The British Museum, and Britain as a whole, is under scrutiny from Greece for lending a controversial marble statue to Russia. The Elgin Marbles statue, depicting a headless body of the river god Ilissos, has been loaned to Russia, despite legally belonging to Greece. As a result, the 19th century statue was sneaked into St. Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum, where it will reside until Mid-January.
The Elgin Marbles were originally removed from Greece by Lord Elgin after he transported them from Athens. However, Greece believes that Britain was behind the transfer and stole them, a belief that is held to this day. However, the British Museum claims they are holding the collection of Elgin Statues “in trust for the world.” Some in Greece claim their loan to Russia is a slap in the face, and they would like the statues returned.
George Clooney’s wife, Amal Clooney, is leading an attempt to return the Elgin Marbles to their home in Athens. According to Metro, she claims “the injustice has persisted for too long.”
Tensions between Russia and the West has many wondering if the loan to Russia is appropriate. Nel MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, feels that the tensions are the reason the statues should be loaned for the public to view.
“The politics of both museums have been that the more chilly the politics between governments the more important the relationship between museums.”
According to BBC News, MacGregor was asked if the Elgin Marbles would ever be loaned to Greece. He replied that the museum is willing to lend the statues to anyone, provided they were fit for travel and that they would arrive in a place that would not only take care of them, but also return them when required. At this time, the Greek government has not reached out to Britain requesting they be loaned. However, the United Nations has stepped in, and their cultural organization, UNESCO, has demanded the statues be returned to Greece as their rightful property.
McGregor has openly shared his interest to speak with Greece about loaning the Elgin Marbles to Greece on a temporary basis and come to a mutual agreement. However, many Greeks have shown offense to the option of borrowing property that is legally theirs to begin with.
Although the transfer of the statues was completed in total secrecy, there is a small fear that Greece could make a deal with Putin to regain possession of the statues. However, McGregor is hopeful the loan will not turn into an international hijacking of the Elgin Marbles, and that all parties will remain professional and honest throughout the deal.
[Photo Courtesy: BBC]