Getting Plastered

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frieze.jpg
Frieze Gallery, New Acropolis Museum, October 2007 / Photo: RICHARD LACAYO

I was in Athens last October to get an early look at the New Acropolis Museum, which opens this fall. As you probably know, its chief purpose will be to display the surviving Parthenon marbles, roughly half of which are in Greece. The other half, the Elgin Marbles, are in London at the British Museum, and the Greeks, as you definitely know, want those back.

Last fall the organizers of the museum had an ingenious plan for displaying the Parthenon frieze, which is the scene of the Panathenaic procession that once wrapped around the perimeter of the temple. They would place the portions still in Greece beside plaster copies of the panels in London, but the plaster copies would be covered with a thin fabric scrim. That way it would be possible to suggest how the reunited marbles would appear if only the Brits would give back the Elgins. But the scrims would make it clear that visitors shouldn’t mistake the the copies for real marbles.

(By the way, in the picture above the thing leaning against that column is a blown-up photograph of a metope, not a panel from the frieze. But in the background you can see a couple of frieze panels inserted into one of the walls that will eventually hold all of them.)

Now it appears the museum organizers have changed their minds, and in the wrong direction. Blogger Lee Rosenbaum, who’s just back from Athens, says the new plan is to display the plaster copies without the scrims. The idea is that visitors will still understand that the plaster panels are modern replicas, because they’re whiter than the original, honey-colored marbles. Maybe so, but this sounds to me a little too much like the now discredited practice of attaching new additions to replace missing parts on fragmentary classical statuary. Actually, I think the word for it is….kitsch.

Rosenbaum’s blogpost is here. My take on the museum from last fall is here.

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