Culture crime news 21–27 March 2016


Hot this week: Advancing on Palmyra

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The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal
(27 March 2016)
Tiny Japanese sculptures are silent witness to an art florescence then catastrophe for Jewish families under Nazism.


Artistic censorship is on the rise, advocacy group reports
(24 March 2016; The Art Newspaper)
According to a report issued by the organization Freemuse, based in Copenhagen.

Antiquities: Buying Tips
(26 March 2016; Barron’s)
A questionable article with several antiquities dealers charged with or convicted of crimes in multiple countries listed as ‘reputable’.


Stolen ancient Egyptian statue on its way back from Belgium (Egypt, Belgium)
(22 March 2016; Ahram Online)
The piece was discovered for sale at a Belgian auction house in 2014.

Mali rebel ‘to admit’ Timbuktu mausoleum destruction at ICC (Mali)
(24 March 2016; BBC News)
This could be a major turning point. Some real teeth against cultural destruction? Won’t act as a deterrent, but still.

Benin royals applaud Cambridge move on “Okukor” (Nigeria, UK)
(21 March 2016; Vanguard)
Hoping for the possibility of the return of the looted artefact.


Lambayeque: Huaqueros se llevan vestigios Mochica del cerro Las Ánimas (Lambayeque: looter steal Mochica remains at the site of Las Ánimas; Peru)
(27 March 2016; Perú21)
Easter week looting despite increased security. Authorities are looking into how this site ended up without proper police patrol.

Cary arts group rethinks security measures after paintings stolen (USA)
(20 March 2016; WRAL)
The artists who were displaying their work in the medical building assumed there would be security cameras.

Placer County Indian artifacts being returned to tribes (USA)
(20 March 2016; Auburn Journal)
The Placer County Museums will be returning objects to the Paiute.

Petition demands Navy stop removing Indian artifacts from `Island of the Blue Dolphins’ (USA)
(24 March 2016; The Recorder)
Context, closeness, and the proper home for artefacts.

Antique dealer arrested for smuggling ancient sculpture (USA, Pakistan)
(22 March 2016; New York Post)
More on the arrest of Tatsuzo Kaku during New York’s Asia Art Week

Crooked antiques dealer dodges prison for smuggled $1M statue (USA, Pakistan)
(24 March 2016; The Daily Chappaqua)
A $5000 fine and thus a pathetic slap on the wrist. Less than ‘the price of doing business’. This is how white collar criminals keep committing crime.


Museums and public galleries in Brussels in lockdown in wake of terrorist attacks (Belgium)
(22 March 2016; The Art Newspaper)
Not because of specific threat, but general.

Brussels Museum Reopens With Increased Security Following Terrorist Attacks (Belgium)
(24 March 2016; ArtNet News)
Bozar is back open.

Paris art handlers testify to taking ‘€220,000 in a plastic bag’ among other revelations (France)
(25 March 2016; The Art Newspaper)
With the first day of testimony, many criminal reveals.

Mystery over missing painting in Limerick (Ireland)
(22 March 2016; Limerick Leader)
Achilles Admiring, is by the late Dublin artist Stella Steyn was taken while it was being moved.

An Italian exhibition of Street Artist Banksy triggers controversies (Italy)
(21 March 2016; Britaly Post)
“Street art is a public or private possession?” Should we charge to see street art?

Stolen artefacts stashed by British art dealer are returned to Italy (Italy, UK)
(22 March 2016; The Guardian)
The Symes loot recently uncovered in Geneva have now gone back to Italy.

Pompeii recruits army of spies to root out Mafia corruption and shoddy renovation work at the ancient site (Italy)
(25 March 2016; The Independent)
Apparently being called “Operation Deep Throat”. Sigh.

Smears, counterclaims and lawsuits—the tangled web surrounding Prince of Liechtenstein’s Cranach (Liechtenstein, France)
(24 March 2016; The Art Newspaper)
The piece, as it turns out, is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit. Fake? Who knows.

UK teens face theft charges in Poland over Auschwitz items (Poland, UK)
(21 March 2016; The Times of Israel)
Poland will not drop the case.

La diócesis estima que el 70% de las piezas sustraídas en este siglo han sido recuperadas (The diocese estimated that 70% of the pieces stolen in this century have been recovered; Spain)
(22 March 2016; Diario de Burgos)
Recovery is always good news, but security should be the focus.

10 «valiosas» obras robadas en el último gran expolio de arte sacro no aparecen (10 valuable works stolen in the recent large plundering of sacred are have not been found; Spain)
(22 March 2016; Diario de Burgos)
These are pieces stolen mostly in 2015.

Rare advertising boards stolen from museum in Ramsey (UK)
(22 March 2016; The Hunts Post)
“The set of 12 boards…have been displayed on the exterior walls of the museum for more than 30 years”

Trio of rare Viking artefacts reported stolen from church at Sockburn, near Darlington (UK)
(23 March 2016; The Northern Echo)
The artefacts, deposited in All Saints Church, in Sockburn, could have been stolen as far back as Sept 2015.

CCTV images released after theft of rare urn from fine art dealer in Stamford (UK)
(23 March 2016; Rutland & Stamford Mercury)
The 18th century silver piece was taken from Nigel Rhodes Fine Art

Revealed: The bizarre items stolen from London’s most popular museums (UK)
(24 March 2016; Evening Standard)
“Two rhino horns, a pufferfish skull and a crystal used to cure disease”

Paintings and drawings worth £110,000 stolen from house in Falmouth (UK)
(24 March 2016; West Briton)
“One of the items stolen was a Joan Eardley painting of a landscape with roses, with an estimated value of £70,000.”

Shakespeare’s skull ‘probably stolen’ from Stratford grave (UK)
(23 March 2016; BBC News)
The result of remote sensing. Who really knows? One way to find out!

Shakespeare’s skull: New chapter in hunt for missing head (UK)
(27 March 2016; BBC News)
The BBC speaks with Shakespeare experts about his possibly-missing skull.

Bins set alight inside ancient Wemyss cave (UK)
(23 March 2016; Fife Today)
There is considerable smoke damage but the more important rock art isn’t in that part of the cave.

Yobs set fire to historic Prestwick church and burn ivy from ancient walls (UK)
(25 March 2016; Daily Record)
There appears to be significant damage to the remains of Old St Nicholas Kirk.


Talk explores ties South American art collector had with Taranaki carvings (New Zealand)
(21 March 2016; Taranaki Daily News)
The Motonui panels and George Ortiz. A strange tale of trafficking and return.

Beloved West Coast painting stolen (New Zealand)
(23 March 2016;
The piece was stolen from the Buller Bay Information and Resource Centre in Granity.

South and East Asia

Chinese man arrested on suspicion of planning to sell ancient artefacts he found in tomb buried in backyard (China)
(25 March 2016; South China Morning Post)
The man found the tomb below ground behind his home in Tongchuan, Shaanxi province .

Market for Chinese Art Is Increasingly in China (China)
(25 March 2016; The New York Times)
The market isn’t where we imagine it to be. China is buying China…and the rest of Asia.

Protector left unprotected (India)
(21 March 2016; The Hindu)
“Smugglers have robbed nearly 200 historical temples and monuments of their antiques in the last 15 years.”

Panagal museum – now open to thieves, vandals (India)
(22 March 2016; The Hans India)
Poor security has allegedly led to theft at the museum

7 kalasams stolen from temple in Pallavaram (India)
(22 March 2016; The Times of India)
The next morning the priest found the temple grille broke and the brass pieces missing. They had tried to break open the hundi.

Lighten the bureaucracy so India’s heritage can flourish (India)
(24 March 2016; The Art Newspaper)
Yes, India’s antiquities laws need an overhaul but beware reform that is actually deregulation to let the market do whatever it wants. This is not what will solve India’s problems.

Man nabbed with stolen bronze idol in Tasmac shop (India)
(27 March 2016; The Times of India)
The man stole the piece, sold it, found out he should get a higher price, got it back, and then was arrested while celebrating his windfall.

Thousands of rare artefacts at risk of ruining (Pakistan)
(21 March 2016; The Nation)
Funding shortfalls mean danger to excavated and recovered artefacts.

West and Central Asia

Real artifacts stolen, replaced with fake ones at Peshawar museum (Pakistan)
(26 March 2016; Dunya News)
“This incident was brought to light by the investigative team of the Provincial Anti-corruption department”

Restoring Syria’s pearl of the desert: a reason for optimism amid the storm of terror (Syria)
(26 March 2016; The Guardian)
Thoughts from Professor Maamoun Abdelkarim, Director of Syria’s antiquities and museums directorate.

World’s most expensive plate seized in Turkey (Turkey)
(22 March 2016; Hurriyet Daily News)
Seized during an operation by the Balıkesir Provincial gendarmerie, one of 105 artifacts recovered at that time.

Yemeni authorities jail Jewish man over airlifted Torah (Yemen, Israel)
(24 March 2016; The Jewish Chronicle)
Not the first case of this type. This can only be contentious.

In Other News

Canadian military loses bizarre items including flute, hockey net, mannequins (Canada)
(23 March 2016; Embassy)
Among the crazy lost things, Native American artefacts.

Lawyer arrested for stealing books from Hyderabad HC (India)
(21 March 2016; The Times of India)
“He had been stealing law books, journals and citations from the court halls to establish a good looking office to impress clients”

‘I don’t think it was taken by an art collector’ (New Zealand)
(25 March 2016; Radio New Zealand)
“A sign mocking American presidential candidate Donald Trump has been stolen from outside an Auckland Church.”

Faking Out Poachers With 3-D-Printed Sea Turtle Eggs (Nicaragua)
(24 March 2016; Takepart)
An interesting idea. Not just frustrating the poachers, tracking them.

The Artist Who Moved a Detroit House to Europe Left a Mess Behind (USA, Netherlands)
(25 March 2016; Hyperallergic)
“Last month, Berlin-based Ryan Mendoza pissed off a lot of people when he tore down an abandoned house in Detroit and shipped the structure off for display at this year’s Art Rotterdam.”

Flying saucer stolen in Roswell (really) (USA)
(22 March 2016; Albuquerque Journal)
The saucer was *abducted* from outside the UFO museum.

UFO crash site found! (Not really. Stolen spaceship dumped in ditch. Really.) (USA)
(23 March 2016; Albuquerque Journal)
Mysterious disappearance resolved.