The question of the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles to their natural place in Athens is not a claim stated in the name of Greek cultural sensitivity, neither is it made in the name of Greek cultural or foreign policy. Rather, it is stated in the name of the mutilated monument itself, that is, in the name of world cultural heritage.
During the past few years, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture is not focusing its attention on the historic side of the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles, neither, on what is in my opinion, an unproductive issue, that of the legal ownership of the Parthenon sculptures. Every critical cultural matter is in the end innately political, which is why we are trying to approach the question politically.
The proposal we have addressed to the British side, that I Think fully respects all the British sensibilities, consists in organizing in Athens, a grand exhibition of the Marbles in their entirety, which bear the signature of both the British Museum and the New Acropolis Museum.
In practical terms, this means that we have officially proposed to the British side to found and operate, within the building of the New Acropolis Museum constructed according to the architectural designs of Mr Tschumi and Mr Fotiadis, an annex of its own which will exhibit the Marbles along with, naturally, the Marbles currently located in Athens. This annex will have the ownership and control of the Marbles that are presently exhibited in the British Museum. Consequently, not only will the British Museum not be alienated from the Marbles, but rather will –in a most creative way- come closer to the universal character which in insists on.
We also take on the responsibility, in an official and categorical way, to organize –in collaboration with the British Museum- a series of highly important temporary exhibitions in the British Museum. These exhibitions will travel to regional museums of Great Britain as well. We are convinced that this will perpetually stimulate the interest of the public, attract new visitors to the British Museum and will of course function as a permanent and living bridge of cultural exchange between the two countries that have close historical ties. I strongly believe that the British Museum side can easily perceive the importance of such a grand gesture in the field of cultural politics. It would be a grand gesture in international politics, a very important message of civilization and a message of peace in a world that must offer security. And of course, it is a matter of sending a message of a Pan-European character, much needed by the European Union at a time when it is in search of its future, its geopolitical and institutional substance.
We believe that everyone can conceive what a culminating impact such a gesture can have on the reunification of the Marbles before 2004, that is before the year of the Athens Olympic Games, at a time when the attention of the international public opinion will be turned to the authentic birthplace of the Olympic Games.
Professor EVANGELOS VENIZELOS
Greek Minister of Culture
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