Greece signs an agreement with the United States for the return of antiquities

The Greek Parliament on Thursday (September 9th) ratified a historic agreement for the return of an important American archaeological collection whose provenance has sparked controversy among experts.

Under the terms of the agreement, fifteen of the 161 Bronze Age antiquities that were part of the collection of American billionaire and philanthropist Leonard Stern will be displayed at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens for a year, authorities said. Greek.

The remaining objects – including idols, vases and bowls – will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) in New York until 2048 and will gradually be brought back to Greece, they said. The Met will also receive other Greek antiquities on loan as part of the deal. The main opposition party, the left-wing Syriza party, accused the government of failing to verify the provenance of the Stern collection and thus havingbleached» the fruits of a smuggling of antiquities. “The treasure held by Leonard Stern was illegally exported from Greece“Syriza MP Sia Anagnostopoulou told parliament on Thursday.

The government has ignored criticism and points out that Greece was lucky to have acquired the collection, and indeed it is often extremely difficult to conclusively prove illegal provenance in court. “It has been impossible to find evidence on (all) the 161 antiquities, and we want to repatriate them allCulture Minister Lina Mendoni told parliament on Thursday. “Greece definitely acquires a rare collection it didn’t know existed two years agoruling party MP Fotini Pipili told parliament.

In a statement Wednesday, the Association of Greek Archaeologists said Leonard Stern was a “proven beneficiary of archaeological finds acquired through smugglingand that the deal set a bad precedent by allowing wealthy collectors to get away with it. Archaeologists claim Leonard Stern once owned a Bronze Age marble idol from Sardinia, which was later seized in 2018 from billionaire collector Michael Steinhardt for having been acquired via illegal trafficking.

The main objective of the Greek Ministry of Culture remains the return of the Parthenon marbles, held by the British Museum in London since the 19th century. For two years, New York State justice has been carrying out a vast campaign to restore antiquities looted around the world and which have landed in museums and galleries in the megalopolis: from 2020 to 2021, at least 700 pieces have been returned to 14 countries, including Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Greece or Italy.


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