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Elginism: cultural mutilation

The Parthenon Marbles -- Missing since 1801

"It particularly affected me when I saw the destruction made to get down the basso-relievos on the walls of the frieze. Each stone as it fell shook the ground with its ponderous weight, with a deep hallow noise; it seemed like a convulsive groan of the injured spirit of the temple." -- Sir Robert Smirke; witness of the stripping of the Parthenon by Lord Elgin, Sir Smirke was the most renowned architect of the time and a champion of the Greek Revivalist style

For or against?

For or against?
Courtesy of TBWA\ Athens

The denuding of the Parthenon by Lord Elgin at the beginning of the 19th century has led to the association of his name with the mutilation of cultural treasures -- the so-called "Elgin Marbles," better know as Parthenon Marbles. Elginism does not apply only to the Parthenon. Elginism applies to the countless incidents of cultural vandalism that continue to this day.

Below are two ads, produced by the TBWA\ Athens advertising agency in 2001, in which the firm coined the phrase "Elginism". These ads ran once in the Kathimerini English Edition, yet managed to cause quite a storm. One of the results of that storm was that the ads were the subject of a five minute debate on TV1 in France, seen by approximately 10 million people. Of course, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture thought the work was too provocative.

Elginism: cultural mutilation
Courtesy of TBWA\ Athens

Elginism: cultural mutilation
Courtesy of TBWA\ Athens

"There is nothing to equal it in the architecture of the entire world and all the ages; the plastic modulation of the Parthenon is flawless, ruthless. Its austerity goes beyond what we are accustomed to, and the normal potential of man." -- Le Corbusier (1887-1965), one of the most influential architects of the 20th century; Vers une Architecture (1923, Towards a New Architecture)

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