Kyriakos Mitsotakis: This is a very important step, because this return – I think – paves the way so that other museums too can move towards the same direction. The most important, of course, is the British Museum, which needs to realize now that the time has come for the Parthenon Sculptures, which left the country under more or less commonly known circumstances – to now return to their natural home,” stated Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, during the event organized for the delivery and placement of the Parthenon “Fagan fragment” at the Acropolis Museum.
The fragment returns to the Acropolis Museum from the Antonino Salinas Museum in Palermo, as a long-term deposit, not as a loan, and will be exhibited in Athens for the next 8 years (4+4).
The regional administration of Sicily aspires to return the piece permanently to Greece and has already asked the central government to legally settle the case, through the Code on Cultural Heritage. The issue is being examined in the context of the Committee for the Recovery and Restoration of the Cultural Heritage which has been set up by the Ministry of Culture of Italy.
“The effort of the Greek government to achieve the permanent reunification of the Parthenon marbles continues unabated,” pointed out the Prime Minister, while he also stressed that the solution that has been found in this matter “proves that when there is will between the museums, between the cultural authorities of two countries, a mutually acceptable solution can be found”.
A part of History
The “Fagan fragment” is a fragment of stone VI of the eastern frieze of the Parthenon, which represents the Olympian gods while watching the procession of the Panathenaeans and the delivery of the veil to the patron goddess Athena. The lower extremities of a goddess, most likely Artemis, have been saved in the fragment. The left side of stone VI is located at the Acropolis Museum, while the right side is located at the British Museum, in London.
The fragment – 0.355 meters high, 0.31 meters wide and 0.105 meters thick – belonged to the collection of Robert Fagan, British Consul in Sicily and Malta, purchased by the University of Palermo between 1818-1820. It was under the ownership of the Antonino Salinas Museum in 1836. The fragment was displayed at the Acropolis Museum for a short time in 2008, on loan, as part of the periodical exhibition “Nosti”.
The deposition of the “Fagan Fragment” to the Acropolis museum is the outcome of contacts between the Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni and the regional administration of Sicily, more specifically the Regional Councilor Alberto Samonà. Contacts between the two officials started in November 2020.
Momentum is being created for the prospect of repatriation
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis raised the issue of the return of Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum to his British counterpart Boris Johnson in November, during his visit to London.
In his statements in the British newspaper “The Telegraph” last week, Kyriakos Mitsotakis focused on the “dynamics being built” for the gradual repatriation of Sculptures, adding that his visit to Downing Street contributed to creating “A huge wave of international support” and that the agreement with “Antonino Salinas” could become a roadmap for a settlement with London.
The full statement of the Prime Minister
Today is a very important day, not only for the Acropolis Museum, for Greece, for global civilization, as the “Fagan fragment” returns home, back to Greece, back to the Acropolis Museum.
It has been missing from Greece for more than 200 years. I would like to cordially thank the Antonino Salinas Museum of Palermo, as well as the regional administration of Sicily that in a relevantly short period of time responded to the request of the Acropolis Museum so that the “Fagan fragment” now returns to its natural place, here, in the east frieze of the Parthenon.
I would like to point out that this return is in the form of a deposit for 8 years with the possibility that this fragment will remain permanently in the Acropolis Museum and this solution proves that when there is will between museums, between the cultural authorities of the two countries, a mutually acceptable solution can be found.
I would also like to stress the fact that the Hellenic government, the Ministry of Culture, is sending two very important exhibits to the Salinas Museum, in recognition of this very important step taken by the Museum of Italy.
The efforts of the Greek Government to achieve the permanent reunification of all Parthenon Sculptures continues unabated and the important step being taken now, opens the way for other museums to move in the same direction. The most important one being, of course, the British Museum, which needs to realize now that the time has come for the Parthenon Sculptures, which left the country under more or less commonly known circumstances – to now return to their natural home. (The time has come) To reunite with the other marbles displayed in this magnificent museum so that every visitor can admire the unique cultural heritage monument in its entirety, as it deserves, here in Athens under the light of the Attic sky”.
The Prime Minister also replied to a question posed by an international news agency in English.
Journalist: Prime Minister you were just recently in Britain in Downing Street, as a matter of fact, and you brought up this issue of the Parthenon Marbles -but still very little result. What makes you think this will change the minds of the British Museum and what do you have to say to them after this move?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: This is a very important step, because this is the first artifact that is actually being returned from a foreign museum to the Acropolis Museum through a mutually acceptable arrangement and I think it paves the way also for the British Museum to enter into serious discussions with the Greek authorities in order to find a solution that it will be mutually acceptable. I did raise the issue when I visited the Prime Minister. I felt encouraged by the statement of the Prime Minister that the British government would not oppose a possible agreement that could be reached between the Greek authorities and the British Museum and we certainly intend to take this issue further.
And that’s why I think today’s event, the return of this important fragment, is such an important event in our continuous struggle to reunify the Parthenon sculptures.
And for anyone who still doubts the validity of our claim, I would simply invite them to come and take a look at this spectacular museum and to fully appreciate that we are essentially talking about one monument that was violently separated 200 years ago and that “calls” for its’ reunifications under the Attika light in order to fully communicate with the Parthenon. This can only happen in this splendid location of the Acropolis Museum.
I am also very encouraged by the fact that the majority of the British people seem to support this claim. This is an indication that times are changing and that the case that is being made by the Acropolis Museum but also by the Greek government is also very much appreciated by British public opinion.
When there is a will, there is a way. And this will happen. Sooner or later it will happen and we are looking towards constructively engaging with the British Museum to find a mutually acceptable solution.