With colleges and universities touting their science and technology departments over humanities and the arts, a person could forget how much fun living the life of Indiana Jones (Click) can be — minus the poison darts, of course. But it is possible to live the life if one has degrees in art history and archeology, as Christos Tsirogiannis well knows.
As a child growing up in Greece, he was fascinated with ancient cultures. He began a photographic archive of ancient artifacts, and, as a result, the collection became the basis of his Cambridge doctoral thesis. When his treasure trove came to the attention of various police departments around the world, those charged with reclaiming stolen relics, Tsirogiannis’ adventures began.
From his comfortable home in England, which also shelters his wife and his daughter, he helps other sleuths find and return antiquities to their countries of origin.
If brushing shoulders with the dark side of art collecting isn’t exciting enough, he enjoys seeing the culprits go to jail. Good at his work, one super villain, known as Medici, charged Tsirogiannis with “doing terrorism toward auction houses and museums.” (“Art Vigilante,” by Vernon Silver, Bloomberg Businessweek, July 2, 2018, pg. 67.)
How true! Museums and auction houses are indeed among his targets. Thanks to his archives, and his impeccable memory for lost treasures, he has caught Sotheby’s and Christie’s more than once, selling dainties from the antiquities cookie jar. “How could we know?” the auction houses sniff. Nonetheless, each time, they’ve been obliged to delete a lucrative item from their catalogues. I doubt that makes them happy with Tsirogiannis.
Of course popularity is relative. Sotheby’s and Christie’s may not feel welcoming toward him, but police agencies are. And so, too, are the countries that see their treasures returned. His admirers describe him as a man with an impeccable eye for “refurbished” goods and a bloodhound’s devotion to the hunt.
Frankly, I doubt any tech student chasing an algorithm composed of 1s and 0s experiences a greater adrenaline rush than our archeologist scholar as he sits at home, perusing art auction catalogues. So, let’s hear it for a liberal arts education. It appears to be of use, after all. And don’t forget the fun!