British Museum to move the Elgin Marbles for the first time since their installation in 1962 as plans announced for blockbuster exhibition on ancient Greece
By Anita Singh,
The Elgin Marbles are to leave their current home at the British Museum. Unfortunately for those who believe the treasures should be returned to Greece, they are not going very far.
The marbles are being relocated from one part of the museum to another – the first time they have been moved in over half a century.
They will form the centrepiece of next spring’s blockbuster exhibition on ancient Greece, details of which were announced today.
Since 1962, the controversial treasures – officially known as the Parthenon sculptures – have been housed in the museum’s Duveen Galleries.
The new exhibition will be held in the new Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery, necessitating a delicate removals operation to ensure that the ancient marbles remain intact.
They have been the subject of a diplomatic stand-off since Lord Elgin took them from the Parthenon in Athens in the early 19th century.
George Clooney and Bill Murray ventured into the debate earlier this year while promoting The Monuments Men, a film about looted treasures.
Murray said the marbles have “had a very nice stay” in London but urged the British to “let art go back where it came from”. Clooney said it was “probably a good idea if they found their way back” to Greece.
The spring 2015 show will examine “the Greek body beautiful” and include various objects from the museum’s collection alongside loans from other institutions.
A spokesman said: “The ancient Greeks invented the idea of the human body in art as an object of beauty and a bearer of meaning. The exhibition will be a new look at the Greek body in art and thought and its connections with other world cultures.”
The show is the first in a series that will pull out key parts of the museum’s permanent collection and give them a moment in the spotlight.
It will be followed by a 2016 exhibition focusing on Assyria.
Plans were announced at the British Museum’s annual review, which detailed a record-breaking year in 2013.
There were 6.7 million visitors – up 20 per cent on the previous year, thanks in part to the Pompeii exhibition which became the third most popular show in the museum’s history, after Tutankhamun (1972) and a display of China’s terracotta army (2007).
The British Museum was second only to the Louvre in Paris as the most visited museum in the world.