Culture crime news 18–24 July 2016


Hot this week: Looted antiquities heading back to Guatemala and India

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These Four Technologies May Finally Put an End to Art Forgery
(18 July 2016; Artsy)
A summary of some of the authorship tech that is floating around the art world.

Insuring valuables in a changing world: the art and antiques market takes cover
(20 July 2016; Antiques Trade Gazette)
Antiques firms need to insure a wider range of activities.

Art Demystified: How to Authenticate a Contemporary Artwork
(22 July 2016; Artnet News)
Art authentication and contention.


Egyptian minister talks about challenges for antiquities (Egypt)
(17 July 2016; Ahram Online)
Theft, trafficking, protection, and tourism are all pressing concerns.

Reclaiming Africa’s Treasures (Ethiopia)
(17 July 2016; The Voice)
Author Kandace Chimbiri uses the stories of loss (and return) of cultural treasures to teach young people about their heritage.


Brazil’s Museum of Stolen Beauty (Brazil)
(22 July 2016; Bloomberg)
The art on display in the Oscar Niemeyer Museum are ‘artworks in custody’ seized from Renato Duque.

First Nation to use blockades if needed to protect ancient B.C. burial site (Canada)
(18 July 2016; The Globe and Mail)
A high school was built atop a cemetery where Tsilhqot’in war Chief Ahan may have been buried

FBI returns Guatemala ancient Mayan artifacts that were in a private U.S. collection (Guatemala, USA)
(22 July 2016; Los Angeles Times)
The pieces, all from in or around El Peru-Waka, were held in a California private collection for decades and were bought from a previously-convicted dealer

La explotación minera y caza depredan fauna y sitios arqueológicos de Guerrero (Mining, wildlife poaching, and looting of archaeological sites of Guerrero; Mexico)
(20 July 2016; Crónica)
Human actions are being characterised as the work of a predatory species.

Ladrones se llevan de iglesia campana de bronce de 200 kilos (Mexico)
(20 July 2016; El Imparcial)
The bell was stolen from the church of Nuevo Nogales.

OSCE trains Tajikistan’s relevant agencies on combating the illicit cultural property trade and smuggling of historical artefacts (Tajikistan)
(16 July 2016; AKIPress)
This was a week long workshop for various security force reps.

Bring the ancient one home (USA)
(17 July 2016; Alaska Dispatch News)
“He is a member of our family.” On Kennewick Man.

Gagosian Gallery to Pay New York State $4.3 Million (USA)
(19 July 2016; The New York Times)
The gallery failed to pay sails tax in the state of New York.

Yale Offers Job Back to Man Who Broke Window (USA)
(20 July 2016; Inside Higher Ed)
Corey Menafee broke a stained glass window that depicted slaves working.

Report from Jerusalem: The continuing struggle for Holocaust justice (USA)
(21 July 2016; Jewish Journal)
“If passed, the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act would set a six-year statute of limitations on claims for Nazi-era stolen art”

Body armor stolen from Plimoth Plantation (USA)
(22 July 2016; The Enterprise)
The interpretation pieces were taken from the museum’s 1627 village

President Obama, make Bears Ears a national monument (USA)
(19 July 2016; The Washington Post)
Words from Richard Moe, ex president of the National trust for Historic Preservation.

The Fight for Bears Ears National Monument (USA)
(1 August 2016; Backpacker)
Theft of petroglyphs and threats to Bear Ears

US Senator Introduces Bill to Stop Overseas Sales of Stolen Indigenous Objects (USA)
(18 July 2016; Hyperallergic)
Another piece on the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act

U.S. files complaint to recover Acoma war shield (USA, France)
(23 July 2016; Santa Fe New Mexican)
“U.S. attorney for New Mexico filed a complaint for forfeiture, a civil action to condemn the shield to the benefit of the U.S. The defendant in the case is the shield, more specifically “Lot #68 Bouclier de Guerre.””


Experts shed light on Modigliani’s murky market with new research project (France)
(11 July 2016; The Art Newspaper)
“Fakes and squabbles have long-obscured scholarship, but a catalogue raisonné may now be in the pipeline”

Bavarian Parliament Will Investigate Claims that Looted Art Was Returned to Nazis (Germany)
(15 July 2016; ArtNet News)
“The Bavarian Parliament’s art committee, Kunstausschuss, unanimously agreed that the state government must publish a report”

Descendants of Jewish Owners Continue to Pursue Nazi-Stolen Art (Germany)
(20 July 2016; The Jewish Voice)
Some of the background into the discovery that Bavaria returned art looted from Jews to Nazis.

First-ever legal bid for return of Elgin Marbles to Greece thrown out by European Court of Human Rights (Greece, UK)
(19 July 2016; Independent)
“Judges refuse to hear the ‘merits of the case’ saying it happened too long ago”

El abandono y los saqueos arruinan gran parte de la historia industrial de Cantabria (Neglect and looting has ruined much of the industrial history of Cantabria; Spain)
(22 July 2016; El Diario Montañes)
Experts are calling for protection for this important heritage.

New Research Says Gurlitt Collection Could Include 91 Nazi-Looted Works (Switzerland, Germany)
(19 July 2016; Artnet News)
This more than previously thought.

Prosecutors Expose Jho Low’s Secret Schemes to Illicitly Acquire $137 Million in Art (Switzerland, Singapore, USA, Malaysia)
(20 July 2016; Artnet News)
“Funds were used to buy works by Van Gogh and Monet”

Switzerland, Singapore Seize Art, Property After FBI Moves Against Fund Linked to Red Granite (Switzerland, Singapore, USA, Malaysia)
(21 July 2016; Variety)
Half of the assets seized belong to financier John Low.

Van Gogh and Monet paintings seized in 1MDB corruption investigation (Switzerland, Singapore, USA, Malaysia)
(23 July 2016; The Guardian)
Switzerland seized the works following a US request as part of a major fraud investigation into a Malaysian state fund.

Damien Hirst Cleared Of Formaldehyde Gate Controversy At Tate Retrospective (UK)
(16 July 2016; Artlyst)
The “report has now been discredited by Hirst’s own report and one of the authors of the original study has now retracted his conclusion”

Iconic Punk Rocker Defaces the British Library’s Punk Rock Exhibit (UK)
(17 July 2016; Atlas Obscura)
Viv Albertine of the Slits wrote in several band names in protest of the exhibition neglecting female contribution to punk.

Lost Lucian Freud Portrait Valued at £300,000 Authenticated By BBC (UK)
(18 July 2016; Artlyst)
The TV show determined that it was a Freud, despite Freud saying that it wasn’t.

Graffiti vandals target ancient Wemyss caves (UK)
(20 July 2016; Fife Today)
“Saves the Ancient Wemyss Caves Society (SWACS) member John Urquhart discovered the extensive graffiti at Jonathan’s Cave over the weekend”

Artist’s Burka Sculpture Vandalized by Angry Brexiter in London (UK)
(22 July 2016; ArtNet News)
The woman who damaged Yazmeen Sabri’s work was intoxicated.


Picasso’s Weeping Woman: Could mystery of 1986 NGV art heist be solved? (Australia)
(23 July 2016; The Sydney Morning Herald)
“Mystery still surrounds one of the biggest art heists in Australian history 30 years after the event”

The man who stole Pompey’s medals (Australia)
(24 July 2016; Bombala Times)
“They had been stolen from the Australian War Memorial. Harold ‘Pompey’ Elliott’s medals have never been found.”

National Gallery of Australia likely to forfeit more ancient Indian antiquities, says director (Australia, India)
(18 July 2016; The Sydney Morning Herald)
He also said that the ongoing scandal hasn’t spoiled the museum’s relationship with India.

NGA’s stolen buddha slowly homing in on return to India (Australia, India)
(22 July 2016; The Australian)
The gallery is looking to finally hand over the looted piece when an Indian delegation is in Australia.

Australia to return stolen Buddha statue to India (Australia, India)
(22 July 2016; The Tribune)
“The second-century statue stands at 1.3-metre tall and was purchased from Asian art specialist Nancy Wiener by billionaire Ros Packer, on behalf of the NGA, in 2007”

South and East Asia

Three cops booked for selling stolen goods (India)
(17 July 2016; The Times of India)
The cops allegedly nabbed a temple thief, confiscated the sacred items, and then sold them

मन्दिर से कीमती अष्टधातु की मूर्ति चोरी (Precious ashtadhatu idol theft from temple; India)
(17 July 2016; EENadu)
The Durga was taken off the back of a lion which was left behind.

BJP government has no space for prized artefacts returned by US (India)
(18 July 2016; India Today)
“A quandary over where to put these long-lost national treasures amid massive security concerns”

मंदिर से चोरी हुए चांदी के छत्र (Silver crown stolen from temple; India)
(19 July 2016; Patrika)
The two crowns were taken from atop the statues and the theft was discovered during cleaning.

Digitisation of temple idols all set to stop smugglers in their tracks (India)
(19 July 2016; The Times of India)
The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) is trying to digitally record all bronze and stone idols in 38,000 temples.

Six temples burgled in one night in Maddur taluk (India)
(21 July 2016; The Times of India)
The temples were all in Maddur taluk in Mandya and ornaments made of precious metals were stolen.

सुसनेर के जैन मंदिर से अष्टधातु की 14 मूर्तियां चोरी (14 sculptures stolen from Jain temple in Susner; India)
(23 July 2016; Naidunia)
The thieves also took jewellery offerings.

‘Our contribution to the artefacts registry is poor’ (India)
(18 July 2016; The New Indian Express)
Arvind Venkataraman from the India Pride Project notes that “Any artefact can be restituted as long as it is proven that it was stolen”. The proof requires documentation.

Meet Vijay Kumar, the guardian of plundered idols and colonial loot (India)
(20 July 2016; The News Minute)
“I want to show that Indian art is no longer fair game.”

Sullia: Theft of temple ornaments – priest arrested in Bengaluru (India)
(23 July 2016; Daijiworld)
The priest admitted to taking the offerings from Shakhapala Subrahmanya temple and Ullakulu and Ullalthi Bachchanayaka Daivasthana at Yenekal village near Subrahmanya.

Temple priest arrested on theft charge (India)
(24 July 2016; The Hindu)
“The accused priest had pledged some of the valuables at neighbouring villages and had sold some others.”

Vietnam museum says all paintings fake in high-profile exhibition (Vietnam)
(20 July 2016; Thanh Nien News)
“The Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts Tuesday publicly apologized for failing to verify the authenticity of 17 paintings on display”

West and Central Asia

Travel ban lifted on leading Iranian artist (Iran)
(19 July 2016; The Art Newspaper)
Parviz Tanavoli has now been allowed to leave Iran for Canada.

Museums win bid to keep antiquities (Iran, USA)
(20 July 2016; Chicago Daily Law Bulletin)
An obvious outcome. To award the items to the victims would mean that the courts would have to rule that the antiquities belonged to Iran and not the US Museums. Several leaps.

Sumerian city of Lagash slowly emerging from desert sands (Iraq)
(19 July 2016; Al Monitor)
Reports of looting outside the protected area by nearby.

IS destruction too extensive to restore Temple of Bel in Syria’s Palmyra (Syria)
(23 July 2016; Reuters)
According to Russian officials. This isn’t a surprise, the whole idea of ‘restoration’ is controversial.

In Other News

‘Smugglers’ fell sandalwood trees (India)
(20 July 2016; The Times of India)
The trees were felled in the Rajrappa temple area and smuggled.

India may approach Britain on bringing back Kohinoor (India, UK)
(22 July 2016; The Tribune)
This decision to approach the UK was made in a high level government meeting.

Indie Designer Takes to Twitter to Accuse Zara of Copying Her Designs (USA)
(20 July 2016; Yahoo News)
The major retailer issues designer Tuesday Bassen with a snide letter when prevented with clear evidence that they had stolen her work.