Culture crime news 4–10 July 2016


Hot this week: Germany’s new art and antiquities law passesc

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How technology is changing the way we tackle art theft
(7 July 2016; Apollo)
Tech can make theft easier, it can also help track stolen art and implicate thieves.


A relief of King Nectanebo II recovered to Egypt from Paris (Egypt, France)
(3 July 2016; Ahram Online)
The piece was taken from a temple at Saqqara in the 1990s.

Egypt retrieves Abbasid artifacts from London auction house (Egypt, UK)
(4 July 2016; Egypt Independent)
The items, stolen in 2012, turned up for sale at Bonhams.

What Central Africa’s War on Poaching Can Teach Us About Fighting the Plunder of Antiquities (Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya)
(5 July 2016; Hyperallergic)
Considering tools from this parallel illicit trade to better understand how we can approach antiquities trafficking.


Heirlooms stolen from a Japanese-Canadian family in 1943 back in B.C. (Canada)
(5 July 2016; CBC)
Eikichi Kagetsu’s property, wort $8 million today, was forcibly seized by the Canadian government and included things like historic scrolls.

Ottawa pledges support for B.C. plan to repatriate First Nations artifacts (Canada)
(6 July 2016; Vancouver Sun)
“Canada’s heritage minister is promising to support B.C.’s push to reclaim First Nations artifacts from American museums”

The nagging question behind the mysterious theft of a $7.5 million golden eagle (Canada)
(7 July 2016; National Post)
The level of crazy is high in this story. Very, very high.

Detienen a sujeto acusado por robo a iglesia de Xalapa (Suspect accused of robbing a Xalapa church arrested; Mexico)
(3 July 2016; Imagen del Golfo)
The 35 year old tried to steal a sculpture of the baby Jesus.

Roban más de 6 mil 871 bienes culturales en 18 años (More than 6871 cultural items stolen in 18 years.; Mexico)
(5 July 2016; Milenio)
Mostly focused on sacred art, only 27% of the stolen items have been recovered.

Gallery sold Warhol prints with doctored documents: lawsuit (USA)
(1 July 2016; New York Post)
“An 85-year-old Oregon woman says a prominent Manhattan art gallery doctored authenticity documents to dupe her into overpaying for 90 Andy Warhol prints”

Avedon, Unsigned (USA)
(1 July 2016; The New York Times)
The printer of In the American West understood he’d be paid in signed prints. He has the prints but they aren’t signed. Who owns them is the question.

Legal Fight Heats Up Over Peter Beard Photo Show in Hampton (USA)
(1 July 2016; ArtNet News)
The photographer has threatened legal action against an art gallery over the ownership of the pics in the show

Vandals steal items from World War II memorial in Fall River (USA)
(3 July 2016; WPRI)
A purple heart metal and a vial of sand from Iwa Jima were stolen from the memorial.

Parks, sites get looted, overrun (USA)
(3 July 2016; The Post and Courier)
The dilemma of public access to archaeological site. Preservation, threat, looting, etc.

Archaeologists Test Satellite Monitoring Technology to Combat Looting at Ancient Sites (USA)
(4 July 2016; NPR)
Monitoring Yavapai-Apache sites in the Verde Valley.

Is Nate Murphy Holding a Dinosaur for Ransom? (USA)
(5 July 2016; Inverse)
The tense divide between commercial fossil hunters and scientists. In this case, the person holding the dino is a convicted fossil thief.

Fake Monet, Renoir paintings cost dealer $31M and his reputation (USA)
(6 July 2016; Page Six)
The owner of the Alskom Gallery in Manhattan is suing former colleagues for allegedly tricking him into buying fake art.

Peter Doig Says He Didn’t Paint This. Now He Has to Prove It. (USA)
(7 July 2016; The New York Times)
A truly mad case, a US jude is forcing the famous artist to prove, more or less, that he wasn’t at a certain place painting a certain painting as a teenager in 1976. He wasn’t, but how do you prove you were anywhere at age 16?

Lawyer Questions Competence Of Aging Gangster Tied To Infamous Gardner Art Heist (USA)
(7 July 2016; Hartford Courant)
Robert Gentile will turn 80 this month and his memory is slipping. His attornies are woried that he may not longer understand the charges against him.

Next week could be turning point in Bears Ears debate: Bishop to unveil bill (USA)
(8 July 2016; The Salt Lake Tribune)
Some areas with sensitive sites are being proposed for protection. Will this settle the dispute?

Syria, Colonialism, and the Yale Art Gallery (USA, Syria)
(8 July 2016; The Politic)
Cuno’s general posits in the context of Yale’s Syria collections.

Tougher law sought on sale of artifacts (USA)
(5 July 2016; Mohave Valley Daily News)
“The STOP Act would prohibit dealers from exporting protected Native Americans items of cultural or historical importance for tribes to international markets.”

Acoma Pueblo sacred shield stolen, Pueblo fights to get it back (USA)
(7 July 2016; KOAT)
The shield was pulled from the Paris auction because of statements that it was recently stolen, rather than distantly stolen.

Arizona, New Mexico senators team up to prevent sale of tribal items (USA)
(8 July 2016; Cronkite News)
“Arizona and New Mexico lawmakers teamed up this week to sponsor a bipartisan bill that would prevent the auction of sacred tribal items.”

Theft of ancient bones a ‘debacle’ for National Park Service (USA)
(4 July 2016; The Daily Mail)
The theft “was larger and more harmful than previously acknowledged, internal National Park Service documents show”.

Report: Decades of cover-up followed Iowa theft of native American bones (USA)
(5 July 2016; The Christian Science Monitor)
“National Park Service staff did little to uncover a former superintendent’s theft of dozens of native American remains”

Man Sentenced for Stealing Bones From Iowa’s Effigy Mounds in 1990 (USA)
(9 July 2016; CDA News)
The bones stolen were from 40 Native American individuals.


Those Italian Artifacts Actually Were Looted, Danish Museum Now Says (Denmark, Italy)
(5 July 2016; The New York Times)
The pieces in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek art museum were stolen from a tomb near Fara and passed through the hands of Robert Hecht.

Denmark returns stolen gold cart of Etruscan prince to Italy (Denmark, Italy)
(6 July 2016; The Local)
“As part of the agreement to return the artefacts, Italy will provide the Danish museum with different Etruscan treasures on long-term loans”

Nur die Museums-Pensionäre befinden sich im Widerstand (Retired museum professionals in opposition; Germany)
(4 July 2016; Die Welt)
Former museum directors have signed a letter in opposition to the new law.

German Parliament passes controversial law to protect cultural heritage (Germany)
(9 July 2016; The Art Newspaper)
The controversy is more on the art export half and less on the antiquities import half.

Russian Protest Artist Stripped Of Havel Prize Over Support For ‘Partisans’ (Russia)
(8 July 2016; Radio Free Europe)
They withdrew the award after “he pledged to devote the $42,000 in prize money to the legal defense of convicted police killers in Russia’s Far East.”

Roban una de las campanas de Duález (One of the bell of Duález stolen; Spain)
(7 July 2016; El Diario Montañes)
The bell stolen from the church weighted more than 60 kilos.

Giacometti art trove at centre of Franco-Swiss legal tussle (Switzerland, France)
(4 July 2016; The Daily Mail)
The “Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation alleged that the works had been stolen decades ago”/

In an experiment to slow visitors down, British museums are hanging fake art alongside their masterpieces (UK)
(2 July 2016; Quartz)
This is part of a TV show called “Fake! The Great Masterpiece Challenge”

Castle Cary man claimed £8,500 painting theft was ‘drunken prank’ (UK)
(3 July 2016; Somerset Live)
Apparently the man and a friend ran out of the gallery with the painting while laughing.

Conservators issue warning after reports of metal detecting at Link Common (UK)
(5 July 2016; Malvern Observer)
Several reports have been received of people illegally detecting and digging in a protected area

Hat belonging to late author Roald Dahl swiped from Southport exhibition (UK)
(6 July 2016; Liverpool Echo)
It “was pinched from a display at the Atkinson gallery on Lord Street”

Police now say stolen hat didn’t belong to Roald Dahl at all (UK)
(6 July 2016; Liverpool Echo)
Okay, it’s not Dahl’s hat. Still stolen though.


Evidence mounts two National Gallery of Australia sculptures may have been looted (Australia, India)
(4 July 2016; ABC)
“The gallery paid $800,000 for the Buddha and nearly $340,000 for the goddess Pratyangira in 2005.”

Two more antiquities may have to be returned by the National Gallery of Australia to India (Australia, India)
(4 July 2016; The Sydney Morning Herald)
Deena Dayalan sold the pieces to Subhash Kapoor who sold them to the NGA.

South and East Asia

Cambodia cracks down on scantily clad visitors to Angkor (Cambodia)
(7 July 2016; The Guardian)
They say that the site is a temple and that skimpy clothing shows “show disrespect to our beautiful culture and tradition”.

Over 200 artefacts recovered from idol smuggler’s bungalow (India)
(4 July 2016; The Hindu)
A spectacular haul including architectural elements among the idols.

Police wait for ASI to inspect antiques (India)
(5 July 2016; The Hindu)
They’ve inspected the items from Lakshminarayanan gallery but not his bungalow.

Vessels, puja items stolen from temple (India)
(6 July 2016; The Hindu)
They were stolen from Anjaneyar Temple at Venkatachalapuram

Kohinoor, the mountain of light (India)
(7 July 2016; The Hindu)
A short history of the controversial diamond.

Kashmiri Pandits protest over vandalization, theft in temples at Valley (India)
(7 July 2016; Daily Excelsior)
A tense situation as the government is accused of not protecting temples from theft and destruction.

Bantwal: Thieves enter temple at Vittal- decamp with silver, cash (India)
(8 July 2016; Daijiworld)
Silver ornaments were taken from off the deity.

कभी गायब होने के बाद खुद लौट आई थी मूर्ति, अब फिर से हुई चोरी (Historical Idol Of Natraja Stolen From Chhattisgarh Temple; India)
(7 July 2016; Dainik Bhaskar)
Two statues were stolen from the temple. Previously another statue had been stolen from there and returned.

Chattisgarh: Rare, centuries-old idols stolen from Bhoramdeo temple (India)
(9 July 2016; DNA)
Two 9th-11th century granite idols were stolen

Third Hindu temple in Penang vandalised (Malaysia)
(4 July 2016; The Star)
“A statue of the deity Mathuraiveeran (warrior god) was smashed while a copper figure of Amman (goddess of Shakti) was stolen. “

Modification, demolition of ancient structures stayed (Pakistan)
(5 July 2016; Dawn)
A Peshqwar High Court has places a stay on the dismantling of several ancient structures, including 3 Hindu temples at Kashmir Camp in Sarafa Bazzar.

Lee Ufan Refuses Police Request to Confirm 13 Forgeries of His Work (South Korea)
(5 July 2016; ArtNet News)
Police and a man facing forgery charges say the works are fake. The artist who allegedly didn’t make them says they are real.

A Forger Confessed to Faking Millions in Lee Ufan Works—Now the Artist Says They’re Real (South Korea)
(6 July 2016; Artsy)
Indeed, Lee Ufan gets to decide what is real and what isn’t when it comes to his art.

Seven arrested for illegal excavation of ancient clay pots (Sri Lanka)
(5 July 2016; Hiru News)
The group were caught at Nandimithragama archeological site in Bogaswewa, Vavuniya. They were selling the pots to foreigners.

West and Central Asia

Renowned Iranian artist Parviz Tanavoli barred from leaving country (Iran)
(2 July 2016; The Guardian)
He was due to fly to London to speak at the BM. It is not clear why his passport was taken.

Authorities combine to catch antiquities thieves (Israel)
(4 July 2016; Arutz Sheva)
A family was caught having stolen coins from an archaeological site near Kibbutz Sde Boker.

Netanyahu unwittingly secreted original Auschwitz blueprints to Israel (Israel, Poland, German)
(7 July 2016; The Times of Israel)
‘Historian Ralf Georg Reuth, a senior correspondent for Welt am Sonntag, told JTA at the time that he suspected the documents came “through the black market.”‘

The Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, Islam’s second holiest site, attacked (Saudi Arabia)
(5 July 2016; The Art Newspaper)
“Seventh-century complex in Saudi Arabia is one of three locations targeted by terrorists”

Smash, bulldoze, erase: ISIS releases new video of Palmyra antiquities’ destruction (Syria)
(7 July 2016; RT)
Including mummies being run over by a truck. Old images but new release.

Louvre Abu Dhabi to host summit on culture versus terrorism (UAE)
(5 July 2016; The Art Newspaper)
“A high-level, international conference on terrorism versus culture, led by the French president François Hollande and the president of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.”