by Marc Balcells
After five years of meeting annually in beautiful Amelia, it is a fait accompli that ARCA’s conference is an established forum that reunites researchers and practitioners alike for the discussion of the latest advances in research on art crimes and cultural heritage protection. The good health of the conference year after year and the positive outcomes and feedback received year after year are motives of celebration; however, if there is a real moment for celebration in the conference is in the afternoon of the first day, when we award four outstanding persons regarding their efforts in saving and protecting cultural heritage.
This year’s award winners were Christos Tsirogiannis, an archaeologist conducting research in illicit antiquities trade at the University of Cambridge and former member of the Hellenic Ministry of Justice; Duncan Chappell, Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney; Blanca Niño Norton, Consultant at the Petén Development Project for the conservation of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, depending from the Ministry of Environment of Natural Resources, and member of ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites) and ICCROM (the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property); and Sharon Cohen Levin, Chief of the Asset Forfeiture Unit in the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.
Dr. Edgar Tijhuis, professor at the Postgraduate Program and a trustee of the organization, introduced Mr. Tsirogiannis’ award, on art protection and security. The awarded presented on his work, based on the illicit trade of looted archaeological goods. His presentation became an interesting and valuable who’s who of the characters of the gran razzia that happened recently in Italy: names like Marion True, Giacomo Medici, Robin Symes or Christos Michaelides became pivotal points of Mr. Tsirogiannis’ presentation, compiling stories of pieces recuperated by Italian law enforcement worldwide.
Ms. Lynda Albertson, ARCA’s CEO, presented the Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Art Crime Scholarship to Dr. Duncan Chappell, who heartily thanked the organization for the honor bestowed upon him. Dr. Chappell greatly deserves this award, as he has written extensively on the topic of art crime from a criminological perspective. To everybody, but especially to us criminologists, his work is invaluable. He has written articles for ARCA’s Journal of Art Crime, and along with Stefano Manacorda edited Crime in the Art and Antiquities World: Illegal Trafficking in Cultural Property (Springer 2011).
I had the honor to present the Lifetime Achievement in Defense of Art to Mrs. Niño Norton. A true contemporary renaissance woman (besides being an architect she is a sculptor and a painter), Mrs. Niño Norton delivered a presentation based on Guatemala’s different forms of cultural heritage, its threats, and the different projects she spearheads for its protection, which range from architecture to the copying of Guatemalan statues in the middle of the jungle (so the originals can be properly preserved in cultural institutions) or the restoration of looted tombs by locals.
Finally, HRH Ravivaddhana Sisowath, Prince of Cambodia, introduced the Art Policing and Recovery Award to Mrs. Sharon Cohen Levin; and accordingly, provided Mrs. Cohen Levin’s office fights for the 10th-century Khmer statue that Sotheby’s hopes to sell at auction. Mrs. Cohen Levin presented on art related asset forfeitures in recent cases she has dealt with. In her very lively presentation, the awarded prosecutor showed to the audience important cases like the forfeiture of the Portrait of Wally, by Egon Schiele, along more original cases like the prosecution of dealer Eric Prokopi and the forfeiture of… a dinosaur!
In sum, a feast for the arts, and a celebration for all of us who care about the protection of cultural heritage. These awards are small tokens to great works of love done by even greater people. Congratulations!