Greece’s culture minister, Linda Mendoni, has criticized the British Museum for organizing a runway show during London Fashion Week set in the museum gallery housing the Parthenon Marbles, which Greece has long called to be repatriated to Athens.

The British designer Erdem Moralioglu used the museum’s Duveen gallery, where the Parthenon Marbles are on permanent display, to launch the autumn winter 2024 collection of his namesake label Erdem. Photographs of the runway show, scheduled in the opening days of fashion week in the UK capital, circulated on Saturday.

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For the collection, according to the label’s show notes, Moralioglu used American-born Greek soprano Maria Callas and her portrayal in the Greek tragic opera Medea, as reference, tapping the marbles as the show’s setting for its links to Athenian culture.

“By organizing a fashion show in the halls where the Parthenon Sculptures are exhibited, the British Museum, once again, proves its zero respect for the masterpieces of Pheidias,” Mendoni, the Greek minister, said in a statement. “The directors of the British Museum trivialize and insult not only the monument but also the universal values that it transmits.”

Mendoni’s critique of the museum continues a centuries-long dispute by cultural experts and government officials over whether the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece or stay in the collection of the British Museum, where they have been housed since 1832. The sculptures entered the museum’s collection in the early 19th century after British diplomat Thomas Bruce, the Earl of Elgin, took portions of the Parthenon temple in Athens and brought them to England.

Greek officials have argued that the marbles were stolen, denying the UK’s claims that they were acquired legally. For decades, the museum has relied on a 1963 law prohibiting British museums from deaccessioning culturally significant objects, as the reason for not repatriating the marble monument to Greece.

In 2023 tensions between the two countries over the contested works continued to escalate. In January of last year, Mendoni failed to negotiate a long-term loan agreement with the British Museum. Subsequently, in November, the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak canceled a planned meeting with the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to discuss a potential resolution.

By December, Mendoni pressed for the monument’s return, promising a trade agreement that would ensure the vacant gallery space where the marbles are located would be able to continue to display Greek antiquities. In a statement, Mendoni remained firm on Greece’s position, saying it doesn’t recognize the British Museum’s “jurisdiction, possession, and ownership” of the marbles.