Culture crime news 27 July–2 August 2015


Hot this week: No art for Nazis or Neo-Nazis.

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What Big Data Strategists Can Learn From A Con Artist
(27 July 2015; Forbes)
A bit of an odd connection between art forgery and bad big data for business…

Startup wants to catalogue every piece of artwork ever
(29 July 2015; Financial Review)
But will the art market and collectors participate in a for-profit uber provenance service?


Is Art Theft and Copyright Infringement On the Rise? (Kenya)
(29 July 2015; All Africa)
Accusations are flying that artist and public figure Barbara Mwamburi stole the artwork of a number of other artists and passed it off as her own.


Finding stolen works a huge challenge (Canada)
(29 July 2015; The Canadian Jewish News)
A look at the Max Stern Art Restitution Project at Concordia University, Montreal

Returning Nazi-looted art in Canada (Canada)
(29 July 2015; The Canadian Jewish News)
A piece on all of the restitution cases that have involved Canada.

Neo-Nazi group loses appeal to inherit $250K coin collection (Canada)
(31 July 2015; CBC)
It was determined that because ‘hate propaganda’ is illegal in Canada, a judge voided a will which left a coin collection to a neo-Nazi group.

`Unique’ arrows discovered in stolen SUV (Canada)
(1 August 2015; Herald News)
Some teens in Halifax were stopped in a stolen SUV: why were there Native American arrowheads in the vehicle?

Cuban exiles hope diplomatic thaw can help them regain confiscated property (Cuba)
(1 August 2015; The Guardian)
This includes art collections. Chances aren’t good.

Hasta 10 años de prisión para quienes demolieron capilla del siglo XIX (Up to 10 years in prison for people who demolished 19th century chapel; Mexico)
(29 July 2015; E-consulta)
The chapel was illegally demolished at the end of July. The INAH is also asking where the sacred art within the chapel has gone.

WWII Purple Heart Medals return home (USA)
(24 July 2015; DVIDS)
About a non profit that reunites vets and families with lost or stolen war medals.

Rep. Wesselhöft Urges Oklahoma University To Return Holocaust Painting (USA)
(26 July 2015; JP Updates)
The discussion continues over Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep by Pissarro.

Burglars hit Masonic Lodge (USA)
(26 July 2015; Woodward News)
Two symbolic swords and the Grand Master’s Jewel were taken from the Masonic Lodge in Woodward, Oklahoma

Lauder Hires ACG to Pursue Nazi-Stolen Art (USA)
(27 July 2015; O’Dwyer’s)
The son of Estee Lauder, worth nearly $4bil, has hired the group to put more pressure on museums to return Nazi-looted art.

Does Cecily Brown Have a Copycat? (USA)
(28 July 2015; Blouin ArtInfo)
Where do we draw the line between similar artists/artist inspiration and full on copying?

Federal suit over Ulysses S. Grant’s coat, cup dismissed (USA)
(28 July 2015; The Patriot News)
The dispute was over a Grant coat and memorabilia that was sold in violation of a share profit agreement.

El fructuoso negocio de la industria “cazatesoros” en Florida (The fruitful “treasure hunting” business in Florida; USA)
(29 July 2015; La Vanguardia)
The discovery of 60 gold coins by treasure hunting divers brings into focus the looting suffered by Florida’s shipwrecks.

Feds probe MU artifact collection (USA)
(29 July 2015; The Herald-Dispatch)
Marshall University failed to provide an inventory of Native American artefacts and human remains in their collection in violation of The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

Portland man pleads guilty to art-forgery scheme (USA)
(29 July 2015; The Washington Times)
Larry Ulvi says he wasn’t forging for the money, rather the fun of it. Most of his work were forged Mark Tobeys.

Stolen Rodin sculpture recovered through lucky breaks, persistent chipping (USA)
(29 July 2015; Los Angeles Times)
On the recovery of a stolen Rodin

An interview with Wes ley A. Fisher on the restitution of Nazi-looted art (USA)
(30 July 2015; AMA)
He is the Director of Research at the World Jewish Restitution Organisation

Ancient pictographs near Helena irreparably vandalized (USA)
(30 July 2015; Independent Record)
The rock art in Hellgate Canyon in the Helena National Forest has been struck twice by graffiti this summer. As the graffiti is scratched in, it cannot be removed.

New York University in legal saga over Villa La Pietra, half a world away in Italy (USA)
(31 July 2015; The New York Times)
NYU inherited the Tuscan estate and its art collections from Sir Harold Acton. This is being challenged by an alleged half sister.

The story of art forgers is one of fame, money and talent (USA)
(31 July 2015; The Morning Call)
Article about “Intent to Deceive: Fakes and Forgeries in the Art World” at the Reading Public Museum

Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia vandalized (USA)
(1 August 2015; Haaretz)
Around 124 headstones were knocked over in this 160-year-old cemetery.


Man cutting hedge finds stolen paintings worth €180,000 (Ireland)
(28 July 2015; The Irish Times)
The paintings were found by a holiday cottage in Co Wicklow that were taken from the Apollo Gallery, Dublin, 10 months ago.

Adega gallery raided in Algarve’s first art heist (Portugal)
(30 July 2015; The Portugal News)
Eleven pieces were stolen from this art gallery within a winery.

Criminal case opened on ‘damaging world’s oldest wooden statue’ (Russia)
(29 July 2015; The Siberian Times)
Complicated situation. German scientists are accused of taking damaging samples of the statue without permission form the director of the Yekaterinburg History Museum and exporting them without a license.

Roban un cáliz de la parroquia San Juan Bautista de Estella (Chalice stolen from the parish church of San Juan Bautista Estella; Spain)
(30 July 2015; Diario de Navarra)
The chalice is of high artistic value and was taken while the church was open for the day.

Roban dos medallas de la Virgen de los Dolores de Villanueva del Trabuco (Two medals stole from Our Lady of Sorrows in Villanueva del Trabuco; Spain)
(30 July 2015; La Opinión de Málaga)
Two medals from the sash of the Virgin were found to be missing. The medals had been donated last year and were over 30 years old.

Des voleurs dérobent des objets au musée d’horlogerie (Thieves steal items from clock museum; Switzerland)
(28 July 2015; Tribune de Genève)
Another article on the watch theft from Le musée d’horlogerie du Locle

Swiss watches stolen in second museum break-in (Switzerland)
(29 July 2015; The Local)
This is the second watch museum break in in the area in two months. Thieves smashed a window and stole 15 items from Musée d’Horlogerie du Locle.

Museum in Cable St about women and suffragettes turns out to be `Jack the Ripper’ (UK)
(28 July 2015; The Docklands & East London Advertiser)
While not a crime, per se, locals are upset that planning for a “Museum of Women’s History” was granted but what actually went in was some terrible Jack the Ripper tat.

Charity money and medals stolen in Ramsgate Maritime Museum raid (UK)
(29 July 2015; Isle of Thanet Gazette)
The thief broke in via a window, wrecked the place, and took money and some medals.

New Technique May Identify Stolen Stones (UK)
(30 July 2015; Archaeology)
Looking at the ‘chemical blueprint’ of the stolen stone to discover which UK heritage site it came from.

Crucifixes and plaque of Christ discovered in Fulham estate (UK)
(31 July 2015; Get West London)
They were found dumped in a plastic bag and are thought to have been stolen from a church.

Putin puts Crimean archaeological site under federal control (Ukraine)
(1 August 2015; Daily Herald)
The governor of the region appointed a priest as director of the site of Chersonesus instead of anyone experienced with heritage, archaeology, or preservation. Controversy has since followed.


Sotheby’s primed for battle over John Olsen copyright (Australia)
(31 July 2015; The Australian)
Sotheby’s argues that a denial from the son of John Olsen of the right to publish images of Olsens they have for sale is ‘anti-competitive behaviour’

Artist victim of late-night antics (New Zealand)
(31 July 2015; Otago Daily Times)
Art theft and vandalism in Oamaru’s historic district seems to be tied to alcohol.

South and East Asia

Statues built on ancient bricks (Cambodia)
(30 July 2015; The Phnom Penh Post)
Two modern religious statues were removed from in front of a monastery when it was revealed they were built on stolen ancient temple bricks

Committee constituted for framing security policy of museums (India)
(27 July 2015; Business Standard)
The committee is set to review the security needs of the country’s museums with a comprehensive security policy to be developed and applied uniformly.

Theft in Lingala temple (India)
(27 July 2015; Sakshi Post)
A silver umbrella and the god’s jewellery were taken.

India demands return of objects stolen from its temples (India)
(30 July 2015; AMA)
Very short piece about Kapoor and Germany.

Thieves strike Vijayapura temple, make away with jewellery worth 12.7lakh (India)
(31 July 2015; The Times of India)
Among other things, the hands and arms of the idol Yalaguresh were stolen.

West and Central Asia

Italy returns Iran’s stolen antiques (Iran)
(1 August 2015; Mehr News Agency)
The stolen and smuggled antiquities were returned under the UNIDROIT convention.

Antiquities theft thwarted near Beit Shemesh in late night helicopter chase (Israel)
(30 July 2015; The Jerusalem Post)
63 ancient coins were recovered from a team of thieves using a metal detector near Taoz.

Looters find path to export antiquities via Lebanon (Lebanon)
(31 July 2015; Al-Monitor)
Including discussion with the Lebanese Ministry of Culture

In Other News

How are Austerity Measures Harming Architectural and Archeological Preservation in Greece? (Greece)
(31 July 2015; Curbed)
As the government is forced to cut spending, preservation is going to suffer.

Antiquities Found on Shipwreck That Carried Elgin Marbles (Greece)
(28 July 2015; Discovery News)
And they most certainly belong to Greece!

Art, royalties and other treasures of unclaimed estates (UK)
(31 July 2015; BBC News)
Art in the UK Govt’s Bona Vacantia division. With no heirs, it reverts to the Treasury which is meant to sell it, but should it be given to museums?

Police arrest suspect in alleged chain-saw theft from renowned South Jersey artist (USA)
(26 July 2015;
Thousands of dollars worth of art-producing chainsaws were stolen from Brian Ackley of Ackmonster’s Chainsaw Art.