The "Ghost Marbles"


The New Acropolis Museum is nearing completion (it may open in 2008), and it is attempting to make a powerful statement about where the parthenon/elgin marbles belong. The museum was due to be finished in time for the summer olympics in 2004, but a number of delays have pushed back completion. It seems some of the sculptures will be displayed, while the missing pieces will have plaster copies displayed behind a gray screen. Sharon Waxman visited the new museum this week and included some pictures, including this one. Here’s an excerpt:

[Dimitris] Pandermalis, [President of the new museum] intends to exhibit the frieze of the Parthenon, with the actual sculptures at the height shown here, and with plaster casts of the many friezes still at the British Museum behind a grey scrim. You can’t help thinking of that as another deliberate gesture, and as the scrim as a kind of shroud. Pandermalis, however, is anything but emotional. “It’s the pride of the nation,” he says quietly. “But I prefer to be silent on the issue.”

Interesting stuff, and I have no doubt the image of the parthenon in the distance, along with the shrouded missing pieces will act as a powerful symbol. Lee Rosenbaum also talks about a recent presentation Pandermalis gave in New York:

But during a recent slide presentation in New York—showing the current appearance of the new museum, as well as renderings of what it will look like when it opens (possibly in late 2008)—Dimitris Pandermalis…revealed a new approach to the problem of the missing marbles. Instead of an empty space, the slide showed an image of one of the Greek-owned marbles chockablock with a copy of the British-owned slab that would have originally been beside it on the façade of the Parthenon. Together, they completed the relief of a horse. So that there would be no confusion between the original and the copy, the latter was veiled by a scrim, making it appear like a “ghost,” as Pandermalis put it.

Whether this shifts the position of the British Museum will be interesting to see. I wonder if all of the missing pieces will be “Ghosted” or if its just the pieces held by the British Museum. After all, bits and pieces of the Acropolis are scattered all over Europe. Also, what is the rationale for only shading the marbles in the hands of others, what about the destruction when the Acropolis basically exploded when the Venetians landed a direct hit on the powder magazine in the 17th Century?

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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