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Athens, 9 June 2012
To the new Acropolis Museum last night. Nice building, courtesy of Swiss-born architect Bernard Tschumi. Why not a Greek-born architect? Are they not good enough? Odd, since they have a well-known architectural tradition dating back some three thousand years. Some well-known buildings, too (eg Parthenon). Oh well. Then we discover that a Greek architect, Michael Photiadis, was associated with Tschumi in the design. Still, it would have seemed more appropriate had the lead architect been Greek. Not many visitors but then it was the weekly late-night opening, most visitors presumably coming in the day-time. And Greece was playing Poland at football (result: a 1-1 draw). Otherwise, of course, the place would have been teeming with soccer fans. Opened 2009. Contains mostly ancient Greek scupture, lots from the Acropolis. Lots of pottery, too. Many tablets with original writing in ancient Greek that is still perfectly legible today. Fascinating the tablets inscribed with building accounts prepared by the clerk of works during the construction of the Parthenon (447-438 BC). The third-floor Parthenon Gallery contains: (a) original relief sculpture from the Parthenon frieze and (b) modern casts of original relief sculpture from the Parthenon frieze, the originals being in the British Museum in London. Controversy: during the years 1801-1804 Lord Elgin, British Ambassador to the Sublime Porte in Istanbul, had cartloads of Parthenon sculptures sent off to England. He sold them later to the British Museum. The state of play is as follows: (a) of the original slabs from the Parthenon frieze, 40 are in Athens, 56 in London; (b) of the original metopes, 48 are in Athens, 15 in London; and (c) of the original still-intact figures from the pediments, 9 are in Athens, 19 in London. The Greeks regard Lord Elgin’s action as cultural pillage. They want their marbles back. An attendant told us that, in exchange for the restoration of the originals, the Greeks were prepared to let the Brits have the casts. The Brits have replied with a categorical “Oxi”. However, that is unlikely to be the end of the story.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Das Vierte Reich/The Fourth Reich (6 Feb 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
5. What would Gandhi have said? (30 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.