Showing posts with label writer in residence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writer in residence. Show all posts

July 16, 2014

Talking Looted Antiquities and Becchina archive over espresso with Christos Tsirogiannis, ARCA's 2014 Writer-in-Residence, at Amelia's Bar Leonardi

The patio of Bar Leonardi in Amelia
By Catherine Schofield Sezgin, 
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

One of the benefits of holding the ARCA postgraduate program each summer in the Umbrian town of Amelia is Bar Leonardi, an establishment that offers drinks on a patio fit for either sun or shade, with a great view of the Porta Romana and a view of everyone entering or leaving town. It has comfortable tables where ARCA's 2014 Writer-in-Residence Christos Tsirogiannis and I parked ourselves one morning after this year's Amelia Conference to discuss the the context and scope of the work he does in identifying suspected looted antiquities that have re-surfaced in galleries, sales catalogues, and museum exhibits after 1970 (This post is an edited summary of our discussion).

Christos is the Greek forensic archaeologist that investigative reporter Nikolas Zirganos mentions in the 2007 version of The Medici Conspiracy (Peter Watson & Cecilia Todeschini); he accompanied Greek police on the raids of the home of Marion True on the island of Paros in March 2006 and the estate of Michaelides - Papadimitriou on the island of Schinousa in April 2006 (“Operation Eclipse”).

There Greek police found Polaroid photos, professional photographs and documents that have led investigators in Greece and Italy to recover numerous objects from American museums and auction houses. This was achieved by tracing the objects from the inventory of dealers suspected of selling ancient objects illegally dug out of Etruscan, Greek and Roman tombs and archaeological sites, as defined by UNESCO’s 1970 convention, signed by almost 200 countries agreeing that such activity should not be condoned by legitimate art dealers or museums.

The Becchina archive was confiscated by the Italian and Swiss authorities in Basel in 2000 and 2002, Although you do not have a digital copy of the archives, you are given access to them by those who have the digital copies, whenever you want to search. Why have you not published these images so that anyone in the world with access to the database can join in the recovery efforts to return looted antiquities?

Christos Tsirogiannis: One thing that is important to understand is that these three archives (Medici, Becchina, and Symes-Michaelides) containing Polaroids, photographs and receipts, were obtained by the Greek and Italian states. Therefore, this material belongs to those countries and aids them in prosecuting these cases and in recovering objects from museums and auction houses. They are not my property and, thus, it is not my right to publish them.

Secondly, it is possible that if these archives (Medici, Becchina, Symes) were published online, then those people who have the objects – either in their homes or in the basements of museums – may want to avoid being accused of purchasing stolen antiquities and would either sell those items to collectors who do not care about their collecting history – or possibly destroy those objects to avoid confiscation or arrests.

The photographic evidence shows dirty or broken objects dug out of the ground. We do not know where most of these objects are. I have matched, so far, about 850 objects depicted in about 1,800 images, of objects thought to have been illegally sold, and thousands more have yet to be located. These photographs are the starting point of the research. When the objects show up in an exhibition or a sale, we can collect any information published with that object and try to describe how these networks of illicit antiquities operated on the market. But if the people who have the objects today realize that their objects have been identified as stolen, they may hide those objects and we will have no further information.

The most important objective is to tell the story of how these pieces were looted and entered into private collections and museums who must have known or suspected they were looted, smuggled or stolen.

How did people become aware that even after UNESCO’s 1970 Convention for the protection of cultural property, antiquities continued to be illicitly sold?

CT: Chippindale and Gill wrote in 1993 an important paper that pointed out that 90% of the known Cycladic figures in collections around the world had no recorded history prior to 1970 and thus one could infer that they had been freshly dug out of the ground or were fakes. Then in 2000, Chippindale and Gill demonstrated that most ancient objects in the most well-known private collections had no collecting history prior to 1970. A few years later, Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini published The Medici Conspiracy, which told how Italian and Greek police had uncovered a criminal network involved in digging up ancient objects from Italy and Greece, laundering them in Switzerland and through auction houses, mainly in London, and then selling them to collectors and museums throughout the world. The Medici Conspiracy was followed by Sharon Waxman’s Loot, Vernon Silver’s The Lost Chalice, and Felch and Frammolino’s Chasing Aphrodite, which showed a pattern of purchasing ancient objects that had weak or nonexistent collecting histories – a cover up for looted antiquities.

Despite the publication of these books, is it common knowledge that criminals extract ancient objects from tombs and archaeological sites and then sell those same objects through the art market to collectors and museums? Three decades ago the Getty Villa displayed Greek and Roman objects without explaining how such objects got to Malibu, California. And today many museums display objects that have appeared in their collections after 1970 or are on loan anonymously in the last year or two but provide no other information as to how these objects made it to the museums in Pasadena or Chicago or New York. Is this part of your work, to create a consciousness in viewers to ask such questions while they are admiring the pottery of the Greeks or the bronze figurines of the Etruscans?

CT: It is everyone’s responsibility to inform the people about the wrongdoings that are still on-going in the antiquities market and, subsequently in the antiquities collections of the most well-known private and state museums. Then, an informed visitor will have the ability to understand why an institution fails to provide basic information on the collecting history of the antiquities on exhibition.

Christos, what has happened in the pursuit of criminal charges against antiquities dealers Robin Symes and Giacomo Medici?

CT: Medici has been convicted of conspiring to sell looted antiquities and ordered to pay a 10 million- Euro fine – although he was sentenced to 8 years’ imprisonment, according to the Italian law he will serve no time in jail in Italy because he is over 70 years old.

As for Robin Symes, the Greek government has issued an international warrant for his arrest, but the British authorities have not been able to locate Symes. The Italian government is also preparing a case against Symes.

June 8, 2014

ARCA's 2014 Writer in Residence: Forensic Archaeologist Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis writing about the Symes-Michaelides archive

Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis
Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis will be ARCA's 2014 Writer in Residence in Amelia, Italy from June 27th through August 9, 2014.

Each year, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art honors distinguished and emerging writers, specializing in art crime and cultural heritage preservation, by inviting them to spend a portion of their summer with us working on a book or manuscript project. Designed to promote critical and reflective writing, the Amelia Writer in Residence Program reflects ARCA’s belief that the basis for any critical and comprehensive writing involves the opportunity for contemplation, research, collaboration and support.

Christos Tsirogiannis, a Greek forensic archaeologist, studied archaeology and history of art in the University of Athens. He worked for the Greek Ministry of Culture from 1994 to 2008, excavating throughout Greece and recording antiquities in private hands. He voluntarily cooperated with the Greek police Art Squad on a daily basis (August 2004 – December 2008). He was a member of the Greek Task Force Team that repatriated looted, smuggled and stolen antiquities from the Getty Museum, the Shelby White/Leon Levy collection, the Jean-David Cahn AG galleries, and others. Since 2007, Tsirogiannis has been identifying antiquities in museums, galleries, auction houses, private collections and museums, depicted in the confiscated Medici, Becchina and Symes-Michaelides archives, notifying public prosecutor Dr. Paolo Giorgio Ferri and the Greek authorities. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, on the international illicit antiquities network viewed through the Robin Symes–Christos Michaelides archive.

Dr. Tsirogiannis explained his work, Unravelling the hidden market of illicit antiquities: The Robin Symes–Christos Michaelides network and its international implications:
This study is the first academic approach to an immense and incriminating body of material: the confiscated photographic archive of Robin Symes and Christos Michaelides, the top antiquities dealers in the world until 1999. I show how this archive interacts with the archives previously confiscated from the dealers Giacomo Medici and Gianfranco Becchina. Forensic research by Italian and Greek police authorities on those archives first proved that - from at least 1972 until 2006 - the antiquities market was based largely on looted and smuggled objects, controlled by an international network of looters, middlemen, dealers, auction houses, conservators, academics, museums and private collectors. During the last seven years, this situation has worsened, despite the convictions of Symes, Medici, Becchina and multiple repatriations of their looted and smuggled antiquities from North American museums, collectors and dealers to Italy. My PhD tackled this most recent period. 
The project of demonstrating the involvement of reputable institutions, companies and individuals in the illicit antiquities trade, as well as the corruption of the art market, is by its nature interdisciplinary; its results are important for the fields of archaeology, art history, criminology, politics and law. I brought to the PhD a unique combination of an academic background in archaeology and extensive work experience in the field. Following my undergraduate degree, I was employed for several years by the Greek ministry of Culture as an archaeologist before receiving an invitation to work on the exposure of the international illicit antiquities network with the Greek Police Art Squad. My specific interest in Symes-Michaelides comes from the fact that I participated in the police raid on their home on Schinousa, from where the archive was seized, and I was later the sole investigator of the contents, working as forensic archaeologist at the Greek Ministry of Justice. 
The PhD began with a historical review, and then surveyed the main members of the international illicit antiquities network (ch. 1). I systematically catalogued the contents of the Symes-Michaelides archive (ch. 2) and then outlined, with examples, the ways in which Symes traded with Medici and Becchina (ch. 3). The central chapter documents ways in which academics from reputable institutions were involved in ‘laundering’ this illicit material, via publications then used by museums and auction houses (ch. 4). In the last main chapter, I presented and analyzed a series of hitherto undiscovered cases of illicit antiquities in the antiquities market, mainly in auction houses since 2007. My conclusion drew out the wider picture (implications) from the network’s activities and suggested solutions towards different attitudes in antiquities trading, as well as fighting the antiquities trafficking. 
The project I would be concerned with as Writer-in-Residence this summer, therefore, is the transformation of the completed PhD into a book. As well as editing the text, I need to update the story of some individual case studies, and my description of the ways in which protagonists are selling artifacts. The PhD was about 77,000 words, plus three appendices of transcripts etc. and bibliography; I expect that the book would be c.100,000 words all told. I am currently putting together a book proposal to send to publishers in the next month; I hope that by July I would have a sense of what the publisher requires by way of editing and expansion. 
The ARCA Writer-in-Residence also offers me a rare opportunity to check the publications of auction houses, galleries, museums and private collections kept in libraries in Rome. These publications have proved valuable to forensic archaeologists Maurizio Pellegrini and Daniela Rizzo in the identification of dozens of antiquities from the same archives (Medici, Becchina, Symes) for the Italian state during the period 1995-2008. No library in Europe has a complete series of auction house -- and gallery -- publications, but I expect to add to my own catalogue from a systematic check in Rome, due to the recent successful repatriation claims of the Italian state.
 Dr. Tsirogiannis will also teach "Unravelling the Hidden Market of Illicit Antiquities: Lessons from Greece and Italy".

April 18, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - ,, No comments

Dr. Laura Rush Named ARCA's 2012 Writer in Residence

by Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

Each year, The Association for Research into Crimes against Art honors distinguished and emerging writers specializing in art crime and cultural heritage preservation, inviting them to Amelia, Italy as the Association's annual Writer in Residence.  Designed to promote critical and reflective writing and funded by ARCA supporters, The Amelia Writer in Residence Program reflects ARCA's belief that the basis for any critical and comprehensive writing involves the opportunity for contemplation, research, collaboration and support.

By hosting writers in residence, ARCA strives to create an intellectually stimulating home base for an author's literary and research activities. Throughout this residence, the writer spends most of his or her time working on a literary project but also contributes to the intellectual community of ARCA's postgraduate certificate program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection.  By sharing their scholarship and professional experiences, their presence and contribution has meaningful impact on this specialized didactic program.

The Writer-in-Residence is chosen from candidates proposed by a Nominations Subcommittee, whose members have been selected by ARCA trustees and faculty. The Nominations Subcommittee proposes candidates whose work and character are known to them and selection is made by group consensus predicated on a writer's professional standing in his or her field of specialization.  Heavy emphasis is placed on projects that promote and foster interdisciplinary cooperation in art protection and recovery. While in Italy authors are asked to contribute keynote lectures or to present at ARCA's Annual Art Crime conference enriching the dialogue by speaking about their manuscript project or a topic of mutual professional interest to scholars and students in

For 2012 ARCA is pleased to announce that our third annual Writer-in-Residence will be Dr. Laurie Rush.

Dr. Laurie Rush has a BA from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, Summa Cum Laude, and an MA and PhD from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where she was a fellow of the University and of the National Science Foundation.

Teams working with Dr. Rush have discovered over one hundred fifty Native American archeological sites on Fort Drum including one dating back over 10,000 years and another documenting earliest French contact in the region.  Her research on the possibility for paleo-maritime culture in the Great Lakes has been recognized by eminent archaeologists as having potential for better understanding of the peopling of the Americas.  As part of her Fort Drum responsibilities Dr. Rush also established consultation partnerships between the installation and three Haudenosaunee Nations, the Oneida Indian Nation, the Onondaga Nation, and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.

Dr. Rush was the Booth Family Rome Prize winner for 2010-2011 in Historic Preservation at the American Academy in Rome.  She is also winner of numerous military and collegial awards including the 2007 Chairman's Award for Federal Achievement in Historic Preservation, the 2009 Register of Professional Archaeologists Distinguished Service to the Field, and in 2007 and 2009 Manager of the Best Cultural Resources Program and Team in the US Department of Defense. Dr. Rush also recently served on the American Anthropology Association Ad Hoc Commission on the Ethics of Engaging with the Security and Intelligence Communities.

In 2009, Major General Oates requested that Dr. Rush serve as the military liaison for the successful return of the Ancient City of Ur to Iraqi stewardship, and in 2010, Dr. Rush traveled to Kabul with Central Command personnel to participate in Environmental Shuras and to meet with the Director General of Heritage for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and US State Department officials on behalf of establishing increased awareness and military partnership for preservation projects in Kabul and Mes Aynak. This participation resulted in allocation of over one million dollars by the US Army Corps of Engineers to support artifact conservation at the ancient Buddhist City of Mes Aynek.

As the Director of the In Theater Heritage Training Program for Deploying Personnel, Dr. Rush helped to establish a partnership between the Archaeology Institute of America and the Department of Defense.  This project, funded by the OSD Legacy Resource Management Program and implemented in cooperation with Colorado State University, produced archaeology awareness playing cards for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt; Soldier pocket cards in multiple languages; replica archaeological sites for military training; educational presentations for military personnel; Central Command regulations for protection of cultural property, detailed archaeology maps for Iraq and Afghanistan, heritage reference websites for military personnel, and archaeology construction checklists for military engineers.  These accomplishments helped to build the US Combat Command Historical Cultural Action Group that is now working at the global level toward improved archaeology mapping for military planning and establishing military guidelines for stability operations in archaeologically sensitive areas.  She is also a founding member of the International Military Cultural Resources Working Group that participated in the recent cultural property inspections in Libya.
Dr. Rush is editor of the recently released volume, Archaeology, Cultural Property, and the Military and has an article forthcoming in the journal Military Review that focuses on lessons today's US personnel can learn from the accomplishments of the Monuments Officers of World War II.

We hope the ARCA community will embrace and support Dr Rush as this year's invited Writer in Residence.