George Clooney backs return of Parthenon Marbles to Greece

Actor says it would be "very nice" if the British Museum reptriates ancient frieze removed by Lord Elgin in 19th century

George Clooney has strolled into one of the most bitter and longest-running controversies in the heritage world, saying it would be "very nice" if the British Museum sent the Parthenon Marbles back to Greece.

Clooney, at the Berlin Film Festival promoting The Monuments Men, the story of an Allied team trying to save artefacts from the Nazis, was asked by a Greek reporter whether Britain should return the Marbles.

"I think you have a very good case to make about your artefacts," Clooney said. "Maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing if they were returned. I think that is a good idea. That would be a very fair and very nice thing. I think it is the right thing to do."

The sculptures were removed from the monument, which had been used as a gunpowder store, by Lord Elgin between 1801 and 1805, when he was ambassador to the Ottoman court in Istanbul, whichruled Greece. The collection, eventually bought by parliament in 1816 and presented to the British Museum, includes roughly half the surviving sculptures – more than 70 metres of the beautiful frieze, showing a procession of horses and warriors.

Greece has been campaigning for the Marbles' return for decades, and – just before the recession – built a spectacular museum with windows facing the stripped temple on the Acropolis hill.

The British Museum has consistently argued that the Marbles were legally acquired by Elgin, have become an essential part of the collection, and can be seen in London, for free, in the context of the cultures of many other countries.

The museum said anybody was entitled to express a view, but the museum trustees felt there was a public benefit to having the sculptures remain part of the collection.


Maev Kennedy

The GuardianTramp

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