Elgin Marbles campaigners launch provocative outdoor ad in London

Lobbying efforts to persuade the British Museum to "return" the Elgin Marbles to Greece have taken a surprising turn.

An organisation representing Australians of Greek heritage has taken out a provocative ad on a giant, electronic billboard poster site just a few hundreds metres from the British Museum in Holborn, London.

The ad has an image of a naked, male statue, taken from the ancient Greek stone masterpiece, with the message: "We gave you philosophy, democracy, logic, drama, comedy, justice… Please give us back our Marbles."

The message is tactfully placed to covers the statue’s vital organs.

The Foundation For Hellenic Studies, which is based in Australia, home to the largest population of people of Greek origin outside Greece, is behind the campaign "to champion the cause to Return the Marbles home".

Tom Koutsantonis, a member of parliament in South Australia, who has Greek heritage, backs the foundation, describing it as "such a tragedy" that the Marbles are "spread across the world", including in Britain, rather than being in Greece.

The foundation has made use of its British-based contacts, who include Bill Muirhead, a partner in ad agency M&C Saatchi, who is from South Australia and serves as the agent-general for the territory in the UK, and Phil Georgiadis, UK chairman of Publicis Media, who has family connections to Greece.

Muirhead and Georgiadis have arranged the ad, which will initially run for 48 hours.

But The Foundation For Hellenic Studies is planning an online crowd-funding effort to raise contributions to pay for the billboard to run for a longer time period – starting with a gala fundraising dinner in Australia that is due to take place on Friday, with guest speaker Geoffrey Robertson, the British-based QC.

The Foundation is also pushing a hashtag on social media, called #returnthemarbles, and claims 75,000 supporters since its launch in 2013.

The Greek Government has spent decades trying to win back the Marbles, stone carvings that date back to the 5th Century BC that Lord Elgin brought to Britain 200 years ago, but it dropped those efforts last year.

The British Museum did not comment directly on the billboard, but it reiterated its position that it has only about 30 per cent of the original sculptures, which it calls the Parthenon Marbles, and that it allows a "worldwide" audience to see them by keeping them in London.

"They are part of the world's shared heritage and transcend political boundaries," said the British Museum in a statement.

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