The UK’s Labour Party Leader Pledges to Return the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece

artnet News | Naomi Rea

The leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party has pledged to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece if he is elected prime minister in the next general election slated for 2022. Jeremy Corbyn made the promise when speaking to a reporter for the Greek newspaper Ta Nea in an interview published on Saturday. “They were made in Greece, and that is where they were for thousands of years until they were taken by Lord Elgin,” Corbyn reportedly told the Greek paper. “We should be engaged in constructive talks with the Greek government about returning the sculptures.” Before he became Labour leader, Corbyn had previously voiced his support for repatriation of the marbles. But his statement to the Greek newspaper is his clearest and most explicit on the subject since he assumed his current role in 2015.

The classical Greek and marble sculptures were originally made under the fifth century sculptor Phidias and became part of the temple of the Parthenon and other structures on the Acropolis in Athens. The collection in London is also known as the Elgin Marbles, named after the British aristocrat who removed the pieces in the early 19th century when Greece was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Elgin obtained a special decree from the Ottoman government to remove more than half of the surviving marbles to decorate his home in Scotland. He later sold the collection to the British government in 1816; they have been on display at the British Museum since 1817. When Hartwig Fischer became the museum’s director in 2016, he maintained the institution’s position against their return.

“While we respect Jeremy Corbyn’s views, the British Museum is an arm’s length body from government and decisions regarding any objects in the collection sit with the British Museum’s Trustees,” a spokesperson for the British Museum told artnet News. “We feel there is a great public benefit to some of the Parthenon Sculptures being on display, where they can be seen as part of a world collection and help millions of visitors to understand the interconnectivity of human history.”…read more

Image: A marble sculpture from the Parthenon in the British museum