“This is all published information and anyone who googles it can find it.” Christos Tsirogiannis, monitoring the trade in illicit antiquities.

Christos Tsirogiannis is now an associate professor at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, where he is monitoring the trade in illicit antiquities; publishing his research and collaborating in market analysis, as in his paper with an archaeologist at the University of Genoa who also researches the illicit trade, Marianne Mödlinger; and teaching his new research method around the world, as well as writing and being interviewed for the public.

Building on fifteen years of work, in which he has identified around 1,100 suspect objects, he is tracking the collecting histories of cultural objects as they are advertised and re-advertised, identifying omissions and other inconsistencies that constitute ‘proofs of malpractice’ that have been ‘created by the market itself’.

As Tsirogiannis observed after he traced the provenance of a bronze Greek horse that was offered through Sotheby’s auction house, two Greek vases, a bronze Roman eagle and a marble Roman hare that were offered through then withdrawn by Christie’s auction house and an alabaster Egyptian vase and the head of a marble Roman Apollo that were advertised at TEFAF Art Fair, he is not a thorn in the side of the antiquities market, because he is only speaking the truth. ‘If the truth is a thorn in their side, they have a responsibility to deal with it.’

Since then, following notification by a researcher at the University of Gothenburg who also researches the illicit trade, Staffan Lundén, Tsirogiannis has identified a marble Roman statue on the market in Stockholm, which has been withdrawn by the auction house.

In relation to a previous case where he secured the voluntary repatriation to Cyprus of illicit antiquities in a private collection in the United Kingdom, he has also noted the need for countries of origin to communicate with and advertise the good behaviour of ethical collectors, in order to recognise and encourage ethical conduct.

Apart from tracing organised networks that have handled antiquities from Turkey as well as other countries, his work also highlights the lack of attention and the potential for research into matters of serious cultural, social and economic concern to vulnerable countries around the world.

As Tsirogiannis pointed out in relation to another case: ‘This is all published information and anyone who googles it can find it. But Gorny and Mosch do not put it in their catalogue.’ And, I would add, there are too few people to find, let alone to process, all of the evidence, which can only encourage unethical people to try to get away with sins of omission.

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