Friday, June 19, 2009

Orientalish Dilemma: Do Heads Belong to Bodies?

Update on this article from the front page of the New York Times on June 24: Julie Bloom's "Rekindling the Elgin Marbles Debate" and Michael Kimmelman's "Elgin Marble Debate in a New Light."

ORIGINAL POST: Christopher Hitchens weighed in on the Elgin (Parthenon) Marbles debate in an Op-Ed: "A Home for the Marbles."
An interesting and timeless issue-- the British Museum worries that if they return the marbles to Athens where a grand new museum is opening at the Acropolis, it would set a "precedent" of great works being taken from other museums. It was eerie during my trip to England in 2007 to see so many works from Egypt and the Greece (my photos of the "Elgin Marbles" are here). I also remember the opposite experience of being in Mexico City's archeological museum and seeing so many tags identifying the displayed item as a replica of an original in Germany, England, Italy, the US, Spain, etc.

While I'm not always a fan of Hitchens, he gives an interesting argument for the Marbles' return and that artworks should be viewed whole when possible--fewer decapitated gods and goddesses--and that return would not begin an era of empty museums in the West. Also interesting is "Majestic in Exile" by Nikos Kostandaras who considers the original acquisition by Lord Elgin who obtained them while serving as ambassador in Constantinople (Istanbul), elevated the importance of the Marbles that inspired so many writers and scholars in England. Kostandaras still wants them back. (Photos: British Museum, 2007)

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