Declaration on the Parthenon Sculptures
Below follows a declaration which represents the shared aims of the member organisations of the International Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE REUNIFICATION OF THE PARTHENON SCULPTURES *
The sculptures currently in the British Museum were once an integral part of the Parthenon, the temple that stands at the summit of the Acropolis in Athens. Built at the high point of classical Greek achievement in the 5th century BC, the Parthenon remains an unparalleled achievement in the fusion of engineering, architecture and art. The temple’s magnificent marble statues, metopes and frieze, which are not independent works of art but indivisible elements of the Parthenon, are widely regarded as among the world’s finest surviving ancient art works. The Parthenon and the other monuments on the Acropolis are officially recognized as a World Heritage Site.
Over 100 pieces of the sculpture and some architectural elements, which are critical to the full appreciation of the beauty and design of the monument, were removed by the British Ambassador Lord Elgin in the early 19th century from the Acropolis when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire and moved into the British Museum in 1816. They are exhibited in London in a spurious configuration, divorced from their architectural framework and proper context.
The continued insistence by the British Museum that the sculptures remain in London runs wholly counter to the fast growing atmosphere of international cooperation over the location of disputed museum objects. Reuniting them with the half of the sculptures that remain in Athens would restore to the art its fuller meaning and be of greater benefit to humanity, particularly since more people now visit the Acropolis in Athens than visit the Duveen Gallery of the British Museum. The retention of the sculptures in the British Museum is also at odds with British and world public opinion, which has overwhelmingly supported the reunification of the surviving Parthenon sculptures in Athens.
The Parthenon sculptures are of undeniable importance to the heritage of both Greece and the world at large. The potential now exists for Britain and Greece to reach agreement on the reunification of the sculptures beside the Acropolis - a development that would be of benefit for the people of both countries and indeed all nations not only for today but also for generations to come. The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures calls on the British Government and the Greek Government to initiate government to government negotiations to achieve early reunification in the new Acropolis Museum of the Parthenon sculptures now in London and Athens.
* The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures is an organization of 12 national committees from Australia, Belgium, Britain, Cyprus, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Spain, Sweden and the USA that are committed to the return of the Parthenon sculptures to Athens.