Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told British newspaper, the Observer, that he is willing to allow treasures never before shown in Britain to be exhibited in London in exchange for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens for 2021.
“Our wish and ambition is to create the necessary conditions for Greek cultural heritage to travel the world and in so doing convey the great and essential contribution of our country to western civilisation,” he said. “In this context, given the significance of 2021, I will propose to Boris, ‘As a first move, loan me the sculptures for a certain period of time and I will send you very important artefacts that have never left Greece to be exhibited in the British Museum’.”
Mr Mitsotakis said that “the Acropolis doesn’t necessarily solely belong to Greece. It’s a monument of global cultural heritage. But if you really want to see the monument in its unity you have to see what we call the Parthenon sculptures in situ … it’s a question of uniting the monument.”
Last month, Mr Mitsotakis asked French President Emmanuel Macron for the return of part of the frieze and received a positive response. The part of the frieze held by the frieze shows a centaur battling a Lapith woman who attempts to hold on to a cloak slipping from her shoulder and shows the artistry of Phidias.
France’s own acquisition of Greek antiquities, resembles those of Britain. France’s ambassador to Constantinople Louis Fauvel had ordered the collection of as many sculptures as possible in 1788, decades before Greece’s war for Independence from the Ottomans.
Apart from parts of the 160m-long Parthenon frieze held at the British Museum, there are fragments of it at ten museums around Europe. 50 metres of the block are displayed in Athens, 80 metres were sawn off by Lord Elgin and are being held in London, whereas another eight museums across Europe also hold pieces of it.
The British Museum has rebuffed requests for the priceless antiquities to be sent to Greece, however there are surveys in Britain that have shown support for Greece’s claims. A YouGov poll in 2014 showed that only 23 per cent of those surveyed wanted the antiquities to remain in the UK.