In the plot of George Clooney’s The Monuments Men an improbable World War II squad is given the task of rescuing important artwork that was stolen from the Nazis. Now, while Clooney is in the United Kingdom for The Monuments Men premiere he is embodying the movie in a real life dispute over the Elgin Marbles sculpture.
During a press conference held at the National Gallery today Clooney suggested that Britain return the 2,500-year-old Parthenon Marbles to Greece after Lord Elgin took them 200 years ago. Britain acquired the Marbles in the early 19th century and they are currently on display in the British Museum. The Elgin Marbles consists of a collection of sculptures, inscriptions and architectural features that came from the Parthenon and some lesser-known buildings.
Bill Murray echoed Clooney’s sentiment in the press conference and said, “there’s plenty of room” for the Elgin Marbles back in Greece.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, has opposed the return of the Marbles. The British Museum agreed with Cameron and said they believed that London was the best place for the marbles where the world can “view them for free.”
After the Berlin Film Festival a Greek journalist asked Clooney his opinion on the subject, Clooney responded by saying that returning the Marbles was “probably a good idea.” When Clooney received push back for the comment he decided to do some research.
After conducting the research, Clooney continues to embody The Monuments Men in the real life Elgin Marbles dispute. Clooney said that he received criticism for his stance on returning the Elgin Marbles because his American nationality does not allow him to fully understand the situation. Matt Damon defended Clooney on this point and said the “He’s American” argument was invalid. Regardless of the resistance Clooney believes that the option should be discussed.
The J. Paul Getty Museum and the Vatican have both returned portions of the Parthenon Marbles back to Greece. Clooney asked if the art should be put back together as best as possible. Also in his research Clooney found that in poll responses, the British were in favor of returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece.
British icon Stephen Fry has also vied for returning the Elgin Marbles and called Britain to be a “classy country” by doing so. Cameron stayed strong on his stance and said the Marbles will not be let go.
Culture Minister of Greece Panos Panagiotopoulos thanked Clooney for his support in the matter, as Panagiotopoulos believes that returning the art is the just course of action.
The situation is very much an echo of Clooney’s film The Monuments Men where art and architecture experts enter World War II to prevent the destruction of art and culture in an attempt to return the artifacts to their owners. While Clooney is not entering a war and is merely calling for a discussion on the matter of rightful ownership, he seems to embody the mission of his movie, The Monuments Men in his real life Elgin Marbles dispute.
By Rebecca Hofland
The British Museum