Culture crime news 16–22 November 2015


Hot this week: refuge for artefacts, not people…

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An Object of Beauty: A Novel by Steve Martin
(21 November 2015)
Steve Martin wrote an art world novel and you should just read it already.


Scholars gain insight from the geographical and cultural movement of artifacts
(20 November 2015;
A look at the movement of antiquities and ethnographic items in the Early Modern World


Antique statuette seized at Aswan railway station (Egypt)
(13 November 2015; The Cairo Post)
The statuette was hidden in a box of dates. The man carrying said he found it while doing farm work.

Looted ancient statue returned to Egypt (Egypt)
(16 November 2015; The Local)
The smugglers were acquitted but the statue was still returned to Egypt.

German man returns mummy mask to Egypt after 50 years away (Egypt)
(18 November 2015; Ahram Online)
The German collector who had the piece for 50 years wanted it returned after his death.


Up Close At Uxbenka (Belize)
(17 November 2015; 7 News Belize)
The Uxbenka case continues: racism or wilful destruction of a Maya site.

Charity art work stolen from Arnprior restaurant (Canada)
(11 November 2015; Inside Ottawa Valley)
The Star Wars print was part of a charity auction.

Halifax police seek bell stolen from Princess of Acadia ferry (Canada)
(18 November 2015; CTV)
The bell from the retired vessel was supposed to be turned over to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

In search of looted art (Canada)
(20 November 2015; Truro Daily News)
About Capt. Edith Standen, a monuments WOMAN.

La dirección de cultura en coordinación con el INAH resguardan zonas arqueológicas (The office of culture in partnership with INAH safeguard’s archaeological sites; Mexico)
(18 November 2015; En Línea Directa)
This is in the Altamira area after fears were raised that recently-located sites would be looted.

Pobladores de Chimalhuacán Atenco denuncian saqueo de piezas arqueológicas (Residents of Chimalhuacán Atenco decry the looting of archaeological pieces; Mexico)
(20 November 2015; Proceso)
The people are demanding that authorities pay attention to looting at the El Molino ranch.

Over $125K Worth Of Art Is Padlocked Inside This Debt-Ridden Tribeca Gallery (USA)
(11 November 2015; Gothamist)
The gallery owner gave the artists no warning that she was under threat of eviction.

Agency to remove art by Native American activist prisoner (USA)
(15 November 2015; The Washington Times)
Pressure from a group of retired FBI agents has caused a Washington state agency to remove four paintings by Leonard Peltier

Historic bricks stolen during demolition of old Oswego Village Hall (USA)
(16 November 2015; Chicago Tribune)
80 historic bricks were being saved for a future project and some were swiped.

Jesus portrait in Breathitt courthouse could draw lawsuit (USA)
(16 November 2015; Lexington Herald Leader)
A separation of church and state issue.

Museum of Modern Art Returns German Artwork to Heirs of Jewish Collector (USA)
(16 November 2015; The New York Times)
Power of provenance research. The history of the painting was obscured by it’s name being changed.

Grundy County Swiss farm museum burglarized (USA)
(17 November 2015; Times Free Press)
China, crockery, farm implements, furniture, etc were taken from this small museum.

Historic Swiss museum in Grundy facing long recovery from theft (USA)
(20 November 2015; Times Free Press)
It is difficult for small museums to bounce back from major theft.

No answers after collection of coins stolen from South Bend History Museum (USA)
(17 November 2015; WSBT)
The 19th century coin collection was taken after their plexiglas case was broken.

Sotheby’s offers voluntary redundancies to cut costs (USA)
(17 November 2015; The Art Newspaper)
This is after a series of poor looking revenue results.

10 years later, Everhart theft remains unsolved (USA)
(18 November 2015; Citizens Voice)
A Warhol and a possible Pollock were taken from the Everhart Museum in Scranton and have not turned back up.

Judge blocks sale of paintings allegedly owned by Nazi victim (USA)
(18 November 2015; New York Daily News)
The sale and transport of two Egon Schiele paintings in the possession of Richard Nagy were blocked as they may be part of the Fritz Grunbaum collection.

Tale behind Schiele watercolours is a tragedy—but is it a theft? (USA)
(21 November 2015; The Art Newspaper)
A look into the Grünbaum heirs/Richard Nagy case.

The UA’s Unsolved Case of the Stolen Painting (USA)
(18 November 2015; UA News)
De Kooning’s “Woman-Ocre” remains missing after being stolen 30 years ago.

Machine gun stolen from military museum on Veterans Day (USA)
(19 November 2015; KRQE News)
“The New Mexico Museum of Military History had the vintage machine gun since 2005”

U.S. agents recover N.C. Wyeth paintings stolen in Maine (USA)
(19 November 2015; Reuters)
These are the last two of the lot of six which were stolen. The others were recovered in a CA pawn shop.

Greek New Testament Papyrus Is Discovered on eBay (USA)
(20 November 2015; The New York Times)
On the sale and controversial study of looted papyrus fragments

NAGPRA Review Committee Gets Three New Members (USA)
(20 November 2015; Indian Country Today)
Appointed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Sexton: Search for cello that disappeared from Reynolda House vexes artist (USA)
(22 November 2015; Winston-Salem Journal)
Turns out the cellist left the cello at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art by mistake where it was swiped.


German Art Museum Finds 18 Nazi-Looted Paintings in Collection (Germany)
(17 November 2015; Forward)
The pieces, in Kunsthalle Mannheim, are by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Max Slevogt and Edgar Degas.

US lawmakers call from Bayern looted art (Germany)
(19 November 2015; OR Politics)
A call for Bavarian Museums to commit to the return of Nazi-looted art.

Nazi Art Case Tests Start Date Of Shoah (Germany)
(19 November 2015; The Jewish Week)
More fight over the Guelph Treasure. Questioning the start date of the Holocaust isn’t likely to win anyone over.

Dio Mio! Thieves Steal Artworks Worth $16M in Italian Museum Heist (Italy)
(20 November 2015; Hyperallergic)
The masked thieves struck at closing time, bound an gagged security, and took 17 artworks.

Museum hunts for 2,000 year old mummy’s missing teeth (Netherlands)
(16 November 2015; NL Times)
So someone in the last 120 years took all but one of Yde girl’s teeth. If you have them, please return them.

El patrimonio histórico es de todos (Historic heritage is everyone’s; Spain)
(16 November 2015; El Día de Córdoba)
Guidelines that people can follow to prevent heritage theft.

Secret art warehouses under government scrutiny (Switzerland)
(19 November 2015; CNBC)
Cracking down on Swiss freeports

News Matisse portrait claim rejected by National Gallery (UK)
(7 November 2015; The Art Newspaper)
The heirs of the sitter, Greta Moll, say the with was misappropriated at the end of WWII.

John Oliver explains why India is unlikely to get the Koh-i-Noor diamond back (UK)
(17 November 2015; Mashable)
‘”The entire British Museum is basically an active crime scene,” he added.’


Stolen ancestral remains repatriated to Western Australia after years of negotiations (Australia)
(21 November 2015; ABC News)
The remains belong to three Bari Jawi people and were handed back by the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

South and East Asia

Fujian villagers turn to legal act to claim Buddha statue with a mummified monk (China)
(16 November 2015; What’s On Xiamen)
Despite positive words, the mummy taken from Fujian’s Yangchun village may go down the legal route for return.

Field investigation complete on village’s case to reclaim 1,000-year old statue (China)
(17 November 2015; ECNS)
“Lawyers have finished investigation and evidence collection to reclaim [the piece]”

China Exclusive: Fujian villagers sue after Dutch collector refuses to return stolen god (China)
(18 November 2015; Xinhuanet)
The villagers have signed an agreement with seven lawyers to bring the case.

Yangchun Villagers Hire Lawyers to Sue Dutch Collector Over Stolen Mummified Buddha Statue (China)
(20 November 2015; Yibada)
Villagers from Yangchun have hired a lawyer to sue Dutch collector Oscar van Overeem for the return of a looted statue+mummy.

Idol, gold chains stolen from temple (India)
(16 November 2015; The Hindu)
An idol of Yellamma was stolen from a temple in Gopalpura. The thieves climbed a tree and entered the temple through the roof.

Thieves return stolen idol (India)
(22 November 2015; The Hindu)
The idol of Yellamma stolen from the temple on Magadi Road, Bengaluru, was found propped against the temple door.

नारकंडा के ऐतिहासिक हाटू मंदिर में चोरी (Theft in the historic Narkanda Hatu temple; India)
(17 November 2015; Kesari)
Thieves broke the lock on the temple door and stole various silver religious items.

ICE HSI partners with Ball State University and the David Owsley Museum of Art to recover a hidden idol stolen from India (India)
(17 November 2015; ICE)
The piece was sold to the David Owsley Museum of Art by Subhash Kapoor.

Museum reportedly paid $100K for idol (India)
(19 November 2015; The Star Press)
Ball State University’s David Owsley Museum of Art bought the piece 10 years ago from dealer Subhash Kapoor.

Idol smugglers’ gang busted in Alwar, 10 held (India)
(20 November 2015; The Times of India)
The gang members were nabbed while trying to sell the idols stolen from Bai village in Alwar last month.

Idol theft: Police teams rushed to K’taka, Delhi (India)
(21 November 2015; The Times of India)
The arrest of a gang of idol thieves in Alwar has lead to further raids in various places.

Uncontrollable art forgery plagues Indonesia’s art scene (Indonesia)
(15 November 2015; The Jakarta Post)
This is both in the internal market and in art items bought abroad and brought in to Indonesia.

500-year-old conch stolen (Nepal)
(15 November 2015; Kathmandu Post)
The shell was stolen from Bhagwati Temple, Marbhung.

AG failed to take action in Museum theft case (Sri Lanka)
(17 November 2015; Daily News)
Apparently even the Criminal Investigation Dept has still not received an order from the AG to investigate a robbery at the National Museum in 2012.

On the trail of Paynter’s paintings; sold and regained (Sri Lanka)
(22 November 2015; The Sunday Times)
Albert Dharmasiri is accused of selling important local painting collections stolen fro the Paynter Home because he “needed money”.

West and Central Asia

Why is Saudi Arabia destroying the cultural heritage of Mecca and Medina? (Saudi Arabia)
(19 November 2015; The Art Newspaper)
The author asserts that “systematic destruction of Saudi Arabia is under way”.

Poet and Artist Ashraf Fayadh Sentenced to Death in Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia)
(20 November 2015; ArtNet News)
After nearly two years in prison on charges of apostasy and abandoning his Muslim faith.

Penalties for tampering with antiquities detailed (Saudi Arabia)
(21 November 2015; Arab News)
A quick run down of Saudi cultural heritage regulation. “It is illegal to possess antiquities without the proof of legitimate ownership.”

Hollande proposes refuge for Middle Eastern art (Syria)
(17 November 2015; The Daily Star)
We don’t need refuge for Middle Eastern art, we need refuge for Middle Eastern people.

Louvre’s director draws up 50-point plan in response to Isil’s destruction (Syria)
(19 November 2015; The Art Newspaper)
I urge everyone to think these points through before you voice any opinion of them. The implications are distressing.

Asylum for artefacts: Paris’s plan to protect cultural treasures from terrorists (Syria)
(20 November 2015; The Guardian)
More upsetting support for “artefact asylum” from non experts who appear incapable of thinking through the implications.

In Other News

‘Toenail Hoard’ of 500 coin clippings found in Forest of Dean (UK)
(18 November 2015; BBC News)
An ancient cheat! Culture crimes of the past.

Research project begins into effect of total ivory ban in the UK (UK)
(20 November 2015; Antiques Trade Gazette)
The lead researcher is hoping to engage with the trade to understand the effects of the band

Familiar Tree Prevails in Car-Scent Trademark Suit (USA)
(19 November 2015; The New York Times)
“A jury found that the other company, Exotica Fresheners Company, had infringed on Little Trees’ trademark with the look of its product”