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March 12, 2013

Nominees for ARCA's 2013 Award for Art Protection and Security

Here are the four nominees for ARCA's 2013 Award for Art Protection and Security, which is usually given to a security director or policy-maker.  Past winners: Francesco Rutelli (2009), Dick Drent (2010), Lord Colin Renfrew (2011), Karl von Habsburg and Dr. Joris Kila, Jointly (2012).

The Original Four (4) Nominees for 2013 are:

Ton Cremers, Museum Security and Safety Consultant, founded Museum Security Network (MSN). Mr. Cremers is active in security and safety in museums, archives, libraries, churches with valuable collections, monuments, and old Dutch windmills for the past 30 years. He is the former director of security and safety of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam and the founding director of the Museum Security Network. The MSN mailing list, presently a Google Group, was the first WWW list-serv dedicated to the subject of museum security and has been active for over 15 years. In those years over 45,000 messages have been send to some 1,000 subscribers (average) in more than 50 countries. Ton Cremers was one of the founding members of the Leiden network on trade in illegal antiquities, dedicated to the struggle against the illicit trade in art and antiquities. Other founding members: Neil Brody, Colin Renfrew a.o.'s.
Ton Cremers has been active in over 450 museums etc., in several European and African countries, such as Zimbabwe where he audited the security and safety of all national museums, national archives, and national galleries. Mr. Cremers  has published numerous articles in international magazines, and was the co-developer of a self-audit software tool with which museums are able to investigate their security and safety. Thus far Cremers is the first non-American to have received the prestigious Burke Award for the protection of cultural property.  His publication about emergency management in museums is a standard in the Dutch language world. At the moment Cremers is working on a new initiative to build a museum in Athens, Greece and is active in 17 museums on six islands in the Dutch Caribbean, teaching and training museum workers.
Sharon Cohen Levin, Chief of the Asset Forfeiture Unit in the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Ms. Levin has been instrumental in securing the return of innumerable antiquities and other cultural property to foreign governments, and artworks and other cultural property to the families of Holocaust victims from whom they had been looted or subjected to forced sale by the Nazis.  In 2010, Ms. Levin's office resolved the case of United States v. Portrait of Wally with the Leopold Museum in Vienna.

Under Ms. Levin's guidance, the Asset Forfeiture Unit handles all criminal and civil forfeiture actions in the Southern District of New York.  These cases include the forfeiture of the proceeds of corporate and securities fraud, economic crime, cybercrime, health care fraud, international narcotics trafficking, terrorism, money laundering and public corruption.  In the past six years, the Southern District of New York has forfeited nearly $6 billion in crime proceeds.
AUSA Levin pioneered the use of federal forfeiture laws to recover and return stolen art and cultural heritage property. The SDNY Asset Forfeiture Unit has initiated dozens of proceedings under the forfeiture laws -- seizing and returning artwork and cultural property to the persons and nations who rightfully own them.  Notable examples include the forfeiture and repatriation of stolen paintings by Lavinia Fontana, Jean Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, Serge Poliakoff, Anton Graff and Winslow Homer; drawings by Rembrandt and Duhrer; an Etruscan bronze statute dated circa 490 B.C.; an antique gold platter dated circa 450 B.C.; a rare Mexican manuscript; a medieval carved wood panel which was originally inside the historic Great Mosque in Dvrigi; an Ancient Hebrew Bible owned by the Jewish Community of Vienna and stolen during the Holocaust and most recently, a Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton looted from the Gobi desert in Mongolia.
Blanca Niño Norton is the founding president of ICOMOS Guatemala and the former vice president of the ICOMOS Scientific Committee on Vernacular Architecture.  She presently serves as a member of the Academic Advisory Committee of the Council of ICCROM, an intergovernmental organization (IGO) dedicated to the conservation of cultural heritage which exists to serve the international community as represented by its 132 Member States. Ms. Niño Norton is an architect and an advisor to the Guatemala Minister of Culture and a former member of the faculty of the School of Architecture of Francisco Marroquin University, Guatemala. Ms. Niño Norton has coordinated and promoted workshops on a variety of cultural themes and lectured on topics in including vernacular architecture, intangible heritage and illicit trafficking of cultural property. Her interest in the latter led her to create the Illicit Traffic Unit in the Guatemala Ministry of Culture. Ms. Niño Norton consults on national and international cultural heritage projects and is a Project Officer for Cultural Programs at UNESCO Guatemala. She also works on conservation projects for independent collections and museums. In addition to her architectural degree, Blanca Niño Norton holds a masters degree in diplomacy and completed her thesis on “The action of consular and diplomatic affairs in relation to illicit traffic” which received recognition as the best thesis on diplomatic studies.
As her early career progressed Blanca Niño Norton became the Vice President of the International Committee of CIAV within ICOMOS and worked on the international charter for its preservation.   During the early eighties she served to create ICOMOS Guatemala.
Blanca Niño Norton became motivated in this field having attended a private party once in Northern Italy where the owner of the house was proud of the stolen part of a column he had in his living room. It was a Guatemalan piece and she felt as if the object was stolen directly from her. Strongly motivated Blanca Niño Norton started working against illicit traffic of cultural property in 2000 and received a grant from the Getty Conservation Institute as a guest scholar. Since then she has also participated in the creation of the office of International Cooperation in the Ministry of Culture in Guatemala and created the office Against Illicit Traffic with the direct support of the Guatemala ministry.  This office was established to enhance communication at the ministry between Guatemalan Customs, the FBI, ICE, the Carabinieri TPC, and Scotland Yard.  In this capacity, she served as principle advisor for the Guatemalan Minister of Culture. In furtherance of that Blanca Niño Norton participated at the international meeting of UNESCO in Cambodia on the convention against illicit traffic of cultural property.  During this time Guatemala signed agreements with UNIDROIT, and the second protocol of Haya; becoming the first country in the region to have signed all of the international cooperation agreements.
Christos Tsirogiannis, a researcher at Cambridge University and formerly an archaeologist with the Greek ministries of Culture, Justice and Home Office 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. Mr. 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.