The British Museum has appointed a new interim director, Mark Jones, who succeeds Hartwig Fischer, whose tenure was marred by the revelation of the theft of nearly 2,000 artifacts from the museum’s storage. Jones, in an interview with The Times, shared his vision for the Parthenon Sculptures, expressing openness to dialogue regarding their repatriation to Athens under the concept of “mutual loans.”
While acknowledging the complexities surrounding repatriation, Jones hinted at potential negotiations, emphasizing the importance of engaging with people worldwide to transform contentious objects into items of mutual cooperation rather than causes of hostility. When questioned about overseeing a settlement for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures in two years, Jones underscored the argument against repatriation, suggesting a careful approach to avoid setting a precedent leading to more claims for the return of objects.
In January 2023, the British Museum confirmed discussions with Greece regarding a new plan for the friezes. Jones’ appointment may signal a shift in the museum’s stance on ownership of these iconic artifacts.
Conversely, authorities in Athens firmly dismissed any change in national policy regarding the repatriation of culturally significant works “illegally found in foreign museums.” The Greek government reiterated that exhibitions in foreign museums featuring items loaned by Greek institutions are a longstanding practice, promoting Hellenic civilization within the framework of cultural exchange and outreach.