Culture crime news 30 November–6 December 2015


Hot this week: Outrage over Jain idol theft and remarkable recovery!

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Note: I will be in New Zealand enjoying annual leave in antipodean summer for the next few weeks. That means Culture Crime News may be late, meager, or absent during that time. Your regularly scheduled Art Crime will be back in early January.


Disappearing Ink: The Insider, the FBI, and the looting of the Kenyon College Library by Travis McDade
(6 December 2015)
Years of library and archive theft go unnoticed at a University in this interesting case; despair for our print collections.


Value of authenticity and collectors’ ‘higher loyalties’ when buying illicit artefacts and orchids: 2 open access papers
(2 December 2015; Anonymous Swiss Collector)
Two scholarly papers published this on crime and collecting of antiquities available open access, so free!

Thinking on Politics
(30 November 2015; Europea Union National Institutes for Culture)
“Would disrupting ISIL’s control of the antiquities trade save archaeological sites from further depredation?” Unlikely says Dr Neil Brodie

Are Forgeries Fine Art?
(4 December 2015; Newsmax)
Some thoughts on art fakes.

Born to Be Conned
(5 December 2015; The New York Times)
Asking the question, why can some people be had? Included art forgery as an example.


Egypt attempts to bring back 8 smuggled artifacts from Switzerland (Egypt, Switzerland)
(30 November 2015; Step Feed)
At least one piece was stolen from was stolen from the Temple of Behbit Al Hegara.

Ancient cemetery discovered under Alexandria house (Egypt)
(3 December 2015; Egypt Independent)
Note that the people who owned the house had been previously jailed for looting and were at it again.

Govt launches cultural property trafficking manual (Zimbabwe)
(4 December 2015; News Day)
Trying to stem what the government sees as an increase in antiquities trafficking.


Inuit shaman parka ‘copied’ by KTZ design well-studied by anthropologists (Canada, USA)
(2 December 2015; CBC)
The stolen shaman robe design has been move loved and studied for generations. It is even preserved.

Spanish galleon with rumoured £1bn treasure hoard found, says Colombia’s president (Colombia)
(5 December 2015; The Guardian)
There has been a legal battle between the Colombian government and a commercial salvage company.

La Funba recupera su patrimonio (FUNBA (Fundación para las Bellas Artes y la Cultura) recovers its heritage; Guatemala)
(30 November 2015; El Periódico)
Some recoveries in this massive theft.

Preocupa robo de imágenes (Concern about the theft of sacred statues; Guatemala)
(1 December 2015; El Quetzalteco)
Sacred art theft is common in Guatemala but it isn’t being properly reported.

En Tabasco, el crimen no respeta ni a la Iglesia (In Tabasco, crime doesn’t respect the church; Mexico)
(2 December 2015; El Universal)
Churches in Tabasco are increasing security measures and cutting opening hours to try to prevent sacred art theft.

Police still searching for gold coins stolen from National Museum of Scotland (UK)
(2 December 2015; Museums Journal)
Some thoughts on the NMS coin theft with some quotes from me.

On Coin Theft at the National Museum of Scotland: Conversation (UK)
(2 December 2015; Anonymous Swiss Collector)
A conversation between myself and Jonathan Knott of the Museums Association about museum security and what thieves can do with stolen Scottish coins.

Estate Sues Nahmad Gallery Network for Modigliani Portrait (USA)
(24 November 2015; The New York Times)
This is a refiling for “Seated Man With a Cane”; the Nahmads say they don’t even own it.

Could Ego Alley repairs solve mystery of the Kunta Kinte plaque? (USA)
(30 November 2015; Capital Gazette)
Two days after the plaque was placed in 1981, it was stolen. By the KKK?

Minnesota Arboretum replaces stolen sculpture (USA)
(30 November 2015; Star Tribune)
The sculpture, South Wind II, was stolen in April of 2015.

Police ID former Ohio State employee who committed suicide in Wexner Center (USA)
(30 November 2015; The Columbus Dispatch)
The former security guard vandalized art in the gallery and then shot himself. It has not been released what art was damaged.

Can polar bear hair authenticate contested Pollock painting? (USA)
(1 December 2015; The Art Newspaper)
The estate of Pollock’s mistress builds a case.

Community helps rebuild church after thieves vandalize it, steal tabernacle (USA)
(1 December 2015; ABC7)
The gold tabernacle was taken by thieves a month ago.

Over 150 Year-Old Cemetery Vandalized in South Arkansas (USA)
(1 December 2015; NBC10 News)
The sad fate of (and local advocates for) a lot of the US’ small cemeteries.

Court records: OU agrees to proposed settlement in lawsuit over stolen painting (USA)
(2 December 2015; The Frontier)
A proposed settlement has bee reached over the allegedly Nazi-looted Pissarro. We will see what happens next.

The Real-Life Indiana Jones (USA, India)
(2 December 2015; FiveThirtyEight)
A short film about HSI agent Brent Easter and the Subhash Kapoor case

How Art Heists Play Out: Stolen Picasso One Year Later (USA)
(3 December 2015; WLRN)
The Picasso sculpture was stolen last year from Art Miami.

Settlement Reached Over Fake Willem de Kooning Painting (USA)
(3 December 2015; The Wall Street Journal)
A New York collector has settled one of the Knoedler gallery fakes lawsuits.

Charlotte man will spend up to 15 years behind bars for stealing historical artifacts (USA)
(4 December 2015; WLNS 6)
The man stole the items from Michigan’s Courthouse Square Museum.

FOUND: A 17th Century Map Stolen from a Library by a Notorious Art Thief (USA)
(4 December 2015; Atlas Obscura)
The Champlain map of “la Nouvelle France” was stolen from the Boston Public Library sometime in the 2000s and was listed by a New York dealer recently.

Police investigating major theft at Cleveland’s Natural History Museum (USA)
(4 December 2015; News Net 5)
Apparently sapphires were stolen.

Seen this sculpture? There’s a $1,000 reward if you have (USA)
(4 December 2015; Bring Me The News)
A clay sculpture was taken from Fred Richards Park in Edina

Seminary eyes repatriation after clash over artifacts (USA)
(5 December 2015; The Boston Globe)
The Andover Newton Theological School has been charged by the Department of the Interior with failing to comply with NAGPRA.


French national treasure recovered by The Art Loss Register (France, UK)
(1 December 2015; Art Loss Register)
The piece was stolen 32 years ago and found during a routine check of auction sales.

German Panel Defends Effort to Trace Owners of Nazi-Looted Art (Germany)
(2 December 2015; The New York Times)
Responding to criticism of the Gurlitt task force

Gurlitt task force identifies 5th work looted by Nazis (Germany)
(2 December 2015; The Daily Mail)
Menzel’s “Church in Hofgastein” belonged to Hamburg collector Albert Martin Wolffson

Celstraffen geëist voor drie helers dure schilderijen uit Leerdams museum (Prison sentences demanded for three robbers of expensive paintings from Leerdam Museum; Netherlands)
(2 December 2015; Blikopnieuws)
The paintings were taken in 2011 from the museum ‘Het hofje mevrouw will go Aerden’ in Leerdam

Danh Vo and Dutch collector settle legal battle (Netherlands)
(2 December 2015; The Art Newspaper)
Collector Bert Kreuk dropped legal proceedings against the artist who no longer has to create a large work for the collector’s collection.

Arte, millones y bajas pasiones: la historia del robo del Códice Calixtino (Art, millions, and lusts: the story of the theft of The Codex Calixtinus; Spain)
(4 December 2015; Vanity Fair)
A long read in Spanish about this major theft.

Culture and jihad, grimly connected through the art market’s “blood antiquities” (UK)
(30 November 2015; The Economist)
Reporting on the UK’s new “All-Party Parliamentary Group for the protection of cultural heritage from violence and war”

Is this Leonardo da Vinci drawing a £100m masterpiece…or a worthless forgery (UK)
(30 November 2015; Express)
A forger alleges that the alleged Leonardo is his own fake.

Police hunt owners of 600 pieces of artwork recovered from Opus Art Gallery in Stow on the Wold (UK)
(1 December 2015; Western Daily Press)
The gallery’s former owners are accused of dishonestly retaining artists’ works.

Leslie Waddington, art dealer – obituary (UK)
(2 December 2015; The Telegraph)
His discovery of fakes lead to the downfall of the Drewe/Myatt forgery sceme.

Pakistani lawyer files petition for return of Koh-i-noor crown jewels diamond (UK, Pakistan, India)
(3 December 2015; The Guardian)
Now a claim from Pakistan

Ill-Gotten Treasures of Ancient Crimea Are Flooding eBay (Ukraine, Russia)
(30 November 2015; Atlas Obscura)
Misleading headline but an interesting discussion of looting and sale in the region.


Thieves steal engine parts worth $150k from railway museum (Australia)
(1 December 2015; ABC)
This is suspected theft for metal scrap. The museum was trying to restore a 1927 steam engine.

South and East Asia

China’s ancient treasures under siege from army of tomb raiders (China)
(4 December 2015; South China Morning Post)
Including an interesting infographic worth saving.

Two held for stealing idol (India)
(30 November 2015; The Hindu)
Two have been arrested by Pulakeshi Nagar police for an idol theft at a temple near Cox Town

Cops draw blank in idol recovery (India)
(1 December 2015; The Telegraph)
No leads on the theft of “Lord Mahavir stolen from a shrine at Lachchuar in Jamui district around November 27 midnight.”

Thefts of precious idols on the rise in Bihar (India)
(1 December 2015; Business Standard)
“According to police, 30 idols were stolen in 2011, 62 in 2012 and 65 in 2013. Nearly two dozen thefts took place last year and a dozen so far this year.”

Bihar govt. recommends CBI probe into idol theft (India)
(2 December 2015; The Hindu)
An escalation in the Mahavira theft investigation, a recommendation for the CBI to get involved.

जैन मंदिर में चौकीदार-होमगार्ड तैनात थे, पीछे से घुसे चोर, चार मूर्तियां चुराई (Watchmen were posted at Jain temple where four sculptures were stolen; India)
(2 December 2015; Dainik Bhaskar)
Three Jain idols were taken while guards were outside of the temple.

AP Vows to Bring Back Amaravati Artefacts from Brit Museum (India, UK)
(6 December 2015; The New Indian Express)
The Andhra Pradesh CM has vowed to have artefacts returned from the British museum. I don’t like their chances.

No clues in idol theft case (India)
(29 November 2015; Times of India)
Nothing yet in the theft of a “Lord Mahavir idol from a temple at Lachuar”.

Jain delegation meets minister about safety of temples in Maha (India)
(2 December 2015; Business Standard)
Following recent idol thefts, they “demanded enhanced security at the Jain temples in the state.”

Jain Sangh plea for recovery of stolen idol (India)
(4 December 2015; Times of India)
The Jain community has praised efforts to recover the statue of Lord Mahavir.

Jains to meet on Sunday over stolen Lord Mahavir idol (India)
(4 December 2015; The Times of India)
They plan to inspire prayer and push authorities to recover the stolen idol.

Two-millennia-old stolen Mahavira idol recovered in Bihar (India)
(6 December 2015; Business Standard)
The idol was found dumped in a field near Bichche village, Jamui district.

बिहारः भगवान महावीर की चोरी हुई 2600 साल पुरानी मूर्ति मिली और भी (Stolen idol of Bhagvan Mahavir recovered from Jamui Village; India)
(6 December 2015; Aajtak)
This article includes a photo of the idol as it was found.

West and Central Asia

Isil antiques ‘sold to western collectors’ warns French finance minister (Iraq, Syria, France)
(4 December 2015; The Telegraph)
No evidence offered of course. Several good points about detecting antiquities in transit.

The Real Value of the ISIS Antiquities Trade (Iraq, Syria)
(4 December 2015; The New Yorker)
Contentious but important to read. Disputes the astronomical and absurd numbers that so many people are excited to parrot.

Antiquities Chief: Syria Needs Global Help to Save Heritage (Syria)
(1 December 2015; National Geographic)
A feature on Syrian head of antiquities Maamoun Abdulkarim

The Breguet That Got Away: History’s Greatest Watch Heist (Israel, USA)
(2 December 2015; The Robb Report)
“The 1983 Queen Marie Antoinette No. 160 watch heist” from Jerusalem’s L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art.

In Other News

Don’t Be A Marketing Thief: How Your Content Might Be Breaking The Law (General)
(5 December 2015; Business 2 Community)
Art theft isn’t confined to swiping paintings.

Oslo wine theft leaves bitter aftertaste (Norway)
(30 November 2015; The Foreigner)
A fake Château Mouton Rothschild 1945s were taken form the airport.

The woman turning ancient buried treasure into jewellery (UK)
(3 December 2015; The Guardian)
No this woman isn’t doing thing illegal. It’s just…devastating a bit.

Fight leads to woman stabbed at Art Basel Miami Beach (USA)
(4 December 2015; Miami Herald)
Patrons thought they had seen a performance piece.