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March 26, 2013

Cambridge Researcher Christos Tsirogiannis Wins ARCA's 2013 Award for Art Protection and Security

Christos Tsirogiannis, a researcher at Cambridge University and formerly an archaeologist with the Greek ministries of Culture, Justice and Home Office, has won ARCA's 2013 Award for Art Protection and Security. Tsirogiannis provided evidence that a marble statue and three limestone busts had been trafficked by the antiquities dealer Giacomo Medici and Robin Symes, respectively, before appearing at an auction in Bonhams (London) in April 2010. All four antiquities were withdrawn from the auction due to this evidence.

This award usually goes to a security director or policy-maker. Past winners: Francesco Rutelli (2009); Dick Drent (2010); Lord Colin Renfrew (2011); and Karl von Habsburg and Dr. Joris Kila, Jointly (2012).

Tsirogiannis is completing his Ph.D thesis on the International Illicit Antiquities Network (“Unravelling the International Illicit Antiquities Network through the Robin Symes-Christos Michaelides archive and its international implications”). His thesis is a result of his extensive experience as a forensic archaeologist at the Greek Ministry of Culture (1998-2002 and 2004-2008), the Greek Ministry of Justice (2006-2007) and as the only forensic archaeologist at the Greek police Art Squad (Home Office, 2004-2008, having participated in more than 173 investigations cases and raids). His participation in a 6-member core of the Greek Task Force contributed to the successful claim of looted and stolen antiquities from institutions and individuals, such as the Getty Museum (2007), as well as the Shelby White and Leon Levy collection and the Cahn Gallery in Switzerland (2008). Among many cases, he considers most memorable the raids at the summer residence of Dr Marion True (former curator of antiquities at the Getty Museum) and at the premises of the top illicit antiquities dealers in the world, Robin Symes-Christos Michaelides, in the Cyclades, where the famous archive was discovered.

Over the last five years (2007-present), Tsirogiannis has been identifying looted and ‘toxic’ antiquities at the most prominent auction houses (e.g., Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams) and galleries (e.g., “Royal-Athena Galleries”), as part of a project with the renowned academics Professor David Gill (University Campus Suffolk) and Dr. Christopher Chippindale (University of Cambridge). Some of the results of his research have been already demonstrated in The Journal of Art Crime (“Polaroids from the Medici Dossier: Continued Sightings on the Market”, 2011:27-33, with Professor David Gill). This part of his research has contributed to the withdrawal of antiquities (e.g., Bonhams case, April 2010) and to the disclosure of many scandals in the field (e.g., Christie’s June 2010, April 2011, December 2011). Tsirogiannis’ primary aim is to notify governments to retrieve their stolen cultural property and to raise public awareness regarding antiquities trafficking, through media coverage of these cases.