Culture crime news 7–13 September 2015


Hot this week: Corruption and museum worker misdeeds.

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Shaky Ground by Elizabeth Marlowe
(11 September 2015; Anonymous Swiss Collector)
Our understanding of the most important aspects of Roman art suffers from a lack of context. My review of the new paperback edition of Marlowe’s book

Why Scientists and Scholars Can’t Get Their Facts Straight
(10 September 2015; The Atlantic)
Scholars disagree about the authenticity of the ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ because it has no context. It’s as simple as that.


Weak security plagues Egypt’s archaeological sites (Egypt)
(7 September 2015; Al-Monitor)
Interview with archaeological guards who feel that they are unable to secure archaeological sites from theft.

It’s Gonna Cost at Least $110,000 to Repair King Tut’s Damaged Mask (Egypt)
(8 September 2015; io9)
About half of that has been pledged by Germany

This Ethiopian prince was kidnapped by Britain — now it must release him (Ethiopia)
(7 September 2015; The Guardian)
Seven year old Prince Alemayehu was captured and taken to the UK, his remains are in Windsor Castle and return requests have been ignored.


On eve of Exhibition, historic medals stolen (Canada)
(11 September 2015; Cowichan Valley Citizen)
The agricultural medals were stolen from the Cowichan Historical Society, British Columbia, sometime during museum opening hours.

Destrucción de acervo en Huapalcalco (Destruction of heritage at Huapalcalco; Mexico)
(7 September 2015; Criterio)
Huapalcalco has suffered looting, vandalism of cave paintings, and damage from rappelling and rock drilling.

Se protegen con cámaras de vigilancia las iglesias de Villahermosa (Security cameras to protect the churches of Villahermosa; Mexico)
(13 September 2015; Presente)
Security cameras are to be installed in the churches of the area to help prevent sacred art theft.

Algunas piezas robadas en museo de la UNSA eran de Camaná (Some items stolen from UNSA Museum were from Camana; Peru)
(11 September 2015; Diario Correro)
Some of the objects stolen from the museum had been seized from looters by communities and turned over for safekeeping.

Alamo guide acted quickly to stop vandalism (USA)
(4 September 2015; San Antonio Express-News)
A guide stopped a man from scratching his name on the Alamo with some keys. The man has been charged with criminal mischief.

Art owner discovers his original Andy Warhol prints of Jews worth $350,000 have been stolen from wall of LA movie studio and replaced with fakes (USA)
(8 September 2015; The Daily Mail)
10 silkscreens were taken off the wall of an LA film editing studio and replaced with fakes at some point in the last 3 decades.

9 Andy Warhol prints stolen from an L.A. business and replaced with fakes (USA)
(9 September 2015; Los Angeles Times)
More info on this story: apparently the Warhols were stolen in the past three years.

MU professor and research specialist head to trial over stolen artifacts (USA)
(8 September 2015; The Maneater)
The archaeologists are accused of taking artefacts from Umatilla National Forest and Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness without permits; archaeologists should NOT be exempt from the law.

Bid to kill criminal counts against ex-Mayor Stephen Reed is ‘premature,’ AG spokesman says (USA)
(10 September 2015; Penn Live)
Many of these charges relate to the former Harrisburg mayor’s use of public funds to buy antiquities.

History Museum volunteer accused of stealing artifacts (USA)
(10 September 2015; WKBW)
Federal charges have been filed against a former museum volunteer who is suspected of stealing historic documents.

Art collector files to take Honolulu Museum of Art’s $880K lawsuit to federal court (USA)
(11 September 2015; Pacific Business News)
The museum sued the collector for giving them looted artefacts in exchange for an annuity, failing to provide them with promised provenance documents.

Stolen church windows to be returned to Queenstown estate (USA)
(11 September 2015; The Baltimore Sun)
This comes three years after they were stolen but the estate has paid $25k to the person who ended up with them.

Ancient artifacts yield a modern dilemma: What can be collected legally? (USA)
(12 September 2015; The Los Angeles Times)
A federal investigation over a preserved bow pulled from a glacier yields 30k ancient artefacts that were likely illegally taken.

The revised mission of the Green family’s Museum of the Bible (USA)
(13 September 2015; Tulsa World)
Continued questions about the origins of the Green Collection.

Iglesias en Venezuela modifican horarios de sus prácticas religiosas ante el auge de la criminalidad (Churches in Venezuela modify the hours of their religious practices in response to rise in crime; Venezuela)
(7 September 2015; NTN24)
Churches and Synagogues in Caracas are reducing their opening hours because they cannot protect against sacred art theft


Anish Kapoor’s Versailles Sculpture Vandalized With Anti-Semitic Slurs (France)
(7 September 2015; Hyperallergic)
Dirty Corner, which ‘represents the “Queen’s Vagina”‘, has been vandalised before and recently.

The International Fight Over Marcel Duchamp’s Chess Set (France)
(8 September 2015; The Atlantic)
The 3D artists made a printable version of Duchamp’s chess set using archival photos. Duchamp’s estate is not into that.

A Petition to Stop “Irresponsible” Restoration of Chartres Cathedral (France)
(11 September 2015; Hyperallergic)
The petition claims the 6-year restoration has irreversibly damaged the famous cathedral by literally painting over the age of the structure which may violate the 1964 Venice Charter.

German Police Crack Down On Booming Online Market for Dada Forgeries (Germany)
(8 September 2015; ArtNet News)
Apparently these low cost forgeries are places in online auctions targeted at non experts.

Metal Detector Charged With Selling Artifacts From Murcia Via Internet (Spain)
(8 September 2015; Murcia Today)
The police focused their attention on artefact sales websites and traced them back to the sellers.

Vandals trash ancient leper hospital ruins (UK)
(6 September 2015; Clacton Gazette)
St Giles’ Hospital in Maldon was founded by Henry II has been damaged.

Painting stolen from church (UK)
(7 September 2015; The Beverly Guardian)
The thief reportedly tried to sell the painting at a market stall and the stall holder seized the painting.

Artist draws £15k art theft suspect from memory in bid to track her down (UK)
(10 September 2015; Southern Daily Echo)
This is in relation to the theft from an exhibition at Rookesbury Park Estate near Wickham

British Panel Urges Tate to Return Looted Constable Painting, Again (UK)
(10 September 2015; The New York Times)
The museum had reversed its earlier decision to return the painting to heirs of a Hungarian Jewish family after it was taken in WWII.

Painting of Royal Pavilion stolen from homeless artist (UK)
(10 September 2015; The Argus)
The unfinished work by Lee O’Leary was stolen as he slept.

Rosslyn Chapel panel ‘stolen from Great Tapestry of Scotland’ (UK)
(11 September 2015; The Scotsman)
The tapestry depicts 12K years of Scottish history and this panel was found to be missing.

Thieves make off with museum’s medieval coins (UK)
(11 September 2015; Edinburgh Evening News)
The coins may have been taken last month when management kept the museum open during a strike despite only having a skeleton staff.


Sculptures ‘disappear’ from Sir Antony Gormley’s lake installation in Australia (Australia)
(9 September 2015; The Telegraph)
At least two sculptures, valued at £180k each, have been taken and another damaged from the remote installation 500 miles from Perth.

Application to become an approved borrowing institution under government scheme approved. (Australia)
(10 September 2015; The Canberra Times)
The aboriginal pieces currently held by the British Museum are being leant under the Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Scheme to prevent Indigenous Australians from claiming them legally.

Artwork stolen, vandalised at upmarket Auckland office building (New Zealand)
(11 September 2015;
Hannah Andersen’s artwork was designed to be used, but not abused.

South and East Asia

‘Documentation can combat illicit trafficking of cultural heritage’ (India)
(7 September 2015; Odisha Sun Times)
Proper documentation should make known antiquities nearly unsellable.

The man who stole India’s past (India)
(7 September 2015; Rediff News)
A long read about the Kapoor case.

Priest, Five Others Held for Idol Theft (India)
(13 September 2015; The New Indian Express)
The six people were arrested by Kukatpally police for stealing and trying to sell 12th century panchaloha idols.

West and Central Asia

Antiquities robbers destroy 1,400-year-old church mosaic (Israel)
(8 September 2015; Israel Hayom)
The mosaics were taken from a Byzantine church and the suspects were arrested.

Mecca crane collapse: Saudi inquiry into Grand Mosque disaster (Saudi Arabia)
(12 September 2015; BBC News)
Critics are blaming this tragedy at Islam’s most holy site on poor safety standards.

The religious and cultural heritage being ruined by Yemen’s war (Yemen)
(9 September 2015; The Economist)
The article argues that heritage destruction in Yemen isn’t part of the accepted narrative and thus is being largely ignored.

In Other News

Poland treasure hunters ‘expelled from local history society’
(7 September 2015; The Telegraph)
The Lower Silesian Study Group is apparently “outraged” that the men have claimed the “train”.

Treasure-hunter obsessed by search for Nazi gold in Polish town dies after falling into a tomb he thought was packed with loot
(9 September 2015; The Daily Mail)
A group of men entered a cemetery to rob a tomb near the ‘Nazi Gold Train’ spot believing that they would find related gold inside. One fell to his death.

Activists occupy British Museum over BP sponsorship
(13 September 2015; The Guardian)
A day of action against controversial oil company investment in UK museums.