George Clooney re-enters Parthenon marble debate
Actor George Clooney has once again expressed his support for the return of the 2,500-year-old Parthenon Marbles to Greece. His comments fueled the long-standing debate over the reunification of the works, which have been held in the British Museum in London since the early 17th century.
According to Greek newspaper Your Nea, Clooney recently told Janet Suzman – the chairperson of the UK Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles – that “the Parthenon sculptures must be returned to their original owner.”
Suzman confirmed to The art journal that Clooney made the comments (the actor could not be reached for comment at time of writing). Earlier this year, Clooney wrote to Suzman, saying, “There are many historical artifacts that should be returned to their original owners, but none are more important than the Parthenon marbles.”
During a trip to Berlin in February 2014 to promote the film The men of monuments, Clooney said the Parthenon marbles should be returned to Greece. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said. The actor’s comments drew criticism from Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London, who said Clooney “advocates nothing less than Hitler’s agenda for London’s cultural treasures.” At the time, Clooney’s wife, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, was advising Greece on the return of the marbles.
The statues of the 5th century BC. have been kept in the British Museum since 1816 after being removed from the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis of Athens by the Scottish nobleman Lord Elgin, then the Ottoman ambassador.
In an online statement, the British Museum trustees say Elgin acted knowingly and with the permission of the then judicial authorities in Athens and London. “The sculptures on display in London are very useful to the public as part of the museum’s global collection,” they add. The declaration recalls that the administrators were never asked for a loan of the Parthenon sculptures by Greece, “only for the final withdrawal of all the sculptures in its custody in Athens”.
Last year, concerns were raised about whether ancient Greek sculptures would be used as bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations.