Neil MacGregor, the director of the British museum, is a national Treasure. He has been very good for that grand old institution giving it a fresh face and making it an untold success after year of seeping decline. His ‘History of the World in 100 Objects’ is a fab bit of radio as well as being a great exhibition. His cooperation with avant-garde artist and transvestite Grayson Perry (Perry accessed the BM stores and reinterpreted some ancient works in his unique style).
Recently Angela Merkel, German Chancellor has had a hand in poaching him for the Humboldt based on his Germany: Memories of a Nation exhibition. It is the way of things, this lending of treasures around.
It is a touch ironic when the BM has steadfastly refused to countenance any form of loan, let alone a return, of the Elgin Marbles.
These exquisite Greek artefacts are, under one interpretation, a piece of British looting and under another the result of a shrewd bit of retailing by Lord Elgin in the 19th Century. They are extraordinary, very beautiful and very Greek yet the BM has them and is in no hurry to let Greece reunite them, even temporarily.
To me that is a shame. I understand, in situations where, for example, the Taliban is desecrating world treasures such as the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001 or similar is at risk then, a sharing of the world’s beauty is difficult.
But the presumption should surely be to share. We, in the UK, were just lucky that we got there first; maybe we were enlightened first too, with our passion to collect and keep. But just because we hold these things doesn’t mean we should hang on willy-nilly.
Of course a lot of lending already goes on and we benefit from the reciprocity of like minded institutions. And more should be done.
So, to start the ball rolling and taking my lead from the loan of Mr MacGregor, I propose that any country that wants to ‘Rent a Royal’ should make application to me, as agent for the House of Windsor. All you have to do is give them a palace, a couple of squat-legged dogs and a bit of bling and they’re yours. Feeding is at your discretion but they tend to like eating off gold and if you are bringing guests they enjoy a linear introduction approach. Bowing and scraping are optional but encouraged. Fawning is, however, out as we will eventually have them back and they must remain democratically subservient.
If there is competition we will go to best bids. And Harry, since he is currently up for stud, carries a premium. Each rental will only permit three coverings a year, or one orgiastic strip snooker as you prefer.
So what am I bid? And I always throw in an Andrew, or equivalent sponger..