British Museum chairman George Osborne said this week that there is a “deal to be done” regarding the Parthenon Marbles, a set of ancient Greek sculptures owned by the London institution that many have said should be returned to Greece.
For years, despite pushback from experts and Greek politicians, the U.K. has held firm to the idea that it is the rightful owner of the Parthenon Marbles, which are sometimes labeled the Elgin Marbles. But in the past year, there have been some possible signs that the U.K. was more open to repatriating them than it had formerly been.
In May, the U.K. and Greece announced plans to hold talks about a potential return. Still, the two countries have disagreed on key aspects of the objects’ history, including the means by which they were found by the Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin in 1801.
Speaking to the radio station LBC this week, Osborne seemed to suggest that he alone, if not all of the other British Museum trustees as well, was open to the possibility of an agreement with Greece—but only if the county was willing to compromise in some way.
“Sensible people could arrange something that makes the most of the Parthenon marbles but if either side says there’s no give at all, then there won’t be a deal,” he said.
Many have demanded a permanent return of the Parthenon Marbles, which experts have said were brought to London by Elgin because of ambiguous language in a related legal document. They have been exhibited at the British Museum since 1832 and have ranked among the top attractions there for tourists.
While the U.K. has largely seemed unwilling to return the Parthenon Marbles, Italy recently loaned a fragment of one of them to Greece with the hope of eventually working toward an “indefinite return.”