If George Clooney thought the battle over art’s rightful ownership — the subject of his World War II movie “The Monuments Men” — was in the past, he knows better now.
The actor-director has touched a nerve in Britain by suggesting the 2,500-year-old Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece.
At a press conference Tuesday, Clooney called for “an open discussion” on the ancient friezes, which were taken by British diplomat Lord Elgin 200 years ago.
The Vatican and the J. Paul Getty Museum had sent parts back, Clooney said, raising the question “of whether or not one piece of art should be, as best as possible, put back together.”
The fate of the marbles, originally part of the Parthenon temple, is a longstanding issue between Britain and Greece. Greece calls them looted art, and wants all the friezes reunited.
The British Museum, which houses the marbles, says they “are a part of the world’s shared heritage and transcend political boundaries” and are best displayed in London, where the public can view them for free.
Clooney, who directed and stars in “The Monuments Men,” said he hadn’t meant to spark a storm when he answered a question from a Greek journalist about the marbles at the Berlin Film Festival last week.
“The Monuments Men” tells the true story of a unit of Allied architects, artists, curators and museum directors sent into Europe to prevent art treasures being destroyed or looted by the Nazis.