In an article for the Telegraph, Jeremy Paxman attacked recent efforts to repatriate the Parthenon Sculptures. Choosing to overlook Ms Amal Alamuddin’s expertise he attributed her addition to the legal team who visited Greece, to her image.
But her bosses were canny enough to put up their most junior advocate as their spokesman, because they understood that she would garner a lot more column inches than they would
Though the Acropolis Museum has gained ongoing recognition for its splendour, a fact Mr Paxman himself could not contest, he still succeeded in finding fault with it by attacking the museum’s promotion of the missing sculptures, as if it were a devious ploy instead of a straightforward effort to promote the undeniable fact that one of the most important monuments is mainly divided across two countries. It was also surprising to see the usually well-informed Mr Paxman confuse the financial facts behind the museum’s management. As it has frequently been pointed out that the museum depends on ticket and gift shop sales and not government funding to meet its running costs.
So, earlier this month, while the snappers clicked, the Greek authorities took Mrs Clooney on a guided tour of the splendid new museum on which their country has lavished millions it does not have. It is, apparently, a terrific museum. Uniquely among museums, it is intended not just to show off what it possesses, but what it doesn’t possess.
Mr Paxman also made an attempt to dissect, and in the process oversimplify, the argument in favour of reunification in an aim to attribute repatriation efforts to populism.
It’s an attractive argument. Arrogant British nob plunders works of art, “vandalising” the ruins of one of the most beautiful buildings in the world in the process, ships them abroad and then flogs them to the British Museum. It’s enough to make any patriot’s blood boil … The modern argument is really political – a poor, put-upon Mediterranean culture is demanding restitution from a fading imperial power.
Since the opening of the new Acropolis Museum and its many awards it has indeed become hard for the opposition to offer valid arguments against reunification. Unfortunately for Mr Paxman, his article can claim to be no exception. Having downplayed the advisory team’s suitability, the importance of the new Acropolis Museum and the validity of the arguments in favour of reunification, Mr Paxman employs the age-old arguments of precedence and Greece’s departure from its ancient counterpart (as if any other culture has not suffered the same fate).
Indeed, many a bewildered survivor of a chaotic, Greek-organised EU conference will tell you that a tenuous connection to this resonant philosophical culture must be the only reason the country ever got into the organisation.
The division of the Parthenon Sculptures constitutes a unique situation. It is a case of a monument of global importance divided across different countries. To really appreciate the Parthenon one needs to view the sculptures reunified in one place. And though these sculptures are not intended to be restored on the Parthenon itself, the exquisite foresight of the Acropolis Museum architects to replicate the Parthenon structure within the museum’s Parthenon Gallery while offering a view of the original through the large museum windows, offers as complete a context as any. Reunifying these sculptures would not by default result in the emptying of museums around the world.
But fear is one of the strongest weapons of the modern age and the weapon of choice in the hands of the British Museum and those who are against reunification.
But if we were to take the restitution argument at face value, the Venus de Milo – also removed from Greece during the Ottoman empire – would certainly have to leave the Louvre. The V&A would be packing up Tipu’s Tiger for shipment to Delhi. The magnificent Assyrian galleries at the British Museum would be on their way to Baghdad. And what on earth should happen to the great altar removed from the temple at Pergamon to Berlin? Pergamon is in Turkey, but was once part of imperial Greece, imperial Rome, imperial Persia and imperial Byzantium.
And with these tired arguments Mr Paxman offers an audacious and rather provocative claim:
Had the ghastly Lord Elgin not plundered his works of arts, they could have ended up in the footings of some Athens kebab stand.
Really Mr Paxman when gimmicky remarks are taken at face value and stripped of their glib element all that remains is yet another desperate attempt to negate the validity of a just cause.
Source: The Telegraph