British Museum Hosts Runway Show With Parthenon Marbles as “Backdrop”

Greece Culture Minister Lina Mendoni lambasted the British Museum after the Parthenon Marbles were used as a “backdrop” for a runway show during London Fashion Week. Mendoni told the Telegraph that the decision to allow the sculptures’ display as part of British fashion brand Erdem’s Fall/Winter 2024 collection show demonstrated “zero respect for the masterpieces of Pheidias.”

The museum is currently entangled in a dispute with the Greek government, which has long called for the repatriation of the 2,500-year-old marble antiquities that once graced the Acropolis in Athens before they were removed from the site at the behest of British Lord Elgin in the early 1800s. The sculptures have remained a popular attraction for visitors since they first went on display in London in 1832. 

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“The Parthenon sculptures were merely decoration, since, thematically, the collection had no dialectical connection to Greek antiquities,” Mendoni said of the February 17 runway show in an interview with the Telegraph, adding that the museum “utterly minimized” their “universal value.”

Erdem’s founder Erdem Moralıoğlu said the show was intended to pay homage to Greek-American soprano singer Maria Callas, whom the designer characterized as “almost as a pop idol of the ’50s” in a recent interview with Vogue.

“I wanted to show in this space that epitomized her Greekness,” Moralıoğlu told the magazine, explaining that he spent time studying the singer’s 1953 performance of the Ancient Greek tragedy Medea.

The Ministry of Culture and Sport, Erdem, and the British Museum did not immediately respond to Hyperallergic’s press inquiries. 

The British Museum has long been criticized for its repeated refusal to repatriate a plethora of stolen cultural antiquities still in its collections. For years, Nigeria has been requesting the return of the Benin bronzes, looted by British forces during their 1897 invasion of the former Benin Kingdom. After reports emerged at the end of last year that thousands of items in the museum’s collections had been stolen by one of its own staffers, the West African country joined Greece in renewed calls to repatriate looted cultural objects over fears of internal security risks. 

Most recently, Chilean social media users incited by Santiago-based artist Mike Milfort have been inundating the comments sections of the British Museum’s posts, urging the institution to return one of the two stone moʻai (meaning “statue” in Rapa Nui) in its collection to its original home on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The stone sculptures were seized by British surveyors in 1868. The online campaign follows a request made by the Rapa Nui’s elder council last year to the British monarchy, asking for the return of the ancestral statue heads. The Polynesian group still has not received a “favorable response,” La Tercera reported.

Source: Hyperallergic.com

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