Today, the New Acropolis Museum opens in Athens, Greece. It is positioned 300 metres from the Acropolis itself, so that visitors will be able to see it – the source of the objects before them – from the windows of the museum.
Rescue or looting? It’s disturbing to visit the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum, I find, because the eye notices their wreckage and beauty at the same time. One empire, the Ottoman, ignored the Parthenon as art, affixing a minaret to it and using it as a mosque. This neglect was probably better than the pillaging that another empire, the British, did after 1801, when Lord Elgin chivvied a document from the Turkish sultan that may or may not have allowed him to hack off and cart away half the friezes, pediment statues, and intermediate sculptures along the roof edge, or metopes. Elgin “rescued” enough precious art to strip the temple fairly bare. When he was nearly broke in 1816, the British government bought the marbles, after a queasy debate in Parliament that ended, basically, with “they’re ours now, nobody else can have them.”
This week more reviews from Edinburgh and London will appear, as well as from Annandale-on-Hudson, including a symposium on Anglophilia, no less. There was a fine evening of Mendelssohn with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Frans Brüggen with the distinguished young violinist Viviane Hagner, Wagner’s Siegfried, from the Royal Opera’s new Ring Cycle, which is receiving its first full performances this year, and—most British of all—the final weekend of the Elgar Festival at Bard. Reviews of several important exhibitions will follow in coming weeks: Richard Long and the Queen’s Flemish pictures in Edinburgh, and in London, the wonderful Millais exhibition at Tate Britain, al well as the major exhibition of the Queen’s Italian art, a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to see great paintings, drawings, and decorative arts rarely shown in public, including the recently “discovered” Caravaggio, which has been so much in the news.