Despite the British Museum’s statement in November (The Art Newspaper No. 131, December 2002, p.11) that the Parthenon sculptures were “among a select group of key objects which are indispensable to the museum’s core function”, the Greek Cultural Minister Evangelos Venizelos reiterated in New York last month that he had proposed to the British Museum that the Parthenon Sculptures travel to Athens on long-term loan, under the auspices of Unesco. “My proposal goes beyond all the legal and historical arguments”, said Mr Venizelos. “For Prime Minister, Tony Blair, this would be a great opportunity for the renovation of the British image worldwide,” he said.
“Our proposal is to organise simultaneously a very important series of temporary exhibitions of Greek archaeological items in the British Museum. This would be a very important attraction for the British Museum and would also remedy the concern expressed by international public opinion”.
Mr Venizelos went on to warn: “As the Acropolis museum is under construction, the design for the permanent exhibition is in preparation. We must decide if we'll prepare the permanent exhibition for the entirety of the Parthenon sculptures or just for the Greek part.
In the event of the marbles not returning, we shall be obliged to give publicity to the problem of the division of the sculptures, and this would be very bad for Graeco-British cultural relations.”
An exhibition devoted to the New Acropolis Museum opens at the Onassis Foundation in New York in March.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Warning from Greek Culture Minister: give back the marbles—or your reputation suffers'