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British Museum confirms Parthenon marbles talks with Greece

6 January 2023

The British Museum in London has confirmed that it is in discussions with the Greek government over the future of the Parthenon Marbles. A report published by Bloomberg on 3 January suggested that the two parties are closing on a deal that would see some of the contested sculptures return from London to Athens as part of a loan agreement; Greek sources dispute this version of events, with one official telling the Guardian that ‘there is no such deal’. Secret negotiations between the museum’s chair of trustees, George Osborne, and the Greek government are said to have begun more than a year ago; these talks were first reported last month in the Greek newspaper, Ta Nea, but this is the first time they have been acknowledged by the British Museum.

The 2023 edition of Masterpiece fair, which had been scheduled to take place in June, has been cancelled. MCH Group, which acquired a 67.5 per cent stake in Masterpiece in 2017 and has recently bought the fair in its entirety, made the decision that the fair would not be commercially viable this year; the future of the fair beyond this summer remains unclear.

Artists John Akomfrah and Grayson Perry have received knighthoods in the King’s New Year Honours list, while the outgoing director of Tate Modern, Frances Morris, has been named Commander of the British Empire (CBE). Others in the art and museum worlds to receive honours include Neil Mendoza, the government’s commissioner for cultural recovery during the pandemic, and Eve Salomon, former chair of the Horniman Museum; both are now CBEs.

The director of the Louvre, Laurence des Cars, wants to limit admission to the museum so that crowds don’t return to pre-pandemic levels. Ten million people attended the world’s most popular museum in 2018; Des Cars plan would seek to improve visitor experience through requiring all visitors plan their entry in advance.

Italian authorities seized a painting by Peter Paul Rubens from an exhibition at the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa last week. The seizure is part of an ongoing fraud investigation by the Carabinieri’s cultural heritage unit into suspected illegal exports of art from Italy a decade ago. The painting’s two owners and their accountant are among four individuals being investigated in connection with the painting, which has since been returned to display.

The National Portrait Gallery has acquired a Victorian-era public toilet, just behind the museum, for £3.6m. The toilets closed in the 1970s and in the ’80s a hexagonal kiosk was erected above them, which has most recently served as a tourist information centre before it closed in 2021. According to the Art Newspaper, the NPG plans to knock down the kiosk and create a new entrance for the 1,500 square feet space beneath, which it will turn into new galleries.