The Aesthetic Imperative: Pentelics pt1

 horse marble
 
(originally published Thursday, 12 April 2012)

Quoted from an interview with Christopher Hitchens, June 2010, at the New York Public Library. ‘In a conversation instigated by Paul Holdengraber.’ ‘Live at the NY Public Library’ / www.nypl.org

“It’s not about the national patrimony of treasures, after all, there are no Babylonians left, no Caldeans, there are no Hittities for one thing; there really aren’t any ancient Greeks either, if you are to be honest about it, or Romans…”

The frieze of the Parthenon, a sculpture carved to tell a single unified story, by Pheidias and his assistants, of the Pan-athenaic Procession, is a single work of art. It’s been broken in two and exhibited uselessly and pointlessly in London, where no one can tell what it’s about, and separated from its building. It can’t be returned to that building, but it can be returned to Athens, and a museum that has been built to do that. Every other European country has given back their fragments of it.

If you like to imagine, say, the panel of the Mona Lisa, having been captured during the Napoleonic Wars and sawn in two, as did happen to a lot of things. Half of the Mona Lisa is in a museum in Lisbon and the other half in a museum in Stockholm. I think there’d be a general curiosity to see what the picture would look like if it was put together. That’s the case with the Parthenon Frieze, as simple as that. And it wouldn’t matter if Greece was under Turkish occupation, as it was at the time the sculptures were removed illegally by Lord Elgin; the aesthetic imperative is the obviously dominant, deciding one”.

 r.i.p. Christopher Hitchens

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