Sir, I found Tiffany Jenkins’ column on the Parthenon Marbles frankly saddening (“Judgment is not set in stone”, Openings, Life & Arts, February 13). It seems to me she is defending the rights of museums over those of a work of art to be enjoyed, as much as possible, where it was conceived; especially when its acquisition does sit on dubious legal grounds. It seems to me these particular sculptures constitute an exceptional case, hardly comparable with those of other artworks that have been also dubiously acquired.
We are talking about a monument that represents a pivotal development in the history of western thought and which was created in and for the luminous skies of fifth century Athens, not the austere and grey rooms of a museum on the opposite side of the continent. It is almost like having to visit Michelangelo’s David here in Abu Dhabi or the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel in Amsterdam! Yes, it could be done, but the enjoyment of those works would be ruined and their understanding incomplete or fragmented.
Museums are good places to foster understanding, as Ms Jenkins rightly says; they should not be places for self-celebration, dubious grabbing of art works or, worse, promotion of imperial powers and the law of the strongest. For those among us who truly love art and its achievements, those marbles should go back to the Aegean world that conceived them, in an exceptionally beautiful museum which would connect them with the place and its history and promote a much deeper understanding of their message.
Abu Dhabi, UAE