Oh brother... it seems Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum in London, has said that 'the efforts of the Greek government to claim the return of the Elgin marbles is not going to bear any fruitful results'. Any follower of this blog is obviously well aware that I keep a close eye on recent developments surrounding the Parthenon Marbles. As such, this firm refusal had me grit my teeth.

British Museum director says "No" to return of Parthenon Sculptures
Part of the Parthenon Marbles [Credit: TOC]
Just under a third of the marble reliefs that once adorned the Parthenon temple and other buildings on the Acropolis in Athens are in London while about the same number remain in Greece. MacGregor stresses that the works are officially owned not by the British government but the British Museum trustees who are charged with a legal duty that they give benefit to the public. Recently, MacGregor reiterated to British media that there is absolutely no intention from the British side to return the Parthenon marbles to Greece:

"Quite a lot of them no longer exist. So there's no possibility of recovering an artistic entity and even less of putting them back in the ruined building from which they came. Yet the museum is coming under the most sustained attack for decades from the Greek government whose call for the works to be repatriated is now being fought by a team including the lawyers Geoffrey Robertson and Amal Clooney. And Unesco, the United Nations' cultural arm, has called on the British Museum to take part in 'a mediation procedure' to resolve the dispute."
But MacGregor told The Times that his trustees have always been ready for any discussions, but that the Greek government would not recognise its them as the legal owners. As a result, the sculptures could not be lent while the Greeks laid legal claim. According to MacGregor:

"[T]he Greek government was not interested in borrowing them anyway. That's sad because these sculptures do belong to everyone. Letting them be seen in different places is important."

He repeated the museum's long-held position that the acquisition of the famous sculptures by Lord Elgin at the start of the 19th century was legal and that there was 'maximum public benefit' in them remaining in London where they were seen in the context of world culture. Ne reaction yet from British government officials or Greece.