Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Contention | Void | Patrimony

Upon the opening of The New Acropolis Museum in Athens in 2009, a new home for Parthenon artifacts designed by Bernard Tschumi Architects, the debate over the Elgin Marbles has been revisited. The elements from the Parthenon frieze were extracted from Greece over two centuries ago by Lord Elgin, who purchased them from the Ottoman Turks who were inhabiting the Aegean Peninsula. For almost as long, they have been on display in the British Museum in London as part of their permanent collection. The British, who fairly bought the artifacts years ago, perhaps have as much claim to the objects as the Greek themselves, and refuse to return them to their homeland.

Within the new museum in Athens, in the Parthenon gallery, the frieze marbles that are in their possession, yellowed due to their age, are prominently displayed next to the bright white plaster casts of the missing elements located in England. The contrast in color draws attention to the incomplete quality of the frieze, and makes a clear statement that Greece believes the marbles should be returned. Therefore, the voids become a symbol of an ongoing debate between two nations and the issue of who controls one's cultural patrimony and who deserves ownership.

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