I’m not the only one speculating about Neil MacGregor‘s reasons for temporarily losing his Marbles.
I’m not an attorney so this may be totally off base, but I can’t help thinking of another reason for the British Museum to do the Russian loan. If the argument that the sculptures should be returned to Greece hinges on the idea that the marbles are a single unified work of art that needs to be reunited, then the more firmly the British Museum can demonstrate that they are understood to be a bunch of individual sculptures, complete in themselves, the better their case for holding on to them.
And by asking for and accepting a loan of a single sculpture, the Hermitage has now, in effect, endorsed that view. If the British Museum can establish, through loans, that other major institutions also see the marbles as a bunch of individual sculptures rather than as parts of a single unified work, all the better for the British Museum’s case.