

The difference, however, between then and now is that… that was then and this is now.

The world of the then-British Empire – and our world now, the world of 2021, have nothing to do with each other. In 2021, even Barbados abolished the formal recognition of the Queen of England as head of the country.

Osborne is giving it his best shot, but we know and he knows that it will not be centuries before these Marbles return to Athens and are placed in the Acropolis Museum.

The first step was taken. He will soon start running to catch up with developments, the pressures of public opinion – and possibly international law.

As long as we continue the pressure and if possible, increase it.

PS: This opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Board of the Acropolis Museum, of which I am a member.


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