As images of the newly discovered ancient Greek tomb in Amphipolis are making their appearance across the world, British newspaper The Guardian brings up the burning issue of the Parthenon Marbles‘ return to Greece.
Famous British columnist Jonathan Jones wrote about the sculptures and the new Acropolis Museum, noting that the parts which were removed from the Parthenon should be returned to their place of origin.
“The Parthenon marbles are the world’s most beautiful art – and that’s why we should give them back,” wrote Jones in the article’s title.
“What can you do with the world’s most beautiful art? Where does it belong? How should it be cared for and displayed?” he asked, stressing that the sculptures were created to decorate the Parthenon which still “dominates the skyline of the Greek capital.”
As he explains, the marble sculptures were removed by Lord Elgin and moved to London, at the British Museum, even though Greece has requested their return.
Furthermore, as he points out “if the Sistine Chapel frescoes had been detached from their ceiling in the 19th century and hung on the walls of the National Gallery, would we appreciate them as much? No. We’d struggle to imagine the real power of Michelangelo’s paintings in their original location.”
According to Jones, it is difficult to fully appreciate and admire the ancient Greek sculptures in the British Museum, because they are exhibited in a gray neoclassical hall “whose stone walls don’t contrast enough with these stone artworks – it is a deathly space that mutes the greatest Greek art instead of illuminating it.”
Jones concludes that if the British Museum wants to keep the Parthenon Marbles then it must invest in a better and more modern way to exhibit them.
Otherwise, the Marbles should be returned to Greece, where a “superb, modern museum,” has already been built, with a great view of the Parthenon, which makes “sensual connection between the art and its architectural home.”
At the same time, he points out that the sculptures kept in the British Museum are in excellent condition, while those in Athens “have suffered severe damage from pollution.” Maybe the Parthenon Marbles were safer in London during the 1970s, but “Today, they belong in the Acropolis Museum.”
“Nationalist or not, Greece has proved it loves this art and sees it for what it is. It is Greece, and not the British Museum, that deserves to be custodian of the world’s greatest art, for the world. And for art,” concluded Jones.