Sir Mark Jones put forward as interim director of British Museum

Former head of V&A has suggested Parthenon marbles could be shared with Greece

A former head of the V&A Museum, who previously suggested the Parthenon marbles could be shared with Greece, has been put forward as the interim director of the British Museum.

Sir Mark Jones will replace Hartwig Fischer, who quit after it emerged thousands of objects had been stolen from the museum’s collection. A police investigation is under way regarding the reported thefts.

His appointment has led to increasing speculation there could be further developments in the long-running dispute over the ancient Greek sculptures.

In a 2002 interview with the Observer, Jones, then the director of the V&A, advocated the idea of sharing them with Greece. He said: “There must be a possibility that something could now work for all parties.

“I cannot tell another museum how to behave on this, but I do believe it is possible to develop partnerships. It can be good to display objects at different places.

“Wherever there is a strongly held belief there is an opportunity, too, if it can be recognised. It is not necessarily a case of transferred ownership or of giving the marbles back for good, but when people believe things are really important, as the Greeks and the British Museum do in this case, that is actually a good thing. Apathy is our great enemy.”

In January, the British Museum confirmed that it was involved in “constructive discussions” with Greece over the return of some of the Parthenon marbles.

Under a proposed plan, which is still under discussion, Greece would renounce its claim to the marbles but the British Museum would loan some of the sculptures to Athens, with Greek treasures coming to London.

In March Rishi Sunak vowed he would protect the Parthenon marbles from being returned to Greece.

“The UK has cared for the Elgin marbles for generations,” he said, using an alternative name derived from the British earl who removed them from the Acropolis in the early 19th century. “The collection of the British Museum is protected by law, and we have no plans to change it.”

In a statement on Saturday, George Osborne, chair of the British Museum, said Jones had received the “unanimous approval” of the board of trustees to become the interim director, subject to the approval of the prime minister.

“Mark is one of the most experienced and respected museum leaders in the world, and he will offer the leadership and grip the museum needs right now,” he said. “We are both clear that his priorities are to accelerate the cataloguing of the collection, improve security, and reinforce pride in the curatorial mission of the museum.

“This sits alongside the major renovation work we’re undertaking, and the partnerships we’re forging, to ensure that we build a stronger future for the museum we all love and admire.

“I promised we would learn lessons and then lay the foundations for a strong future. Mark’s appointment is a big step in that direction.”

The British Museum had no further comment beyond Osborne’s statement.


Jane Clinton

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Greece in ‘preliminary’ talks with British Museum about Parthenon marbles
Officials say they have met with George Osborne, and are keen to see the masterpieces back in Athens

Helena Smith in Athens

03, Dec, 2022 @5:09 PM

Article image
Rishi Sunak’s snub boosts Greek hopes for return of marbles
PM’s ‘blunder’ highlights the issue of the disputed Parthenon marbles, fuelling campaign to send them home to Athens

Helena Smith in Athens

03, Dec, 2023 @5:00 AM

Article image
British Museum chief: taking the Parthenon marbles was 'creative'
Museum director sparks anger by saying removing sculptures from Greece was ‘a creative act’

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

28, Jan, 2019 @7:45 PM

Article image
Sunak says retaining Parthenon marbles is matter of law as he denies ‘hissy fit’
PM reaffirms stance after George Osborne suggests snub to Greek counterpart was result of ‘petulance’

Aletha Adu in Dubai

01, Dec, 2023 @1:00 PM

Article image
British Museum is world's largest receiver of stolen goods, says QC
Geoffrey Robertson says it should ‘wash its hands of blood and return Elgin’s loot’

Dalya Alberge

04, Nov, 2019 @2:41 PM

Article image
Artist asks British Museum to return Assyrian treasure to Iraq in swap
Sculptor Michael Rakowitz says he will give his fourth-plinth bull to Tate Modern if Iraq can share custody

Matthew Weaver

20, Jan, 2023 @6:00 AM

Article image
Let's not lose our marbles over the British Museum boss's remarks | Jonathan Jones
Hartwig Fischer said that removing the Parthenon marbles from Greece was a ‘creative act’ – but this provocative view shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand

Jonathan Jones

29, Jan, 2019 @2:17 PM

Article image
Lord Elgin paid no British customs tax on Parthenon marbles, letters suggest
Documents from early 19th century show foreign secretary helped Elgin import huge shipments of sculptures

Esther Addley

07, Oct, 2022 @11:00 AM

Article image
Return of Parthenon marbles is up to British Museum, says No 10
Spokesperson’s comments before Boris Johnson met Greek PM appear to signal softening of position

Peter Walker and Helena Smith in Athens

16, Nov, 2021 @2:32 PM

Article image
Greek prime minister tries to broker deal for return of Parthenon marbles
Kyriakos Mitsotakis offers to loan Greek treasures to British Museum if ‘stolen’ sculptures are returned to Acropolis

Tom Ambrose and Helena Smith in Athens

13, Nov, 2021 @3:32 PM