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World’s momentum growing for Parthenon Marbles’ return March 20, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Arts Museums, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.
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World’s momentum is growing for the return of the prized Parthenon marbles, taken from the Athens Acropolis some 200 years ago by Britain’s Lord Elgin, as major Museums handed back more ancient objects.

Museums around the world have in recent years started returning ancient artefacts to their countries of origin and have tightened checks on acquisitions to avoid buying objects that were illegally excavated or smuggled abroad.

20-03-08_acropolis_new_museum.jpg  “More and more Museums are adopting tighter ethics codes and governments promote bilateral and international cooperation (for the return of ancient objects),” Greek Culture Minister Michalis Liapis told an international conference at the new Acropolis Museum. “So an ideal momentum is being created … for clear solutions on this issue,” he said.

The trend towards returning artefacts was strengthened by the high-profile affair involving former J. Paul Getty Museum curator Marion True and smuggled artefacts that were acquired by the Museum. Italy dropped a legal case against the Getty Museum last year after the institution agreed to return 40 items Rome believed had been stolen and smuggled out of the country, and the Getty has returned several such items to Greece. Both Italy and Greece have charged True with offences linked to trafficking in antiquities. She denies any wrongdoing. New York’s Metropolitan Museum has returned a prized 2,500-year-old vase to Italy, which recently displayed nearly 400 looted ancient objects that have been recovered in the past three years.

20-03-08_parthenon_marbles.jpg  The Parthenon marble friezes and sculptures were removed [stolen] from the Acropolis above Athens by British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century, with permission from the Ottoman Empire officials then in power. Lord Elgin acquired his collection between 1801 and 1810. It was bought by the British Museum in 1816. The Museum refuses to return them to Greece on the ground that its statutes do not allow it to do so.

Liapis told the conference “This museum is ready to embrace all important artefacts taken from the sacred rock of the Acropolis and I hope the same goes for the foreign-based Parthenon marbles… so the unity of the sculptures can be restored.”

Britain said for many years that the marbles were better preserved in London than in Athens’ polluted air. Greece has said this argument is now obsolete given the completion of the new Acropolis state-of-the-art Museum, where an empty gallery awaits the Parthenon marbles.


Greek push for return of Parthenon Marbles March 18, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Shows & Conferences, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.
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Changes in museum policies and an increase in instances of cooperation between different countries for the repatriation of looted artifacts could pave the way for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, Culture Minister Michalis Liapis told an international conference in Athens yesterday.

“More and more museums are adopting tighter ethics codes and governments are promoting cooperation, so the ideal momentum is being created for clear solutions,” Liapis told the UNESCO event at the New Acropolis Museum.

Museum officials and archaeologists gave several examples of repatriated artifacts, such as the Obelisk of Axum, returned to Ethiopia from Rome in 2005. Experts also remarked upon the increase of works being smuggled out of war zones.

Christiane Tytgat, former curator at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels and director of the Netherlands Institute in Athens, said the Parthenon Marbles, currently in the British Museum, should be sent back too.“I support their return unreservedly… this is where they belong,” Tytgat said.

Regeneration works on Lycabettus Hill March 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment, Nature.
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Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Friday toured forested Lycabettus Hill, located in the heart of the congested Greek capital and overlooking the Acropolis, to review regeneration works in important green space.

The Μunicipality is carrying out nearly 700,000 euros worth of regeneration works on Lycabettus Hill, part of efforts to upgrade the metropolis’ overall natural environment. Some 500 trees and 34,000 bushes have so far been planted in the area.

“The trees were specifically chosen for their ability to withstand the city’s climatic conditions, and I personally was enthused to see that almond trees, which are in bloom, have been planted at two sites … infrastructure works are also being conducted at Lycabettus. This endeavour, initiated by the previous municipal administration, is now complete … I am certain that Athenians will notice the difference when they come up to Lycabettus on Clean Monday (Kathara Deftera),” Kaklamanis said, in reference to the religious holiday on Monday, ending the Carnival season.

New Acropolis Museum will open in September March 3, 2008

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A long-delayed new Museum in Athens where Greece hopes to reunite its ancient Acropolis masterpieces with the Parthenon Marbles [so-called Elgin Marbles, currently on display at the British Museum] will open in September, officials said Wednesday.

Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said finishing the glass and concrete building was a “national challenge” and would boost Greece’s campaign to wrest the 5th century B.C. sculptures from the British Museum. “We will inaugurate the new Museum in September,” he said. “This modern, functional and safe Museum will be a strong argument against those who oppose the Marbles’ return.”

The so-called Elgin Marbles – or Parthenon Sculptures – were stolen [illegally removed] from the Parthenon temple by Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin in the 19th century, when Greece was still an unwilling part of the Ottoman empire. The museum in London has repeatedly rejected Greek calls for their return.

Liapis said a delicate operation to transfer hundreds of priceless statues and thousands of smaller pieces from the old museum on top of the Acropolis hill to the new building would be finished by the end of March.

02-03-08_acropolis_museum.jpg  The $190-million Museum was initially scheduled for completion in 2004 but was delayed by legal wrangling and archeological discoveries on the central Athens plot at the foot of the Acropolis.

Museum director Dimitris Pantermalis said the focal point of the exhibition, sculptures from the Parthenon that escaped removal to Britain and other European countries, would soon be placed in its final position in a glass hall at the top of the building. “In a few weeks we will complete the trial installation of copies. which will help us resolve all issues regarding the display, and will then replace them with the originals,” he said.

The Parthenon was built between 447-432 BC in honour of Athena, ancient Athens’ patron goddess, and was decorated with hundreds of sculpted figures of gods and participants in a religious procession. 

Designed by U.S.-based architect Bernard Tschumi in collaboration with Greece’s Michalis Photiadis, the new Acropolis Museum will contain more than 4,000 works, 10 times the number on display in the old museum.

Parthenon Restoration Project at the University of Sydney November 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Hellenic Light Oceania, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.
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A 30-year campaign for chips off an old block > The verbs may vary, chiselled, chopped, pillaged, but the fact remains that more than 200 years ago, the English ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, used the Royal Navy to transport marble sculptures from the Parthenon to England, where they were sold in 1816 to the British Museum.

Now, with the vast restoration of the Parthenon nearing completion, along with a new Acropolis Museum due to open next year, the time has come for the Elgin marbles, as they are known in England, to go home. But don’t call them the “Elgin marbles” any more.

To Maria Ioannidou, the Director of the Greek Government’s Acropolis Restoration Service, they are simply the “Parthenon sculptures”, and they must be returned to Greece.

“The Parthenon is not a ruin,” she insists. “It stands on its own, and therefore, to see it in its completeness, the sculptures should be returned to complete the Parthenon in its entirety.”

Ms Ioannidou will arrive in Sydney on Monday as part of the Parthenon Project, an initiative of the University of Sydney’s architectural faculty. The project includes exhibitions, a debate on cultural heritage and the annual Wilkinson lecture, co-presented next Wednesday by Ms Ioannidou and Nikolaos Toganidis, the architect responsible for the restoration project.

Ms Ioannidou, 56, has spent more than 30 years working on the Acropolis restoration project, which is funded by the Greek Government and the European Union. In 1975, as a recent graduate in civil engineering, she worked with a committee on the restoration of a small temple on the Acropolis monument, which is topped by the Parthenon temple, built in the 5th century BC. By 2000, she had responsibility for all restoration on the Acropolis, including the Parthenon.

Over the years, the setbacks have been many. “Every day we see something we’ve never dealt with before,” Ms Ioannidou said. Yet the rewards have been remarkable. One day, “we got to a wall on the Parthenon that had never been touched for 2500 years. You could see the chips of the tools used by the original builders. We could touch something that had never been touched, moved or restored for 2500 years. I felt very touched to witness and to be part of that.”

Ms Ioannidou still works 10 to 12 hours a day on the project, but luckily her family understands the commitment. Her husband is an architect, her 24-year-old son is a mechanical engineer and her 21-year-old son is studying applied mathematics at university.

What will she do when the restoration is completed? “I will have a lot of work to do, not only for the Parthenon but the management of the archeological site. The surface of the rock was excavated during the 19th century, so now we have to restore [the] surface of the rock in order to face problems on the monument and enhance the site. It is a never-ending problem.” After she retires, “I would like to stay close to the Acropolis and do a lot of writing, which I haven’t had the time to do because I’ve been so busy”.

If and when the Parthenon sculptures are returned, they will not be placed on the Parthenon itself, but in the new museum, to protect them against the elements. Until then, the artworks will be represented by plaster casts made using the originals.

The Parthenon Project in Sydney is the brainchild of Theodora Minas, a lawyer and graduate of the University of Sydney. Michael Turner, the senior curator of the University’s Nicholson Museum, said Ms Minas was “getting out and spreading the word, the absolute desire of the Greek people to see the Parthenon marbles returned by the British Museum to Greece”. “She’s representative of a new generation of Greeks looking to right this perceived wrong to Greek cultural history and identity,” he said.

A Parthenon restoration exhibition will be on display at the Nicholson Museum until mid-December.

Related Links > http://faculty.arch.usyd.edu.au/parthenon_project_2007/events.html

A strong helping hand toward getting Greece back on the Hollywood radar October 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson bankroll Greek-themed ‘My Life in Ruins’ and ‘Mamma Mia’

nia_acropolis1.jpg  The crew of the romantic comedy ‘My Life in Ruins’ at the Acropolis.

nia_acropolis2.jpg  In the film Nia Vardalos, plays a tour guide. Here is Nia Vardalos with Greek Culture Minister Michalis Liapis and Donald Petrie.

Decades after serving as the setting for hit films like “The Guns of Navarone” and “The Big Blue”, Greece has elicited help from Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks to get back on Hollywood’s radar. The Hollywood star, whose wife Rita Wilson is of Greek descent, is helping bankroll two movies which officials here hope will translate into extra tourist arrivals at the country’s archaeological sites and island holiday spots.

nia_acropolis3.jpg  One production stars Nia Vardalos, the Greek-Canadian writer and star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, the 2002 romantic comedy that became one of the most successful independent US box office productions of all time. Titled “My Life in Ruins” the new comedy centers on a tour guide played by Vardalos and was given rare permission to shoot in key Greek archaeological sites, including the Acropolis in Athens, Delphi and Ancient Olympia.

The second production is a film version of the hit Broadway musical “Mamma Mia” starring Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep, and was shot on the Aegean islands of Skiathos and Skopelos in August.

The back-to-back Hanks projects are a welcome boon to a Greek state eager for a fresh start after decades of scaring away big-name productions with a combination of nightmarish bureaucracy, poor organization and sheer ineptitude.

“In the 1980s, the word in Hollywood was that Greece was an unwelcoming place to shoot a film,” acknowledged Markos Holevas, director of the Hellenic Film Commission set up in May to facilitate foreign productions in the country. “Now there is a desire to change things… the Greek state has realized the benefits and wants to promote Greece through film… and Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson were the first to respond to this policy. The message is: Forget the past, let’s make a new start,” Holevas said.

Greece’s picturesque islands, many of them major tourist destinations, have provided the backdrop for scenes in recent films, but have not served as major movie locations. The Ionian island of Cephalonia was in 2001 the site of “Captain’s Corelli’s Mandolin” starring Nicholas Cage, while the Aegean island of Santorini had a scene in “Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life” with Angelina Jolie two years later. Greece also apparently had a chance to host Oliver Stone’s 2004 blockbuster “Alexander” but the government failed to pursue the offer, Holevas said.

The country boasts impressive archaeological sites that have long been in demand for both television commercials and films, but projects have routinely run afoul of strict regulations laid out by Greek archaeologists. And amid price hikes following its adoption of the euro, Greece has had a hard time competing with neighboring Balkan and Eastern European countries which can combine lower production costs with similar landscapes for location shots.

“Foreign productions have a tendency to get ripped off here,” noted producer Christina Aspropotamiti, who worked on an American documentary shot in Athens last year. She said she was stunned when she sought permission to film long-range shots of the Parthenon, the classical temple atop the city’s famed Acropolis citadel. “The local archaeological office asked us for 1,500 euros ($2,120) per square meter (per 10 square feet) of the entire Acropolis site… at those rates it would have made better sense to just buy the place,” she said.

Political sensitivities have also complicated film plans, as in the case of the 1984 production of “Eleni”, an American film starring John Malkovich on the thorny topic of the 1944-1949 Greek Civil War. “The film showed the communists brutalizing the areas they occupied during the Civil War,” said the film’s co-producer Nick Gage, a Greek-American journalist whose biography on his mother’s execution by the Communists was the basis of “Eleni.”

“We had trouble with the film unions, which were communist-dominated at the time,” Gage said. “There was sabotage overnight as we began the shooting in Athens… equipment was broken, you’d find your lights busted.” When the production company decided to relocate to southern Spain, Gage’s home region of Epirus lost millions of dollars, he said. “It was very unfortunate, we spent the equivalent of $450 million in today’s figures that could have been spent in Epirus, one of the poorest areas in Greece. It would have benefited the area considerably,” he added.

When, not if, the Parthenon Marbles return October 21, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Arts Museums, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.
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crane_at_acropolis.jpg  A crane transferring a crate of antiquities from the old to the new Acropolis Museum.

The Acropolis is “missing the Marbles,” was the headline of a story in the Christian Science Monitor by Nicole Itano, in a report on the beginning of a large-scale operation last week to move tons of antiquities from the Acropolis to the new Museum at its foot.

cranes_moving.jpg  At 9 a.m. sharp last Sunday, a 2.3-ton marble sculpture was the first of 4,500 works of art that will be moved over the next three months. The new Museum, however, will be better known for what is missing from it rather than for what it contains. For when it opens to the public next year, the celebrated Parthenon Marbles, also known as the “Elgin Marbles” after the British member of the nobility who made off with them in the 19th century, will still be missing.

Nearly 200 years later, the British Museum still has about half of the extant Parthenon sculptures. Greece hopes that the new Museum will put more pressure on London to return them. The latest battle to have the marbles returned dates back to 1982, when the then Culture Minister, actress Melina Mercouri, speaking at a UN conference, called for their return.

The Christian Science Monitor quoted Anthony Snodgrass, a retired professor of classical archaeology at Cambridge University and Chairman of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. “One of the arguments in the past that was always used was, if only Athens had a proper exhibition space for the marbles and if only the Greeks showed themselves able to look after and exhibit the marbles satisfactorily, it would be a different matter,”… “Now everybody will be able to see for themselves what is being perpetuated by keeping the two halves of the marbles apart. And this will be graphically displayed in the new Museum.”

The US-based Swiss architect who designed the Museum, Bernard Tschumi, said the missing marbles were “central to his design.” As for the British Museum, its spokesperson Hannah Boulton, told the newspaper that “the very purpose of the British Museum is to present a unique overview of world civilization, and the Parthenon Marbles are an integral part of that.”

Germany’s Deutsche Welle press review, and Austria’s daily Die Presse both carried extensive reports on the importance of the new Museum. It is clear that Greece is not alone in seeking the return of its cultural treasures. Meanwhile, Jules Dassin, the President and soul of the Melina Mercouri Foundation, which was instrumental in realizing the new Museum, said nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.