On Tuesday, Greece's Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said her ministry is preparing a draft proposal for a loan of contested Parthenon sculptures from the British Museum, reported the Washington Post. Details of the request have not been disclosed.
The move comes after France agreed to a significant loan exchange between the Louvre and Greek collections. In addition, new Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis helped get the ball rolling on the oft-debated issue by stating that he will ask UK's embattled Boris Johnson to approve a loan of the Parthenon marbles to Athens in a temporary swap with other ancient artifacts.
Mitsotakis told the Observer on Sunday that he would ask the new British prime minister to lend the marbles to Greece as a gesture for its bicentennial in 2021, commemorating the war of independence against Ottoman rule.
“Given the significance of 2021, I will propose to Boris: ‘As a first move, loan me the sculptures for a certain period of time and I will send you very important artifacts that have never left Greece to be exhibited in the British Museum’,” said the Greek premier.
A British Museum spokesperson initially responded to Mitsotakis’s statement, telling Ta Nea, Greece's daily newspaper, “A precondition for any loan would be an acceptance of ownership of those objects by the Trustees / the Museum.”
“The British Museum is committed to sharing its collection as widely as possible, as one of the leading lenders of objects in the world, we lent over 5,000 objects to venues in the UK and internationally last year,” she added, as reported by Yannis Andritsopoulos, London Correspondent for Ta Nea.
In January, the British Museum noted that each year its six million visitors were able to see Greece's iconic antiquities in London. “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,” said the director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer, in an interview.
“The Parthenon Sculptures are legal property of the British Museum. They are free to view, have been on display for over two hundred years, and millions from across the world have seen them,” a Downing Street spokesperson reiterated to Ta Nea.
“Decisions relating to their care are taken by the Trustees of the British Museum - free from political interference,” the UK government’s spokesperson said.
In 1816, British Parliament voted to purchase Lord Elgin's collection of sculpted marbles that were stripped (during Ottoman occupation of Greece) from the Parthenon and other parts of the Acropolis in Athens. The over 2,000-year-old sculptures went to the British Museum, where they are now on display. Greece has long-sought the return of its missing marbles, considered the best-preserved Parthenon examples, and now has the world-class Acropolis Museum at the base of the historic site to safely display artifacts.
This week, France said it would loan to Greece the Louvre's metope from the Parthenon, notes Pappas Post. (The British Museum has another 14 metopes, the square tablets of mythical battle scenes that once adorned the temple.)
In return, Greece will loan bronze antiquities to France.
French President Emmanuel Macron previously called for the restitution of 26 African art objects from France, taken during colonial times, to their countries of origin.