Amal Clooney to join fight for return of Greek Marbles
Jeremy Guest: October 2014
Barrister wife of movie megastar George Clooney is to advise the Greek government on the return of the Parthenon Marbles.
The fight for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece has taken a celebrity turn now that the newly married wife of US actor George Clooney has pitched into the affray.
British lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney has been asked to advise the Greek government on its attempt to get the Parthenon Marbles, aka the Elgin Marbles, shipped out of the British Museum and back to Athens.
The barrister Amal, who married Clooney in Venice last month is expected to visit Greek culture ministers in Athens next month when a meeting is also scheduled with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
It appears that both she and husband George have taken a personal interest in the long-standing row of the return of the Marbles which have stayed firmly fixed in the British Museum's Duveen Galleries since 1962 despite an extended diplomatic controversy between Greece and the UK over their return.
George Clooney himself stepped into the long-running battle over the Parthenon Marbles earlier this year when he suggested they be returned to Greece and installed in the new Acropolis Museum.
The actor recently starred in a World War Two movie 'The Monuments Men' about a group of American and British art experts behind enemy lines bidding to save some of the world's most valuable art heritage from destruction by the Nazis.
At a press conference at the Berlin Film Festival Clooney called for an 'open discussion' on the fate of the ancient friezes and pointed out that both the Vatican and the Getty Museum in the United States had returned parts of the marble frieze that once adorned the walls of the Parthenon.
Clooney insisted he didn't mean to rekindle the long-standing issue when he answered a question from a Greek journalist about the marbles but resented being told that, as an American, he didn't understand the issues.
US Actor Bill Murray, who also starred in the movie said the Marbles should go back to Greece. 'It's had a very nice stay, certainly,' Murray said. 'London's gotten crowded. There's plenty of room back there in Greece,' he added.
The friezes were effectively stolen from the Parthenon from under the nose of the Greeks almost 200 years ago by a British diplomat Lord Elgin and dubbed the Elgin Marbles when they were installed at the British Museum in London.
Greeks have campaigned long and hard for their return ever since. The late Greek movie actress and Greek Culture Minister Melina Mercouri spearheaded a major campaign for their return, insisting they be renamed the Parthenon Marbles.
But the appeals have fallen on deaf ears as far as the British government is concerned. Even Prime Minister David Cameron has ruled out any chance of their return.
His stance came despite a campaign this summer dubbed 'Return, Restore, Restart' by UNESCO Good Will Ambassador Marianna Vardinoyiannis calling for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.
And it's not just the rich and famous who have taken up the cause. British-Italian professor Salvatore Lo Sicco, rode his bike from London to Athens this summer to rally support for the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles.
Greek Deputy Culture and Sports Minister Angela Gerekou welcomed him on the steps of the Acropolis with a complimentary return ticket to London and a figurine replica of a dove from the Hellenistic period.
She told him: 'Thank you on behalf of all the Greeks. The vision for the reunification of the marble remains alive. Initiatives such as yours, fill us with emotion and strength to continue to fight for an international issue that concerns people of culture and art and ordinary citizens around the world.'
Heady stuff indeed. But it looks like legal action may be the only way to get entrenched attitudes to shift. So far, there has been no official announcement from the Greek Culture Ministry on the meeting between Alamuddin and Samaras bit it should attract media attention at the very least.
Meanwhile the Parthenon Marbles, which have not been moved from their spot since 1962, are about to be uprooted for the first time for a special exhibition on Ancient Greece.
Unfortunately for the Greeks they will not move very far, only to the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery wing of the British Museum where they will form the centrepiece of the exhibition scheduled for Spring 2015.
However, the exhibition is almost certain to reignite old passions about who owns the 2,500-year-old marbles and where they should live. The British Museum is sticking to its guns saying the marbles are 'a part of the world's shared heritage and transcend political boundaries' adding that they are best displayed in London, where the public can view them for free.