The British Museum (BM) denied reports that it is considering a loan of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens for the 2004 Olympic Games, following a front-page article in The Sunday Times under the headline “Museum in secret talks to return Elgin marbles”.
The museum reiterated that “the trustees cannot envisage any circumstances under which they could accede to the Greek government’s request for the permanent removal of the sculptures from London to Athens.” It seems that the Greek side has informally discussed a loan with the BM, but no formal application has been submitted.
What is under negotiation, however, are loans from the BM of Greek antiquities and works of European art to exhibitions to be held next year in association with the Olympics. BM curators are also in touch with their Greek colleagues to discuss “new proposals for an international collaborative academic project on the sculptures of the Parthenon”—this would be a “virtual” reconstruction of the Parthenon.
Meanwhile Greek cultural minister Evangelos Venizelos is continuing to press for the return of the Marbles. “We proposed either a long-term loan to the New Acropolis Museum or the creation of a branch of the British Museum within the New Acropolis Museum,” he explained.
Meanwhile, in Athens, legal action to halt construction of the New Acropolis Museum has been taken by the International Council on Monuments and Sites because of the archaeological damage it would do to the museum site. However, on 25 July Greece’s Council of State, its highest administrative court, ruled that construction work could continue. It remains unclear how much of the museum will be completed by the time of the Olympic Games in September 2004.