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Ancient Greek artifacts go on display for first time, amid protests



In a deal that caused controversy in Greece, fifteen ancient Greek artifacts were taken from the private Cycladic art collection of a billionaire and displayed in Athens for the first-time on Wednesday (2 November).

The deal between the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Greece and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art saw the Cycladic antiquities brought to Athens from New York by Leonard N. Stern, a businessman and philanthropist, for repatriation of 161 artifacts that he had collected over time.

At the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsos spoke. He described it as “truly an exceptional day for the cultural life of the country” as well as referring to the works of art as “priceless antiques rare beauty that are returning home”.

After being displayed for one year at the Cycladic Museum Athens, the 15 most significant works of the collection will then be displayed in New York beginning in 2024 for a period 25 years. They will gradually be returned to Greece.

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The Stern collection contains 161 works made in the Cyclades Cluster, an area of islands located in the Aegean Sea, primarily in the early Bronze Age. According to the culture ministry of Greece, many objects in the collection, including vase and figurines, are either extremely rare or exceptional examples of art and techniques from the Cycladic civilization.

In Greece, the September agreement between Greece’s lawmakers & The Met has been controversial. Many conservators and archaeologists demanded their immediate, permanent and unconditional return.

Five unions representing archaeologists, conservators and ministry workers called the agreement “a shame” in a statement issued before the opening.


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They claimed that the objects were not legally verified as genuine or fake and explained how they came from Cyclades to the New York multimillionaire collection.

A small group of protestors held up a white banner that said “They’re taken” during Wednesday’s protest.

Mitsotakis stated that the deal was “a blueprint for other solutions to be followed”, referring specifically to the “Elgin Marbles”, which include 75m of Parthenon friezes and 15 metopes as well as 17 sculptures. Since Lord Elgin took them out in the 19th century, they have been a target of Greece. He was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at that time.

The British Museum, custodian of the marbles, decided to not return them.

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