I didn't mean these marbles for keeping, but as I couldn't find the ones I meant, these will do. British Museum, London
Queen Victoria by Matthew Noble at St Thomas's Hospital, London
As well as on the issue to return or not to return things where they belong. I think the right answers is yes and no and more.
Returning something after having taken in, kept it, generated profit through it and took pride in all of this is all of: childish, too little too late and incomoatible with the complexity of the world we are living in.
Far better is to keep a tiny bit of it, return most of it and add something from your own artefactual wealth to the lot, so that there is the feeling of compensation, good will and civilizational bond.
Take the Elgin Marbles for example. Should we return them? Yes. But should we keep the two, male and female torsos with flying marble clothes around them? Yes. Should we replace the two pieces that we kept to remind us that we once had dolls, then we grew up and returned the dolls to the ancestors of the people that mothered our civilisation which we take so much pride of? Yes. With what should we replace the two marbles? We will replace them with a Henry Moor and say an Barbara Hepworth or Antony Gormley, so that while the Elgin Marbles are rested in the newish Acropolis Museum in Athens the English sculptures are erected up at the Acropolis facing the weather and giving to the holly hill this touch of modernity that is so much missing now; putting it at the same passe as its rival Pompei and its magnificent bronze Centauro by Polish Igor Mitoraj.
So that not only the Greek have nearly all their marbles, but also so that they may get some English ones to view and have without travelling.
Because this is what we now have to start to learn - travel without travelling. But while the tech world will try to tame us into online travel and online museum visits; I think we better exchange some bits of art and stick to watching them live in person. For what did Sir John Soane once do when traveling through Europe was cancelled due to the Napoleonic Wars and the roads to Rome and Athens closed? He bought real and plaster casted bits and pieces of the ancient world and reproduced it in its house for his architecture students to learn and others to admire.
Hence, yes, while humans are stuck let art and artefacts travels and change hands and settings. For it is time to change the space too, refurbish, open windows, let some fresh air in.
And don't forget, this might only be achieved through dialog and negotiation... it might turn out the Greeks don't like Antony Gormley.... they might decide to prefer the marble Queen Victoria from the corridor of St Thomas's Hospital...
Last but not least, the exchanging of marbles, or having a mixed-nationalities marble collections will be very much in tone with the living world and won't encourage unhealthy nationalism. Très avant-garde indeed.
To which the step after will be chopping artefacts into chunks and creating transgender marbles, but this we will leave to the EU cultural institutions to undertake, probably with some Eastern European marbles; and most likely Hungarian ones.