Jeremy Corbyn this week announced during an interview with Greek newspaper Ta Nea, that he would return the Elgin Marbles to Greece if he were to become Prime Minister. He said that the sculptures (displayed in the British Museum) had adorned the Parthenon in Athens for hundreds of years before Britain appropriated them in the 19th Century. The claim is a bold one, but one that has been thrust into the public eye in more recent years by high profile figures/bodies (Amal Clooney and UNESCO, for example) taking such a stance. Greece have, in fact, wanted the sculptures returned for many years. The works (attributed to legendary sculptor Pheidias and his studio) have received exceptional curatorship and investment whilst resident in London, however, whilst a number of monuments left in their native country, have not. Shipped by Thomas Bruce – 7th Earl of Elgin – from Athens over 200 years ago after he had allegedly obtained the appropriate decrees from the Ottoman Empire (and therefore had seemingly done his due diligence), the marbles began their journey to London and the purpose-built Duveen Gallery of said museum. Whilst in transit, the British Government bought them from Elgin for £35,000 after having acquitted him of the charge of looting. Elgin’s actions received mixed contemporary reviews, with Lord Byron posturing in his 1812 poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’,
‘thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed…’.
The debate continues…
It was announced this week that the US can expect its first underwater museum to open this Summer. According to The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA), North America’s first underwater permanent sculpture exhibit will:-
‘augment SWARA’s mission of creating marine habitat and expanding fishery populations while providing enhanced creative, cultural, economic and educational opportunities for the benefit, education and enjoyment of residents, students and visitors in South Walton’.
At the moment Gulf Coast waters in the area are 95% barren sand flats. Sculptural installations deployed as artificial reefs will replenish biological stocks and provide a protective marine habitat where none exists. A one-acre permit patch of seabed off Grayton Beach State Park has been dedicated to the CAA for the purpose of the permanent underwater sculpture exhibit.
The CAA and SWARA are proud to reveal the seven sculpture designs selected by jury for permanent exhibition in the first installation of the UMA. The 2018 sculptural installations will include the following works: ‘The Grayt Pineapple’ by Rachel Herring, ‘Propeller in Motion’ by Marek Anthony, ‘Self Portrait’ by Justin Gaffrey, ‘JYC’s Dream’ by Kevin Reilly in collaboration with students from South Walton Montessori School, ‘SWARA Skull’ by Vince Tatum, ‘Concrete Rope Reef Spheres’ by Evelyn Tickle, along with ‘Anamorphous Octopus’ by Allison Wickey.
Two large-scale protest installations took place recently. In Italy, the Mole Antonelliana in Turin was illuminated in order to honour the victims of the Heysel Stadium disaster, Brussels. In 1985 during a European Cup football match between Liverpool and Juventus, 39 fans died as a result of fleeing an intimidating fracas between opposing sides in the terraces, and becoming trapped and then crushed by a stadium perimeter wall.
Meanwhile in Brussels itself, 4,500 pairs of shoes were set out in Jean Rey Square to commemorate every person killed in Israel over the last decade. The installation greeted European foreign ministers as they walked in to a one-day meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis in Gaza.
Lily Allen reportedly commented that the Hollywood film industry’s #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment and coercion in the workplace has not reached the music industry as yet. Stating that, for musicians, there is no intermediary body to go to for support and advice in such circumstances and that judgement can be blurred due to extensive use of drugs and alcohol.
‘People feel like they can get away with certain things because there is lots of alcohol around and alcohol can be blamed, rather than individuals. On both sides I think women can feel, ‘Oh I can’t absolve myself of responsibility because I drank’.’.
Lily Allen has been critical of the #MeToo movement recently, stating that whilst many have reported their experiences of sexual misconduct, the original act cannot be changed.
Hundreds of professional clowns march through Peru’s capital, Lima, in full costume this week to commemorate José Alvarez Velez aka ‘Tony Perejil’, a popular clown who died on 25 May 1987. He was nicknamed the ‘Clown of the Poor’ because he often performed for the vulnerable and impoverished and helped raise much-needed funds for those areas. The clowns marched in a carnival-style parade through the capital’s streets accompanied by music, whistles and laughter.
Whilst in much of India, Indonesia and the Far East, Vesak Day was celebrated on May 29th. Honouring the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha, Vesak is held on the first Full Moon in May each year. As well as singing hymns, making votive offerings of flowers, and reciting verses that Buddha himself chanted 2,500 years ago, during the festival, thousands of animals are released in a ‘symbolic act of liberation’ supporting freeing those who are in captivity, imprisoned, or tortured against their will.
In the world of fashion, designer Stella McCartney called for a UK-wide ban on the importing of fur. Writing to MPs in support of the Humane Society International’s #FurFreeBritain campaign, she stated:-
‘I am writing to you to voice my resolute support in banning the sale of fur in the United Kingdom. At Stella McCartney, we have never used fur or leather in our collections. We do not believe that animals should die for the sake of fashion…’.
Since the turn of the millennium, fur farming has been illegal in the UK.
Today, the government have hosted a parliamentary debate about the banning of the sale of fur in the UK, as a response to a petition calling for such delivered to Downing Street by Brian May.
Stella McCartney’s outcry has been supported by other public figures including Andy Murray and Paloma Faith.
A landmark piece of legislation was passed in Saudi Arabia recently, at last allowing women the right to drive. Vogue Arabia celebrated the occasion by placing an image of HRH Princess Hayfa bint Abdullah Al Saud sat in the driving seat on the cover of their most recent issue. The magazine is touted to become a collectors’ item in years to come.
In France, the Alessandro Michele for Gucci Cruise 2019 Show caused a stir this week by setting the event in a burning cemetery. The Roman Necropolis at Alyscamps (Arles) was the chosen backdrop for the event, during which models were dressed for a trip to a realm that is not marked on any map: the afterlife. Filled with ominous echoes of Gregorian chants and lit by rows of church pillar candles, the runway was surrounded by smoke, out of which the models emerged like beings from another realm.
Describing the collection, Michele commented:-
‘It’s the idea of death as fascination…’.
Sylvester Stallone has launched a new production company named after his most famous character, Rocky Balboa.
The actor is in the development stages of a movie about Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion, which will be attributed to the new production company. Recently, Stallone earned Johnson a posthumous pardon from President Donald Trump at The White House. (The late athlete had been convicted of violating the Mann Act – making it illegal to transport women across state lines for ‘immoral’ reasons – by an all-white jury in 1913.). The actor led a campaign requesting Trump exonerate the late sports star, who died in 1946, with Stallone meeting the President in the Oval Office for the pardon signing.
Stallone has entered Balboa Productions into a deal to develop feature films with Starlight Culture Entertainment.
[Credits: Figures from the E. Pediment, Parthenon, held at the British Museum (triposo.com); National Geographic; culturalartsalliance.com; covermg.com; Huffington Post; Independent; flickr.com; AP Archive; The Sun; L’Officiel]