The British Museum has dug its heels in regarding its decision not to repatriate the Parthenon Marbles, adding insult to injury through a recent proposal of gifting Greece an “exclusive NFT” of the sculptures to “settle unreasonable and unnecessary questions over the true ownership of history.” A spokesperson for the British Museum told Hyperallergic that the “generous compromise” should put an end to the battle over the famed sculptures, which were “legally obtained.”
Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin, removed the marble sculptures depicting a battle between centaurs and the legendary “Lapith” people of Ancient Greece from the Parthenon (the temple of Ancient Greek goddess Athena) and brought them into British colonial territory with permission from the Ottoman Empire that controlled Greece in the early 1800s. However, the legality of the sculpture removal has come into question repeatedly, with Greece demanding the repatriation of the marbles since 1835. England has not budged on its bid that the marbles belong to them despite the added pressure of the Vatican’s recent repatriation of fragments of Parthenon Marbles from their collection to Greece.
In a press conference this morning, Saturday, April 1, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak voiced his support of the plan, stating that the NFT is “infinitely more valuable” because the physical sculptures — which have survived 2,500 years — “could never last as long.”
“This way, we can rest assured that there will be no additional damage to these prized sculptures,” the spokesperson for the British Museum said in a statement, citing the marbles’ sustained damages from several wars in Greek history and some failed cleaning and restoration efforts from the conservators at the museum. “An NFT rendition of the Elgin Marbles [sic] will be minted and transferred to the jurisdiction of the Greek General Directorate of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage to ensure that there is no further confusion or debate regarding their true ownership.”
Greece’s Ministry of Culture has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment, but late last night, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted simply, “JFC.”
“The blockchain really is such an elegant solution to this complex dialogue surrounding the ownership of culture and history,” said Tiffany Jenkins, a British writer who has defended the British Museum’s stance on keeping the marbles.