The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has told a Greek newspaper that the UK and Greece should share the Parthenon Marbles. In an interview with Ta Nea, Khan suggested that some of the fifth-century-BC sculptures, which have been housed in the British Museum since 1817, should be shown in Athens.
Khan said: “I obviously want Londoners to be able to see the Elgin [Parthenon] Marbles, but I don’t see why the British Museum, the British government, the government of Greece and the museum in Athens can’t come to an accommodation to share these wonderful, wonderful Elgin Marbles.”
He added: “I’d really encourage the British Museum, the British government, the government of Greece and the Acropolis Museum in Athens to talk about how we can make more progress on this very issue. I think it’s important to have these discussions… in terms of the Elgin Marbles there’s a discussion to share some of this stuff.” Khan had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.
Early last year, the chair of the British Museum, George Osborne, said that there is a “deal to be done” over sharing the Parthenon Marbles with Greece. Last July, Khan also urged the British Museum and both governments to “make progress on this issue”, agreeing with Osborne.
However, the 1963 British Museum Act currently prohibits a full return of the artefacts. Crucially the UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said on 13 March, when questioned about the Marbles: “The UK has cared for the Elgin Marbles for generations. The collection of the British Museum is protected by law, and we have no plans to change it.”
Meanwhile further pressure will be put on the UK government by the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis who won the general election last month, securing around 40% of the vote.
In May, Mitsotakis said his government is also exploring a “win-win” solution to the Parthenon Marbles issue. However, the newly elected prime minister has also ruled out any deal that would include the word “loan”, according to The Independent newspaper.
Mitsotakis said: “We will never recognise that these sculptures are owned, legally owned by the British Museum… But again, we have to be constructive and we have to be innovative if a solution is to be found.”
The Marbles have been housed in the British Museum since 1817 after they were removed from the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis in Athens by the Scottish nobleman Lord Elgin, the then ambassador to the Ottoman court.