This Saturday Athens’ stunning New Acropolis Museum throws open its doors in a $4.1million opening ceremony, following years of heady anticipation. Thousands of foreign dignitaries and heads of state are scheduled to arrive from all over the world – all except Britain. The opening of Greece’s most lavish museum has already thrown open the debate surrounding the 160m-long Parthenon marble friezes, taken by the British Lord Elgin in 1811. Britain has long since argued that Greece does not have a sufficient space in which to display the magnificent marbles – a claim Greek officials argue the New Acropolis Museum shatters. “On this momentous day, at this historic site, we appeal to everyone around the world who believes in the values and ideas that emerged on the slopes of the Acropolis, to join our quest to bring the missing Parthenon marbles home,” said Greek Culture Minister Antonis Samaras. Samaras calls the marbles’ plight an ‘enforced exile’.
The British Museum, where the friezes are currently held in a huge hall, have moved the goalposts somewhat by stamping their legal right to display the artefacts. They were taken by Elgin following a firman issued by the Ottoman Empire, which ruled over an unwitting Greece for almost 500 years until 1821. “I think they belong to all of us. We are all global citizens these days,” said British Museum spokeswoman Hannah Boulton. Still, the NAM’s 150,000sq m of exhibition space, with over 4,000 ancient items on display, is sure to put pressure on the British to return the prized marbles.
Image by Christos Vittoratos.