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UK government rules out return of Parthenon friezes to Greece


The century-old quarrel had been reignited in early January by rumors of "cultural exchange", to circumvent a law on museum conservation.

British Culture Minister Michele Donelan on Wednesday (January 11th) ruled out a return to Greece of the Parthenon friezes, exhibited at the British Museum in London, rejecting press reports that the museum and Athens were finalizing an agreement.


I was very clear about this: I don't think they (the friezes, editor's note) should return to Greece

," the minister told the BBC.

British Museum president George Osborne "

would agree with me that we shouldn't send them back, and in fact they belong here in the UK, where we have cared for them for a long time

", he said. she adds.

Claiming restitution since the 20th century

Since the beginning of the 20th century, Greece has officially requested the return of a 75-meter frieze detached from the Parthenon as well as one of the famous caryatids from the Erechtheion, a small ancient temple also on the rock of the Acropolis, all two masterpieces of the British Museum.

London claims the sculptures were "

legally acquired

" in 1802 by British diplomat Lord Elgin who sold them to the British Museum.

But Greece maintains that they were the object of "


" while the country was under Ottoman occupation.

Rumors of a “cultural exchange”

On January 4, the British newspaper The Telegraph revealed that the president of the museum was in the process of concluding an agreement with Athens for the return to Greece of these treasures, within the framework of a long-term loan, a "

cultural exchange

which would circumvent a British law preventing the London museum from dismantling its collection.

Read alsoBetween London and Athens, the eternal quarrel of the Parthenon

I think his perspective on this has been misinterpreted and misrepresented.

He (George Osborne, editor's note) is not going to send them back.

This is not his intention.

He has no desire to do so

, ”swept the minister.


The concept of a 100-year loan has also been brought up, but that's certainly not what he foresees either

," she said.

The minister said she feared that a return of these sculptures would open "

Pandora's box


Pressure has increased in recent years for Western museums to return works, particularly obtained during the colonial period, to their countries of origin.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2023-01-11

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