Culture crime news 8–15 February 2016


Hot this week: Facebook art censorship gets panned by everyone

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A Fool and His Monet: A Serena Jones Mystery by Sandra Orchard
(15 February 2016)
Serena Jones is a FBI Art Crime Team agent, determined to be a spectacular investigator…and secretly seeking to solve her grandfather’s murder. Her grandfather’s murder over art. Yes please!


Solving art history mysteries with open data
(8 February 2016; GCN)
New advances in provenance research and a loot at Carnegie Museum of Art’s “Art Tracks”


Antiquities official blames journalists for harming tourism through pyramids stone selling video (Egypt)
(7 February 2016; Egypt Independent)
In an upsetting turn, the journalist who exposed the people selling pyramid pieces may face charges.

Egyptian archaeologists call for tougher security measures after ‘sale of pyramid pieces’ (Egypt)
(7 February 2016; Ahram Online)
That said, the site is vast and hard to police.

Egypt ups pyramids security after illegal stone sales (Egypt)
(11 February 2016; Gulf News)
More gates, security watch towers, new roads, expanded lighting after this deeply embarrassing incident.

Three Valuable Islamic Lamps to Return to Cairo After Being Looted, Replaced With Fakes (Egypt)
(11 February 2016; Egyptian Streets)
A successful return, but questions remain of course about collection security.

Stolen mosque lamps to return to Egypt as Cairo museum houses new database (Egypt, UK)
(11 February 2016; The Art Newspaper)
The three Mamluk mosque lamps were stolen from the national collection and offered for sale in London.


Roban imagen de Virgen Peregrina durante miércoles de ceniza en iglesia de Morelos (Statue of the Virgen Perefrina stolen on Ash Wednesday from Morelos church; Mexico)
(11 February 2016; SDP Noticias)
The piece is approximately 100 years old an holds a special place in the community culture of Tlaltenango.

Roban Virgen Peregrina de iglesia de Tlaltenango (Mexico)
(12 February 2016; Diario de Morelos)
Another piece on the theft from Tlaltenango’s church.

Delincuentes roban joyas y objetos litúrgicos de iglesia (Delinquents steal jewelry and liturgical items from church; Peru)
(11 February 2016; RPP)
The thieves breeched the wall of the Huayachao church and took liturgical items and jewellery off the statues. The police have not investigated.

Destructive dig: Illegal dig at historic Fort Ellis prompts archaeological concerns (USA)
(8 February 2016; Billings Gazette)
“Even if the diggers were charged they would have faced only misdemeanor charges.”

John Carroll University employee indicted on grand theft charges in museum jewel heist (USA)
(9 February 2016;
Hans T. Wrage, a Uni TA/RA, is accused of smashing a museum case and stealing sapphires. He’s pleaded not guilty. He is on video doing it. He’s distinctive looking.

Vandals strike ancient archeological site near Tucson (USA)
(9 February 2016; Tucson News Now)
Someone toppled a petroglyph rock in Catalina State Park.

Wadsworth tomb ornaments suspected stolen (USA)
(10 February 2016; Livingston County News)
Metal decorations on the tomb of Civil War Gen. James S. Wadsworth have been taken.

Museum: dog statue stolen from grounds (USA)
(11 February 2016; Albuquerque Journal)
Have you seen this dog? The piece was stolen from The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History.

Two Klamath Falls residents sentenced in stolen Native American artifacts case (USA)
(11 February 2016; News 10)
$1020 fine, 20 days in jail, 24 months probation and 20 hours of community service for the charge of “Abuse of Indian Gaves”.

Import restrictions extended, not expanded (USA, Italy)
(11 February 2016; Numismaster)
The US will still restrict the import of looted and stolen Italian coins and several usual suspects are pouting about that.

Knoedler Gallery Director Settles Lawsuit Over Fake Rothko (USA)
(7 February 2016; The New York Times)
Although the suit against the gallery moves forward, Ann Freedman has settled.

Experts Say Ann Freedman Likely Settled Due to Surprisingly Damning Evidence (USA)
(9 February 2016; ArtNet News)
I am still finding it hard to understand why the damning nature of the testimony was a surprise to Freedman.

Knoedler Trial Breaks Unexpectedly Ahead of Key Witness Testimony (USA)
(9 February 2016; Blouin ArtInfo)
There really was no chance of Knoedler winning this case. All testimony up to this point was devastating.

Top 9 Takeaways From Knoedler Forgery Trial (USA)
(12 February 2016; ArtNet News)
“Why is the art market so unregulated?” is one if them. Sigh.

Fake Warhol Fake Rothko: Who Are The Losers Here (USA)
(12 February 2016; Artlyst)
Thinking about recent art forgery misdeeds.

Police investigating piece of glass art stolen from Chihuly museum (USA)
(8 February 2016; The St. Petersburg Tribune)
“Cobalt and Lavender Piccolo Venetian with Gilded Handles” was stolen over the weekend.

Da Vinci, van Gogh and now Chihuly: Art thieves strike everywhere (USA)
(9 February 2016; Tampa Bay Times)
Musing on art theft following the Chihuly theft and return.

Morean Arts employee finds box with glass art stolen in Chihuly Collection heist (USA)
(9 February 2016; Tampa Bay Times)
Apparently media attention about the theft scared the thief into returning the piece.

Police release video of man sought for questioning in Chihuly theft (USA)
(10 February 2016; The St. Petersburg Tribune)
The glass art was returned but the police would like to talk to the person seen in video speaking to the returner.


Is The Controversial Art Law Fueling Germany’s Recent ‘Art Drain’? (Germany)
(11 February 2016; ArtNet News)
Correlation isn’t causation but, seriously, the art market must be regulated and they won’t go quietly.

Treasures Dug Up by Tomb Robbers Returned to Italy (Italy, Switzerland, UK)
(4 February 2016; Live Science)
Some of the Symes artefacts recovered from Geneva were in the Medici photo archive.

Tres detenidos por robar piezas de oro y plata de la parroquia de Aes (Cantabria) (Three arrested for theft of gold and silver pieces from the church of Aes (Cantabria); Spain)
(9 February 2016; El Diario)
The trio forced the church door and were discovered when they tried to sell the items to a jewellery store.

Un comerciante vendía vasijas y columnas romanas por internet (A vendor was selling Roman columns and vases on the internet; Spain)
(9 February 2016; La Verdad)
The police arrested him in a sting operation called “Operación Reja”

Former Dealer of Art Forgeries Exhibits His Own (Legal) Paintings (UK)
(7 February 2016; Vice)
Apparently Rizvan Rahman is trying to bounce back after his forgery conviction a few years ago.

Former Tory councillor convicted of stealing World War Two hero’s bravery honour ‘to pay mortgage’ escapes jail (UK)
(11 February 2016; Mirror)
Also an ex curator, the man stole the piece from the Broadway Tower military museum after being fired

Pakistan lays claim to the Koh-i-Noor diamond centrepiece to the Crown Jewels, claiming the gem was ‘forcibly’ taken by Britain (UK, Pakistan, India)
(8 February 2016; The Daily Mail)
South Asia’s Parthenon Sculptures, so to speak.

Britain must free the blood-soaked queen of diamonds Koh-i-Noor (UK, Pakistan, India)
(13 February 2016; The Australian)
But to who?

Report: Ukraine “doing nothing” to recover stolen Dutch art (Ukraine, Netherlands)
(11 February 2016; NL Times)
Apparently the stolen artworks are still being offered for sale despite the publicity.


NGA wants to return buddha, but doesn’t know where (Australia, India)
(12 February 2016; The Australian)
A very interesting case. The gallery says that they are waiting on the Indian government to tell them where the piece goes.

South and East Asia

Chinese artist retracts forgery claims about disputed Hairdressing paintings (China)
(7 February 2016; The Art Newspaper)
Geng Jaianyi thinks perhaps he painted the disputed paintings after all.

Heritage table goes up in smoke (India)
(7 February 2016; The Tribune)
The stolen Le Corbusier table was rejected and destroyed by a scrap dealer who thought it was not authentic.

A 75-year-old archaeologist catches artefact smugglers sitting on his computer (India)
(8 February 2016; Catch News)
A feature on the work of Prof Kirit Mankodi.

राम जानकी मंदिर से मूर्ति चोरी (Ram Janaki temple idol theft; India)
(8 February 2016; Amar Ujala)
Three 200-year-old statues were stolen.

वेंकटेश मंदिर से बेशकीमती मूर्तियां चोरी (Three ashtadhatu idols stolen from temple; India)
(9 February 2016; Amar Ujala)
The temple lock was cut at night and the theft was discovered by the temple priest in the morning.

Australia’s Dancing Shiva legally exported, says Subhash Kapoor (India, Australia)
(9 February 2016; The Australian)
He is actually claiming that the piece wasn’t stolen and was legally exported. Seriously.

Thieves caught robbing Jain temple on cam (India)
(10 February 2016; The Times of India)
The thieves stole ‘2.5 kg of silver items, consisting of nine canopies, three bhav mandals and a plate’.

Ganapati idol stolen from temple of Hoysala period (India)
(12 February 2016; The Hindu)
The black stone Ganapati was taken and a Sri Suryanarayana Swamy idol was damaged during this theft from an 800-year-old temple.

Nine idol smugglers arrested in Bihar (India)
(10 February 2016; Mid-day)
At least 3 idols, arms, and coins from Nepal and Bhutan were seized.

Idol smugglers’ gang busted, nine held in Bhagalpur (India)
(10 February 2016; The Times of India)
The 9 people had several idols and currency from Nepal and Bhutan. Apparently they gave a lot of info to the police about how idol smuggling works.

Idol lifters nabbed (India)
(11 February 2016; The Hindu)
The group was found camping at Kollumangudi near Peralam. Seven were arrested who committed several temple robberies.

Cops bust gang that targetted 21 temples, stole jewellery, cash (India)
(13 February 2016; Pune Mirror)
The gang operated for over a decade across several states. They also recovered a silver idol in the raid.

Hue loses large amounts of artifacts (Vietnam)
(9 February 2016; Vietnam Net)
Years of loss of heritage from the royal citadel.

West and Central Asia

Sanctions Removal Will Help Iran Return Stolen Cultural Treasures (Iran)
(7 February 2016; Sputnik News)
We are seeing a slow trickle of repatriations and everyone should expect more requests.

‘Buyer, Be Fair’ Nonagenarian Warns Owner of Family Art Stolen in WW2 (Israel)
(8 February 2016; Haaretz)
Toren is searching for the Israeli buyer who purchased some of his family’s Nazi-stolen artwork.

Ancient coins were replaced with fakes between 2001-2002 — PM (Jordan)
(9 February 2016; The Jordan Times)
A bit more info about what is going on with fakes in the Citadel Museum in Amman, but not much more.

Cheikhmous Ali: the Syrian archaeologist who doesn’t take sides (Syria)
(10 February 2016; The Art Newspaper)
“Ali has retraced the routes that Eastern European gangs are using to move objects through Lebanon and Turkey.”

Spray painted tomb to be cleaned by experts (Turkey)
(11 February 2016; Hurriyet Daily News)
The nearly 2000-year-old Berberkaya tomb has graffiti on it which will be taken off by a team of experts.

In Other News

Facebook Loses Gustave Courbet Nudity Case In French Appeal Court (France)
(13 February 2016; Artlyst)
Facebook can now be sued under French law for banning a school teacher for posting “L’Origine du Monde”.

Justin Bieber apologises for ‘mooning’ on ancient Mayan ruins in Mexico (Mexico)
(12 February 2016; The Independent)
Well the Independent means “Maya” there, not “Mayan” but whatever. Clearly Tulum wasn’t impressed.

Facebook removes image of Evelyne Axell’s ‘Ice Cream’ because it is ‘suggestive content’ (USA)
(11 February 2016; The Independent)
‘If this is “suggestive” then we’re in trouble’

Spotting a fake fossil at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (USA)
(13 February 2016; Tucson News Now)
Nope you can’t even trust your fossil dealer. Also some are illegal…