To be honest
A bitter new row over ownership of the Elgin marbles has erupted, threatening to eclipse the inauguration this week of a major new museum in Athens designed to house the contested masterpieces.
Just days before the opening of the €130m (£110m) New Acropolis Museum, officials in Athens and London were this weekend engaging in barbed exchanges over the classical treasures.
The dispute, which has indirectly dragged in the Queen, the Greek-born Duke of Edinburgh, and Gordon Brown, re-erupted when Hannah Boulton, the British Museum’s spokeswoman, told an Athens radio station that it would consider a loan request from Greece provided that it acknowledged, as is customary with all borrowing institutions, that London owned the pieces. The sculptures, she said, could be displayed in the New Acropolis Museum for three or four months, “the length of time for an average loan of objects”.
To be honest, I couldn’t care less where the marbles are. They could be on a beach in Palau (with the 17 Uyghur detainees reclining on them, I guess), or in central Lagos. Much less do I think that they are, for some reason more precious than all the other displays in the museum. Needless to say that I certainly wouldn’t dedicate my life to trying to “bring them back”, as there are some far bigger fish to fry in our brief stay on this earth. Yet I am still truly appalled by the British Museum’s all too transparent colonial mentality that says “if we had to share that would mean giving everything back”. Well, what are you waiting for?