Culture crime news 18–24 April 2016


Hot this week: Thinking of Nepal on the one year anniversary of the earthquake.

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The rise of fakes and false attributions in the art world
(19 April 2016; Tehelka)
This is only included as a name and shame. Hilariously, this article is plagarised. Seriously. Here is intellectual property attorney Leila Amineddoleh talking about having her work stolen in a piece about false attributions.


Egypt retrieves ancient statue from Belgium (Egypt, Belgium)
(24 April 2016; State Information Service)
Not much info; return was “a request by the Egyptian judiciary after it was proven that the statue was smuggled from Egypt”.

Scientists and lawyers save archaeological site from mining (South Africa)
(19 April 2016; BD Live)
Jacky M Wesi Mining is interdicted from mining at the extremely old site of Canteen Kopje.


Guilty of destroying ancient Maya site, Noh Mul! (Belize)
(19 April 2016; Amandala)
Almost three years after the destruction of the Maya site for road construction fill, there have been convictions

Noh Mul cost Grijalva $6,000 (Belize)
(22 April 2016; The Reporter)
In other words, $6k BZD ($3k USD) is the max penalty for destruction of a Maya site under Belizean law. Sad.

A treasure returned (Canada)
(22 April 2016; Memorial University Gazette)
The sheet music stolen by infamous antiquities/antiques thief John Mark Tillman was returned to Queen Elizabeth II Library in Newfoundland.

Brigadas patrimoniales evalúan desde hoy daños en los contenedores de la memoria (Heritage teams evaluate damage in the ‘containers of memory’; Ecuador)
(19 April 2016; El Telégrafo)
Following the quake, professional teams are assessing Ecuador’s heritage structures for damage.

Robo de la Virgen del Carmen causa repudio en 2001 (Theft of the Virgin of Carmen caused repudiation in 2001; Guatemala)
(19 April 2016; Prensa Libre)
The shocking theft and then shocking return of the image from the Hermitage of Cerro del Carmen in Guatemala City

Impune, el saqueo de zonas arqueológicas de Michoacán (The archaeological sites of Michoacán looted with impunity; Mexico)
(18 April 2016; Cambio de Michoacán)
A call upon the INAH to do more to protect the area.

Saquean Cerro del Muerto (Mexico)
(23 April 2016; AM)
The expert who inspected the site said it was destroyed by treasure hunters who wouldn’t have found anything sellable anyway.

FBI seizes art, documents from Santa Fe dealers (USA)
(13 April 2016; Santa Fe New Mexican)
The owners of the now-defunct Marji Gallery are under federal investigation for possible fraud.

Couple Sought in Alleged Art Theft from 26 Degree Brewing (Video) (USA)
(18 April 2016; New Times)
Three minutes before security started their shift, a couple stole art from the walls of this Florida brewery… and left their credit card behind.

Art Stolen From ArtSpace In Hartford (USA)
(19 April 2016; Hartford Courant)
All five of Thea Wilcox Ciciotte’s artworks in ArtSpace, Hartford CT, were stolen.

Should the FBI Offer Reward Money for Stolen Art? (USA)
(20 April 2016; Law Street Media)
A rather facile argument that argues that reward money for lost art is better spent on reward money for, you know, real crime…

Picasso piece tangled in tug-of-war between dealer, billionaire (USA)
(20 April 2016; Miami Herald)
The Tisch family says that the Portrait De Marie-Therese was stolen from 88-year-old Billie Tisch’s home in 2009 but they only noticed it gone now.

LA Dealer Douglas Chrismas Fails to Make Court-Ordered Payment of $17.5 Million (USA)
(21 April 2016; ArtNet News)
The latest development in the complicated bankruptcy case of the Ace Gallery founder.

Los Angeles Art Dealer Is Arrested on Embezzlement Charges (USA)
(22 April 2016; The New York Times)
Perry Rubenstein’s gallery had already filed for bankruptcy, but the charges relate to failing to turn over entire profits from sales.

Painting looted by Nazis coming to auction in NYC (USA)
(23 April 2016; The Times of Israel)
The piece was owned by the Rothschilds and wasn’t returned to them until 1998.

Former director of scandal-beset Knoedler Gallery breaks her silence (USA)
(18 April 2016; The Art Newspaper)
“There has been a lot of misunderstanding”. Ann Freedman’s version of events.

Former Knoedler Director Ann Freedman Says She Was the ‘Perfect Mark’ (USA)
(18 April 2016; ArtNet News)
Where she asserts she was the real victim here, it isn’t her fault, she wasn’t an art expert anyway, and she is sorry.


France Lost Track of 23,000 State-Owned Artworks and Historic Objects (France)
(21 April 2016; Hyperallergic)
Some likely stolen, some just lost, but the numbers are a bit humbling.

11 Picasso Works Stolen from German Bank’s Collection (Germany)
(18 April 2016; ArtNet News)
The pieces were stolen from Portigon AG back in winter of 2014 but it is just being reported now.

Gurlitt Exhibition Postponed Due to Relative’s Legal Challenge (Germany, Switzerland)
(21 April 2016; ArtNet News)
The museums still plan for a 2017 exhibition.

Minoan-Era Kouros Found in Heraklion Valued at 1.3 Million (Greece)
(20 April 2016; Greek Reporter)
The apparently over-valued Minoan piece was seized from antiquities traders in Sitia, Greece.

Italy Recovers 3 Paintings Seized During World War II (Italy, Luxembourg)
(18 April 2016; ABC News)
The pieces were taken from the Borbone-Parma family and were traced to Milan; they are in state custody because no living descendants could be traced.

Odd Nerdrum, Awaiting Jail Time for Tax Fraud, Barred From Leaving Norway (Norway)
(22 April 2016; ArtNet News)
A strange case. Nerdrum’s art melted and he provided replacements to buyers but Norway taxed him for both the originals and replacements.

Una actuación de urgencia blinda la cueva del Cuaternario de Moclín frente a expolios (Emergency action protects the Quaternary cave of Moclín against looters; Spain)
(19 April 2016; Granada Hoy)
The city reported “continuous looting” of the prehistoric site.

Le piden 3,5 años de cárcel por robar una pila bautismal del siglo XIII (3.5 years in prison sought for the theft of a 13th century baptismal font; Spain)
(19 April 2016; El Norte de Castilla)
An on going church art theft trial

Francis Bacon Controversy: Unauthenticated Drawings Go On Sale (UK)
(21 April 2016; Artlyst)
Herrick Gallery, London’s drawings were rejected by the author of the new Bacon catalogue raisoneé.

A Documentary About the Artist Who Stole Banksy’s Work Out of Spite (UK)
(22 April 2016; Hyperallergic)
A review of the film “The Banksy Job”

Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph recreated in London (UK, Syria)
(19 April 2016; BBC News)
Made from Egyptian marble by the Institute of Digital Archaeology based on photos of the original.

Palmyra Arch in London: ‘Unethical’ reconstruction of ‘Disneyland’ archaeology criticised (UK, Syria)
(19 April 2016; International Business Times)
Questions about the ethics of ‘recreating’ a Syrian architectural piece in London


How do you buy Indigenous Australian art ethically? (Australia)
(18 April 2016; The Guardian)
The fine line between patronage and exploitation.

South and East Asia

Save cultural heritage of India (India)
(18 April 2016; Daily Excelsior)
Reflecting on heritage theft due to negligence and the movement of artefacts to the international market.

Macherla police help TS cops crack temple theft case (India)
(20 April 2016; The Hans India)
The four idols were stolen by eight thieves six months ago and they were caught trying to sell the pieces near Macherla Indane.

Now, NU unearths 15 Mughal era coins in museum (India)
(21 April 2016; The Times of India)
The story has taken a twist: 15 coins were found at Nagpur Uni but they aren’t any of the ones that are missing and are not in museum records.

चोरी से पहले हनुमानजी की पूजा, फिर चुराई तेल की बोतल और कुर्सियां (Temple theft caught on CCTV footage; India)
(22 April 2016; Bhaskar)
The theft of the Hanuman idol was caught on CCTV

Monuments Men go after state’s treasure (India)
(24 April 2016; Bangalore Mirror)
A feature on the work of the India Pride Project.

Kohinoor Diamond Belongs To Britain, Says Government In Supreme Court (India, UK)
(18 April 2016; NDTV)
“India should not try to reclaim the famous Kohinoor diamond as it was neither stolen nor forcibly taken, the government said today.”

In a U-turn Narendra Modi government promises to take all steps to bring back Kohinoor (India, UK)
(20 April 2016; The Economic Times)
Maybe the government DOES want to push for the return of the Kohinoor after all.

‘The Kohinoor is but one flashy stone’ (India, UK)
(22 April 2016; The Hindu)
Professor Naman Ahuja discusses the return debate

Probe confirms damage to 15th-century tomb at Makli (Pakistan)
(17 April 2016; Dawn)
The tomb of Mir Sultan Ibrahim was damaged by improper conservation work says an inquiry committee.

West and Central Asia

Exclusive Photos Show Destruction of Nineveh Gates by ISIS (Iraq)
(19 April 2016; National Geographic)
Confirmation of destruction of the Mashki and Nergal Gates

Jewish family makes claims to prized Passover manuscript (Israel)
(21 April 2016; The Daily Mail)
A complicated case for the Bird’s Head Haggadah which is the ‘jewel of Israel’s top museum’ and was likely looted by the Nazis.

Ordinary Syrians are Risking Their Lives to Protect Their Cultural Heritage (Syria)
(23 April 2016; The Wire)
Dr Emma Cunliffe reflects on the sacrifices made by Syrians to protect heritage.

Turkish Culture Minister: No tolerance for antiquity smuggling from Syria (Turkey, Syria)
(17 April 2016; Daily Sabah)
Mahir Ünal calls accusations that Turkey is allowing antiquities trafficking “groundless and ugly”.

In Other News

Montreal art gallery displays paintings ‘stolen’ from the Internet (Canada)
(19 April 2016; The Globe and Mail)
Paul Lavoie plays with the idea of ‘stolen’ for this exhibition.

Vandals target local dinosaur sculpture (Canada)
(19 April 2016; Prince George Citizen)
A planned attack on the Exploration Place Museum + Science Centre velociraptor

Theft of teak trees of temple near Nellore: teams formed to nab accused (India)
(19 April 2016; The Hindu)
It seems that temple staff gave the accused a false certificate of permission to take the valuable trees.

Polish historian hopes crumbling bunker hides Amber Room (Poland)
(22 April 2016; The Telegraph)
In other words, $6k BZD ($3k USD) is the max penalty for destruction of a Maya site under Belizean law. Sad.

Damien Hirst’s Pickled Animals May Have Leaked Carcinogenic Fumes [UPDATED] (UK)
(20 April 2016; Hyperallergic)
An academic paper says they’ve leaked; the artist and the museum say they haven’t.

Prolific graffiti artist known as ‘Super’ arrested by St. Louis police (USA)
(14 April 2016; St. Louis Post-Dispach)
The old ‘is graffiti art?” debate. “Super” seems to have done little beyond write “Super” on things.

The Donald Threatens to Sue Artist Over Her Trump Micropenis Portrait (USA)
(20 April 2016; Hyperallergic)
The legal threat against Illma Gore came from “someone claiming to be from Trump’s camp”.

Texas students charged in Utah dinosaur fossil theft (USA)
(21 April 2016; The Salt Lake Tribune)
This was on a community college field trip.