Let’s finish up that talk with Dimitrios Pandermalis, who heads the new Acropolis Museum project.
LACAYO: I know you’re familiar with the concept of the universal museum, the idea that great works of art are the common heritage of mankind and should be distributed among museums around the world. What do you think of that?
PANDERMALIS: I understand the idea. It’s not really a modern idea, it’s more an idea of the 19th century, a translation of the imperialism of the 19th century to the globalization of the 20th century. I would say, ok, I can respect that. But [as it applies to the British Museum] that museum already possesses certain [representative] pieces. Let me just mention a frieze from the same period as the Parthenon — they have a very good example of that kind of work. And in this case they also have all of the frieze, it’s not fragmented. So they have something to show already.
LACAYO: Let me play devil’s advocate. Precisely because the Elgins are so important, isn’t it even more important that some part of them should be available to be seen outside Greece? This is an argument some people make.
PANDERMALIS: It depends on the viewpoint of art history. If we use the prototypes of the 19th century, we could say, “Why not?” We’ll have different fragments in different museums. But today we make international efforts to reconstruct fragmented monuments. The Parthenon is the example par excellence of that effort, because it is so deeply symbolic. And because it’s not possible to understand the frieze of the Parthenon otherwise. It’s almost schizophrenic — you see a part of it in Athens and then to see the next part you have to go to London, and then back to Athens and then to London. The frieze is one unit. It’s 160 meters, but it’s one unit.