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IARPS meets in Athens

The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures has held a meeting in Athens on the occasion of the inauguration of the New Acropolis Museum.

Return Elgin marbles for London Olympics: campaigners

3 days ago

ATHENS (AFP) — The 2012 London Olympics would represent a symbolic moment perfect for the return of the long-disputed Elgin Marbles from Britain to Greece, campaigners said Friday.

Representatives of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (IARPS) — which has members in 17 countries — visited Athens Friday ahead of the new Acropolis Museum’s inauguration on Saturday.

“We urge the United Kingdom to begin the process of reunifying the Parthenon sculptures in the (New Acropolis Museum),” said David Hill, the association’s president, during a press conference.

“We believe that the occasion of the 2012 London Olympics would be an appropriate time to return the Parthenon sculptures to Greece.”

Hill said the new museum “provides the ideal venue” as it is “within the sight of the Parthenon.”

He said it was impossible to display the Elgin Marbles, as they are known in Britain after the aristocrat who expropriated them from Greece at the beginning of the 18th century, in their original state in their present setting, the smaller Duveen Gallery of the British Museum in the English capital.

The new museum includes a Parthenon room, specifically designed to accommodate the fifth century BC masterpiece.

Read the original article on the Agence France Presse website.

Vatican fragment from Parthenon Frieze is returned

Following only a few weeks after the return of the Palermo Fragment from the Parthenon Frieze, the Vatican has also returned a fragment from the frieze.

Vatican returns Parthenon fragment to Greece
The Associated Press
Published: November 5, 2008

ATHENS, Greece: The ancient marble head of a youth was fitted into place Wednesday at a museum in Athens in a deal that Greek officials hope will serve as a model for returning other treasures.

The one-year loan from the Vatican's Museo Gregoriano Etrusco could be used as a way to regain other iconic Parthenon sculptures that have been systematically removed from Greece in the past. Several European museums — especially the British Museum in London — hold Parthenon artifacts and Greece has long campaigned for their return.
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"This gesture sets an example for others," Greek Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said.

The Parthenon was built 2,500 years ago on the Acropolis in honor of Athena, goddess of wisdom and patron of ancient Athens. It survived virtually intact until 1687, when a Venetian army besieging the Acropolis blew it up with cannon fire during the Ottoman occupation of Greece.

More than a century after the blast, Britain's Lord Elgin removed large sections of the temple's sculptural decoration with Ottoman permission. He eventually sold the works to the British Museum.

Greece has long campaigned for the return of the so-called Elgin Marbles. However, the British Museum has refused, arguing that the works were legally acquired and are accessible free of charge to millions of visitors.

The museum said Wednesday its position on the Elgin Marbles was unchanged by the return of the youth's head.

"We don't think it increases pressure on the British Museum," spokeswoman Hannah Boulton said, adding the Vatican's return was "just a loan."

About half the Parthenon frieze is at the British Museum. A handful of other museums, including the Louvre, own small pieces of it as well, while the remaining fragments are in a new museum under the Acropolis.

The sculpture returned Wednesday was made between 445-438 B.C.. It was part of a 520-foot (160-meter) series of panels — known as a frieze — depicting a religious procession, which circled the outer walls of the Parthenon.

The head, measuring nine by 10 inches (24 by 25 centimeters), is attached to a youth carrying a tray of sweets as an offering to Athena.

Giandomenico Spinola, the head of the Vatican museum's classical antiquities department, said the loan of the sculpture "might" be renewed. He said the museum might also lend Greece another two small bits of the Parthenon sculptures it owns.

"The pieces are the property of the pope, and it is his decision," he said. Pope Benedict XVI discussed the works' return with the visiting Church of Greece leader in 2006.

A similar deal allowed the return in September of another small piece of the Parthenon frieze from a museum in Palermo, Sicily, and the University of Heidelberg in Germany sent back a third piece two years ago.

The Museo Gregoriano Etrusco is the largest museum so far to comply with the Greek request.

The move to regain the works has gained new momentum in recent years because of the construction of the New Acropolis Museum, which is expected to open by next March.

Read the original article on the International Herald Tribune website.

Palermo fragment from Parthenon Frieze is returned

After many years of negotiations between the Greek & Italian governments, the Palermo Fragment from the Parthenon Sculptures has now been returned on loan to Greece. Gradually the Parthenon Sculptures are being retrieved from abroad, meaning that when the New Acropolis Museum opens, more of the Parthenon Sculptures will be on display in Athens than have been seen there for over two hundred years.

Italy returns piece of Parthenon Marbles to Greece
By NICHOLAS PAPHITIS – 15 hours ago

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece has finally taken possession of a chunk of the Elgin Marbles, and now holds renewed hopes of regaining the rest.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Tuesday presented Greek authorities with a small piece of sculpture from the Parthenon kept in a museum in Palermo, Sicily, for the past 200 years.

The 2,500-year-old marble fragment was one of the works Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin removed from the ancient Acropolis in the early 19th century.

Elgin gave it to a friend in Sicily during a stop on his trip back to London, where the rest of his collection is still displayed in the British Museum — despite repeated Greek requests for its return.

Greek President Karolos Papoulias thanked Napolitano for the return of the fragment, which will stay in Athens on permanent loan from the Antonio Salinas Museum.

“As you know, Greece is seeking the return of the Parthenon Marbles (from the British Museum), so you are aware of the importance and the symbolism of this gesture,” Papoulias said after talks with Napolitano Tuesday. “This gesture is especially appreciated.”

The 14-by-13-inch artifact is a foot from a sculpture of Artemis, ancient goddess of the hunt, and originally stood above the entrance to the Parthenon as part of a 520-foot frieze that ran round the temple.

“When we opened the crate, the marble just shone … like a gem,” said Vivi Vassilopoulou, a senior Culture Ministry archaeologist.

It comes from a broken block, larger pieces of which survive in Athens and London, and will be displayed at a new museum designed to host all the Acropolis finds — including the Elgin Marbles.

An Italian official said a museum in The Vatican has agreed to follow up the gesture next month by returning two pieces of the Parthenon sculptures in its collections.

“I hope this will at least open the way (for the return of the Elgin Marbles),” said archaeologist Louis Godart, Napolitano’s cultural adviser.

Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said the loan from Palermo was a boost to Greece’s campaign to reunite all the Parthenon works at the new museum at the foot of the Acropolis.

“The positive responses we received in our international efforts encourage us to continue until we have achieved our target,” he said.

The British Museum argues it legally acquired the Elgin Marbles, which form an integral part of its collections and are easily accessible to visitors from all over the world

The Palermo piece is the second fragment of the Parthenon marbles returned to Greece: The University of Heidelberg in Germany sent back a tiny fragment of the frieze two years ago.

The Parthenon was built between 447 and 432 B.C. in honor of Athena, ancient Athens’ patron goddess, and was decorated with hundreds of sculpted figures of gods and participants in a religious procession. The marble temple survived virtually intact until 1687, during the Ottoman occupation of Greece, when a Venetian army besieging the Acropolis blew it up with cannon fire.

The Venetians started the plunder that was continued by later Western visitors, culminating in Elgin’s visit.

About half of the surviving works are now in London, while museums in France, Germany, Austria and Denmark also own small fragments.

The $190 million Acropolis Museum is set to open early next year.

Designed by U.S.-based architect Bernard Tschumi in collaboration with Greece’s Michalis Photiadis, the glass and concrete building will contain more than 4,000 ancient works.

Associated Press Writer Derek Gatopoulos contributed to this report

Read the original article on the Associated Press website.

Legality of Elgin's Firman called into question

Elgin's right to the Parthenon Sculptures has long been justified by a translation of the Firman (permit) that he was supplied with by the Ottoman authorities. New Research though suggests that this may not be the case.

August 29, 2008
Legality of Earl of Elgin’s acquisition challenged by scholar
Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent

The new Acropolis Museum may prove to be the most lavishly appointed white elephant in history. Nothing will change the view of the British Government that the intended centrepiece, the magnificently sculpted Elgin Marbles, must remain permanently in the British Museum.

Not that the museum will be empty. There will be 4,000 exhibits including the remaining Parthenon sculptures. But the crown jewels, the 247ft of the original 524ft frieze, 15 of 92 metopes and 17 figures from the pediments, all dating to the 5th century BC, will remain 1,500 miles away in London.

Britain has long argued that when the Earl of Elgin took the Marbles between 1801 and 1805, he was acting legally and that, had he not done so, they would have suffered further deterioration. The Parthenon was already a ruin. Also, fearing their destruction in the conflict between the Greeks and the Turks, Elgin got permission from the Turks, whose empire then ruled Greece, to remove the antiquities.

But the British Museum’s ownership of the sculptures has been called into question by a challenge to the validity of a crucial 19th-century legal document. A specialist in Ottoman law says that without the signature and seal of the Sultan as supreme head of the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin had no legal right to remove the ancient sculptures from the Acropolis.

Professor Vassilis Dimitriadis, of the University of Crete, says that the document of 1801 — an Italian translation of an Ottoman firman or licence which the British Museum acquired two years ago as the only legal evidence of ownership — is invalidated by vital missing elements.

The British Museum argues that the translated document is from a lost original firman in which the Sultan’s acting grand vizier was authorised to permit Elgin to acquire the sculptures.

Professor Dimitriadis claims that the original was not a firman because only the Sultan could issue one by Ottoman law, that it lacks the Sultan’s emblem (a tougras), and an invocation to God (da’vet tahmid).

Read the original article in The Times.

One of the most beautiful exhibition spaces in modern architecture

During earlier stages of its construction, many criticised the New Acropolis Museum for a variety of reasons. Now that the building is nearing completion however, almost every person who has visited it is awed by the space that has been created & its potential for unifying the Parthenon Sculptures within the context of the Parthenon.

August 28, 2008
Athens welcomes the ghost of Phidias to new rooftop gallery
Marcus Binney, Architecture Correspondent

The new rooftop gallery built to display the Parthenon marbles is one of the most beautiful exhibition spaces in modern architecture.

Just as the Parthenon itself enjoys a 360-degree panorama of sparkling sea and green hills, the new ¤130 million gallery has a continuous view over the rooftops of Athens, interrupted only by the Acropolis itself. Sunlight fills the gallery through floor-to-ceiling glass, and the windows have such slender supports you might be standing in the open air enjoying blue skies and the crystal light which is the wonder of Attica.

The Parthenon friezes now being installed consist of original stones belonging to the museum and casts of the 50-odd blocks removed by Lord Elgin in the 19th century. The friezes are being set at eye level, arranged precisely as they were on the Parthenon, so the effect is akin to viewing them from a scaffold such as the original sculptors might have used.

From outside the new museum gives away little of its amazing interior. It is a sleek Modernist dark-glass box that appeals for its clean lines, smooth surfaces and clever geometry. A flaw is the attractiveness of the many ledges to pigeons which are already staining the lower façades.

The Swiss-French architect Bernard Tschumi who designed the museum overcame the problem of constructing it in an area rich in archaeological remains by elevating it on 100 slender concrete columns, carefully placed to avoid damage to the remains.

The interior of the museum is a thrilling progression from dark to light. The black marble floor of the entrance hall creates an immediate sense of cool. As you turn the first corner you enter a lofty atrium with a rising floor suggestive of the ascent of the Acropolis itself. Glass panels beneath your feet provide dramatic views of the remains up to 30ft below.

Shafts of light above the grand steps create the illusion that you are staring at a series of giant fluted Doric columns like those of the Parthenon itself.

The smooth 30ft columns of the Archaic Sculpture Gallery on the first floor provide an immensely airy space in which the early Acropolis statues surviving from a Persian assault of 480BC can be admired in the round. The rows of columns are not parallel with the walls and in places there are perspectives as dramatic as in an Egyptian hypostyle temple. Statues are being tested in different positions with the help of a large model on which miniatures of the prize pieces can be moved around like chessmen.

By contrast the top-floor gallery for the Parthenon marbles is a perfectly ordered rectangle, precisely reflecting the measurements of the temple itself and set on exactly the same east-west alignment. Tellingly the recesses in which the friezes are being set vary greatly in depth. This reflects the fact that after Lord Elgin removed the friezes he had a large section cut off the back of each block to make it easier to transport. By contrast the blocks removed more recently from the Parthenon to avoid continuing erosion are the full blocks. Though the friezes will run continuously, entrances have been made at the points where sections were completely destroyed in an explosion of 1687.

The Parthenon friezes were set inside the colonnades of the temple. The new museum will also display the superb sculpture from the outside of the temple with the statues of gods, horses and chariots from the end pediments displayed so the fully carved backs can be seen as well as the fronts.

Other famous sculptures from the Acropolis going on display include the famous female caryatids from the Erechtheion and friezes from the Temple of Athena Nike.

A big test of the gallery will be impact of noise from guided tours. The open-plan, marble floors and concrete walls could intensify noise, but Tshumi has studied the acoustic as carefully as in an opera house, providing “portholes” in the atrium walls which act as sound sponges and an absorbent coating on the ceilings.

A second challenge will come at the end of November when the museum is scheduled to open and visitors will be able to decide whether the Greeks have trumped the superb interpretative displays of the British Museum.

Read the original article in The Times.

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