It was never clear why George Clooney became so attached to the Elgin Marbles. He didn’t even seem to know where they were from when he delivered his plea to the British Museum earlier this year:
‘They’ve had a very nice stay here, certainly. London’s gotten crowded. There’s plenty of room back there in Greece. England can take the lead on this kind of thing – letting art go back where it came from. The Greeks are nothing but generous. They would loan it back once in a while.’ ‘Even in England, the polling is in favour of returning the marbles to the Pantheon [sic]. The Vatican returned parts of it, the Getty returned parts of it [the Vatican gave a section of the Parthenon frieze to the Acropolis museum in Athens on loan; the J Paul Getty museum in Los Angeles repatriated looted treasures last year]. There are certain pieces you look at and think, “That would perhaps be the right thing to do”.’
Despite his stardom, the Marbles have remained in Bloomsbury, and rightly so I would argue. Meanwhile Clooney has settled down with human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin. They got married in Venice, and what does decrepit Venice need if not superstars, paparazzi and voyeuristic tourists plodding round on its fragile, sinking remains? You can’t be on the virtuous side of all cultural arguments I suppose.
A couple of spiky commentators wondered why Clooney might be marrying Alamuddin. To bolster his humanitarian credentials? To convince people he wasn’t gay? True love?
Another possibility has emerged. Yesterday, Alamuddin travelled to Athens to advise the Greek government on the reclamation of its cultural heritage. She will hold talks with Antonis Samaras, the Greek prime minister, and Konstantinos Tasoulas, the culture minister, and will visit the Acropolis Museum.
So there you go.