Culture crime news 14–20 September 2015


Hot this week: Scotland’s stolen stitches

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A new section for Culture Crime News. Hopefully a new book review every week. Get in touch if you have a book review suggestion.

The Dirty Business of Antiquity (Das schmutzige Geschäft mit der Antike) By Günther Wessel
(19 September; Reviewed by Jens Notroff)
An important book about the global illicit trade in antiquities with some major interviews. Reviewed in English, written in German.


Lights, Camera, Antiquities
(14 September 2015; Christie’s)
On collecting antiquities from collector Mark Farley. In own words is important for understanding the practice. “Whatever it is, buy what you want — there are no rules.”

Works of art — handle with care
(18 September 2015; Financial Times)
Apparently 60% of art insurance claims come from the works being damaged in transit.


Digging for antiquities, a dream to get rich fast in Upper Egypt (Egypt)
(13 September 2015; Egypt Independent)
Looting as a cultural activity with its own rituals

Tutankhamun’s mask to undergo restoration in October (Egypt)
(15 September 2015; Ahram Online)
This is following the disastrous and damaging ‘restoration’ a year ago.


Denuncian robo de siete piezas de plata de la Iglesia de Villa Aspiazu (Robbery of seven pieces of silver from the Church of Villa Aspiazu; Bolivia)
(15 September 2015; La Prensa)
Seven pieces of silver were taken from the church and they cannot afford to have fingerprints taken.

Roba Virgen de Iglesia (Theft of Church’s Virgin; Mexico)
(14 September 2015; Plaza se Armas)
A man was caught trying to steal the Virgen de Guadalupe from a church in Querétaro.

La Laguna, de las zonas con mayor robo de piezas en museos: INAH (La Laguna, among the areas with the most robberies of museum pieces: INAH; Mexico)
(15 September 2015; El Sol de Durango)
The La Laguna region has had some of the highest incidence of museum theft in the country.

California wildfires reveal artifacts (USA)
(14 September 2015; state officials working to stop looters)
Drought and fire has exposed California archaeological sites to looting.

Why Are People Looting Clear Lake? (USA)
(16 September 2015; Pacific Standard)
“Methamphetamine addicts are more or less ideally suited to looting archaeological sites.”

Couple Wants Money Back for Stolen Art (USA)
(15 September 2015; Courthouse News Service)
The collectors bought a painting that had been stolen by Johns’ assistant and are demanding compensation from the dealers who sold it.

Chalices, Bass Guitar and Cross with Saint’s Bone Stolen from St. Anthony of Padua Church in San Francisco (USA)
(16 September 2015; NBC Bay Area)
The tabernacle of the church was damaged and the contents were stolen.

Retired FBI Agent Recounts the Tale of a Stolen Meteorite From U-M Museum (USA)
(16 September 2015; Deadline Detroit)
The 60 pound space rock was stolen in 1998. The story of it’s recovery.

Thwarting Book Thieves (USA)
(16 September 2015; American Libraries Magazine)
Including tips to help protect library collections

Antique Madera farm equipment stolen (USA)
(17 September 2015; The Fresno Bee)
The items were taken from a garage just before they were to be shipped to a French museum.

Church bell found after missing for months (USA)
(17 September 2015; KNOE)
The bell, stolen from Trenton Baptist Church in Louisiana, after it was recovered from an antiquities dealer

Kennewick Man: a never-ending nightmare for tribes (USA)
(17 September 2015; Crosscut)
Continuing Kennewick controversy.

Sale of Sacred Object Stopped By Museum and Native Leaders (USA)
(19 September 2015; Indian Country Today)
Native leaders and the Peabody Essex Museum have successfully stopped the sale of 80 sacred objects.


Bulgaria aims at improving legislation against artefacts smuggling: culture minister (Bulgaria)
(16 September 2015; Focus Information Agency)
In the wake of a high-level meeting on the topic in Sofia, Bulgaria plans to bring its legislation in line with its neighbours.

Reception to welcome back stolen artefacts (Cyprus)
(15 September 2015; Cyprus Mail)
These are the pieces seized from Aydin Dikmen in Munich.

Prague’s Titian loan show delayed after insurers refuse to ship works (Czech Republic)
(18 September 2015; The Art Newspaper)
The insurers were worried about the roof of Prague Castle.

Swiss dealer faces charges as judge investigates €36m Picasso sales (France)
(14 September 2015; The Art Newspaper)
Dealer Yves Bouvier “faces charges of illicit possession, fraud and money laundering”.

German culture ministry tones down controversial cultural property bill (Germany)
(15 September 2015; The Art Newspaper)
“Now, the threshold to export paintings has been increased to 70 years and the value to €300,000. Works by living artists can only be categorised as national treasures with their consent.”

Vandals Smear Anti-Semitic Graffiti on Munich’s Haus der Kunst (Germany)
(18 September 2015; ArtNet News)
Four swastikas were drawn in chalk over the main entrance to the museum.

Otto Krebs Collection: Spoils of War or Plunder in Peace? (Germany)
(20 September 2015; Art Antiques Design)
The plundering of a non-Nazi German private collection in the aftermath of the war and Russian return refusal.

Urwali rękę Chrystusowi, okradli kościół (The hand of the statue of Christ was stolen; Poland)
(7 September 2015; Miedziowe)
This is the second time that the statue of Christ at Sacred Heart Church in Lubin has had hands stolen.

U.S. judge fines Russia $43.7 million in diplomatic feud over Jewish collection (Russia)
(13 September 2015; The Washington Post)
The Chabad group has fought for years for the return of the 12,000 books and 25,000 documents.

Judge probes use of four fake Goyas to fund Madrid hospital (Spain)
(16 September 2015; El País)
The fake pieces were meant to be used to raise money for an expensive and private hospital.

Wrexham sheep sculptures look for new home after two are stolen (UK)
(14 September 2015; BBC News)
Two of the five sheep were stolen and one was vandalised.

Gallery ‘sold artist’s paint spattered carpet’ as her own work (UK)
(15 September 2015; The Telegraph)
The studio where Angelique Hartigan worked has allegedly sold the dripped on carpets there as her paintings.

Church roof lead thieves labelled ‘callous’ after fifth Suffolk incident since end of August (UK)
(17 September 2015; Ipswitch Star)
“The bill to replace the stolen lead is set to reach £150,000”

Lead Stolen from Church Roof (UK)
(15 September 2015; Suffolk Constabulary)
The lead was stolen from St Mary’s Church at Dennington

Bristol council to keep Renoir painting sold at Nazi-organised auction (UK)
(16 September 2015; The Guardian)
The Spoliation Advisory Panel has decided the piece was sold to pay a bank debt, not because of Nazi persecution.

War medals stolen from 90 year-old man in Shoeburyness burglary (UK)
(17 September 2015; ITV News)
Both the second medals and letters and photographs were stolen.

Tate’s Constable masterpiece, once Nazi loot, now set to leave UK (UK)
(20 September 2015; The Guardian)
Post-war art black market in Hungary, as an export license issued? The claimant is anonymous.

Theft of Medieval Coins From Scottish Museum Linked to Strikes (UK)
(14 September 2015; ArtNet News)
The National Museum of Scotland denies that keeping the museum open during the strike put the galleries at risk.

Tapestry panel theft slammed in Borders (UK)
(15 September 2015; The Southern Reporter)
Writers and historians feel the panel was stolen from the whole Scottish nation.

Tapestry panel stolen from Kirkcaldy Galleries has yet to be found (UK)
(17 September 2015; Fife Today)
The panel, one of 160 in the Great Tapestry of Scotland, is still missing.

Beauty, not folklore, may have been tapestry thief’s main motivation (UK)
(15 September 2015; The Courier)
The particular panel taken was dedicated to Rosslyn Chapel which features in the Di Vinci code, but it is unclear if that is why it was targetted.

‘We are heavy hearted’ — Great Tapestry of Scotland stitchers speak out after panel is stolen (UK)
(19 September 2015; The Courier)
Some of the 1000+ volunteers who stitched the tapestry talk about how the theft of a panel makes them feel.

South and East Asia

Tradition of vandalizing China’s treasures endures at Palace Museum (China)
(15 September 2015; Want China Times)
Petty vandalism happens frequently at the Palace Museum in Beijing

43 artefacts smuggled out of T in 2014: NCRB (India)
(14 September 2015; The Times of India)
Particularly 12th century idols in Telangana are being targeted.

Smuggling India’s Antiquities (India)
(16 September 2015; The Diplomat)
‘Thieves may smuggle Indian heritage, but the inaction of policymakers can destroy it forever.”

Temple antiques up for grabs (India)
(16 September 2015; Orissa Post)
A theft from the Lakshmi Narayan temple near Dumduma has brought into focus the sacred art theft problem in Orissa

राधा-कृष्ण मंदिर से करोड़ों की मूर्तियां चोरी (India)
(18 September 2015; Inextlive)
Sixteen valuable idols were stolen from the Radha Krishna temple in the village of Saini. This is the 4th robbery at the temple.

German museum all set to return 9th century stolen Durga idol (India)
(19 September 2015; Mumbai Mirror)
The statue was sold to the Linden museum by disgraced dealer Subhash Kapoor.

4 theft cases reported in Capital (Nepal)
(16 September 2015; The Himalayan Times)
A trident and a bell were stolen from a Shiva Temple in Ujjwal Tole of Pepsicola.

West and Central Asia

Three arrested for stealing artifacts (Saudi Arabia)
(16 September 2015; Saudi Gazette)
They were arrested for a theft from a museum in Al-Ras Governorate.

In Other News

Beach Boys surfboard stolen from Calgary-area casino returned safe (Canada)
(18 September 2015; Calgary Sun)
The couple who stole the signed surfboard after a Beach Boys show have returned it.

Uncorking wine fraud without opening the bottle (Other)
(15 September 2015; Palate Press)
Using scientific techniques to detect fake or fraudulent wine.

Dennis the Menace statue stolen ten years ago shows up across country (USA)
(14 September 2015; BoingBoing)
But no one knows who took it or why it traveled so far.

Two Maine men accused of museum thefts after drunken wheelchair spree (USA)
(18 September 2015; Bangor Daily News)
If you are going to bother to have a drunken wheelchair spree, why not source the chairs from a museum.

Putin and Berlusconi in Crimea wine row (Ukraine)
(19 September 2015; BBC News)
Did the two drink Ukrainian government property? A 240-year-old bottle of wine.