British Museum Director Calls Keeping Parthenon Sculptures a "Creative Act"

View towards the Erechtheion on the Acropolis in Athens.  Replicas replace the original maiden or 'Korai' pillars, the marble caryatids from 421BC-406BC, that are in the Acropolis Museum (located nearby the site); one resides at the British Museum in London.
View towards the Erechtheion on the Acropolis in Athens. Replicas replace the original maiden or 'Korai' pillars, the marble caryatids from 421BC-406BC, that are in the Acropolis Museum (located nearby the site); one resides at the British Museum in London.
(ARTFIXdaily photo)
  • Plaster copies of Parthenon pediment sculptures at the Acropolis Museum stand in for original pieces that remain at the British Museum.

    Plaster copies of Parthenon pediment sculptures at the Acropolis Museum stand in for original pieces that remain at the British Museum.

    ARTFIXdaily photo

  • A spot remains open for a missing marble caryatid, in the form of a maiden (Korai), in the Acropolis Museum.  The missing original is in the British Museum.

    A spot remains open for a missing marble caryatid, in the form of a maiden (Korai), in the Acropolis Museum. The missing original is in the British Museum.

    ARTFIXdaily photo

In an exclusive interview with Ta Nea, Greece's daily newspaper, the director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer, dismissed the latest uproar for the Parthenon Sculptures to be returned to Greece.

[Read backstory and ARTFIXdaily's opinion: Brexit Could Help the Case for Parthenon Sculptures to be Returned to Greece]

[Read British Museum statement: The Parthenon Sculptures]

“The Trustees of the British Museum feel the obligation to preserve the collection in its entirety, so that things that are part of this collection remain part of this collection,” Fischer told Yannis Andritsopoulos, London Correspondent for Ta Nea.

The British Museum’s director hit back at Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the so-called Elgin Marbles to Greece if he became prime minister. “I think that this is Mr Corbyn’s personal view on the question, that you take note of," he said. "Obviously, that is not the stance and the view of the Trustees of the Museum nor of the director.”

“We are showing the Parthenon Sculptures in a context of world cultures, highlighting achievements from all over the world under one roof, and showing the interconnectedness of cultures,” Fischer added.

Fischer said the Parthenon’s history “is enriched by the fact that some parts of it are in London, where six million people see them every year.” [ARTFIXdaily's note: Greece had a huge uptick in foreign travellers last year; 32 million visitors broke a record in 2018, and historic sites in Athens are the top destination.]

“That displacement [of the Parthenon Sculptures] is also a creative act,” he added.

Asked whether a future British government could pave the way for the sculptures’ return, the British Museum’s director said: “If the British Parliament wants to legislate on this, then it is sovereign in doing so. It would have to pass primary legislation to change the legal basis that we are operating on today.”

He also rejected the idea of an open-ended loan to Greece. “There are no indefinite loans,” he said.

When asked whether he thinks that ‘something is missing’ from the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum, which is the award-winning, decade-old museum housing Acropolis relics that are not in the British Museum, Fischer replied: “Oh, I think that everywhere in the world something is missing. That is our human condition.”

Commenting on opinion polls’ findings that the majority of the British people are in favour of the marbles’ reunification, he stressed: “I see the value of the objects that are part of the collection of the British Museum in being at the British Museum.“

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