Culture crime news 12–18 September 2016


Hot this week: Fire destroys one of Peru’s most important ancient churches.

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In New Zealand? Take my Antiquities Trafficking summer course! (Nov-Dec ’16)
(13 September 2016; Anonymous Swiss Collector)
I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be teaching a summer course at Victoria University in Wellington on Antiquities Trafficking. Join me! It’s full credit and open to students and non students with various backgrounds.

Why a growing number of museum veterans are crossing over to the commercial sector
(7 September 2016; The Art Newspaper)
Is this a conflict of interest?

Should the art market be more transparent?
(16 September 2016; Apollo)
What do we mean by art market transparency?


The man stuffed and displayed like a wild animal (Botswana, Spain)
(16 September 2016; BBC News)
A disgusting bit of shameful history, the story of “El Negro”, a human taxidermied and displayed.

Bring back vigango to their rightful locations (Kenya)
(14 September 2016; Daily Nation)
“Vigango, (singular kigango) play a central role in the lives of the Mijikenda, yet for a long time they have been treated simply as African traditional artefacts for sale, with many having been sold to foreigners, who took them abroad.”


El museo de La Plata restituirá restos de cuatro lonkos mapuches (The museum of La Plata restitutes remains of four Mapuche lonkos; Argentina)
(12 September 2016; La Izquierda Diario)
The return will happen on 11 October. Most of the skulls in the museum have no identification because they were looted.

Robbed of our antiquities (Canada)
(11 September 2016; The Chronicle Journal)
Thinking about heritage theft and destruction in a Canadian context.

B.C. allocates $2 million for First Nations repatriation efforts (Canada)
(13 September 2016; CBC)
“The Royal B.C. Museum will act as a gathering point for returning objects, although the initiative will be led and guided by First Nations partners.”

Encuentran en Bogotá dos lienzos del siglo 18 que se robaron en Boyacá (Two 18th century paintings from stolen from Boyacá found in Bogotá; Colombia)
(11 September 2016; Pulzo)
The paintings were stolen from the church of the town of La Floresta by a couple who planned the theft in advance and sold the pieces on the black market.

Saquean Jaina… pero es ‘cliente frequente’: INAH (Looting Jania… it is a ‘frequent customer’: INAH; Mexico)
(14 September 2016; El Expreso)
The masterful figurines of the island of Jaina are still being looted.

Entran a templo y roban objectos sagrados (Temple entered and sacred objects stolen; Mexico)
(16 September 2016; El Mexicano)
A ciborium and chalice were stolen from a church in Melchor Ocampo, Chihuahua

Roban medallas de la Virgen en la iglesia de Zumpango (Medals of the Virgin of the church of Zumpango robbed; Mexico)
(14 September 2016; El Siglo de Torreón)
Prisoners detected the glass on the Virgin’s case was broken and the medals gone.

Feligreses reclaman a párroco por robo a virgen (Prisoners blame pastor for theft of virgen; Mexico)
(15 September 2016; Chronica)
The 150 parishioners of the San Pedro de la Laguna church blame the pastor for poor security.

Cusco: incendio destruye el 80% de patrimonio de la iglesia San Sebastián (VIDEO) (Cusco: fire destroys 80% of the heritage of the San Sebastián church; Peru)
(16 September 2016; Correo)
An early figure which may actually only be the roof paintings. Details forthcoming. Article with a lot of photos.

Ministerio de Cultura toma medidas tras incendio en iglesia de San Sebastián (Ministry of Culture takes measures after the fire in the church of San Sebastián; Peru)
(16 September 2016; AméricaTV)
An emergency fund will be created to restore the art and architecture

Se salvó gran parte de obras de arte más importantes de San Sebastián (Large portion of the most important works of art of San Sebastián saved.; Peru)
(16 September 2016; Andina)
In large part due to the actions and solidarity of the community.

Sector Cultura adopta medidas urgentes tras incendio en iglesia de San Sebastián (Cultural sector adopts emergency measures after the fire in the San Sebastián church; Peru)
(16 September 2016; Radio Nacional)
The ministry of culture will take custody of the badly damaged church, in coordination with the Cusco Department of Culture and the Archdiocese of Cusco.

Incendio en Cusco: Hermoso altar del Templo San Sebastián se perdió para siempre (Peru)
(17 September 2016; Correo)
The wood and gold 17th century altar at the Templo San Sebastián has been entirely destroyed in the fire.

Sacramento art groups bounce back after thefts (USA)
(11 September 2016; The Sacramento Bee)
Thieves stole more than $25k in equipment from the Panama Art Factory.

Alec Baldwin Files Suit Accusing Art Dealer of Fraud (USA)
(12 September 2016; The New York Times)
Baldwin is suing Mary Boone for allegedly selling him a Ross Bleckner which was not the one she said it was.

Native American Students Fight to Remove Colonial Imagery from University of New Mexico (USA)
(12 September 2016; Hyperallergic)
“Four murals in the university’s main library, which have also become a target of #AbolishTheRacistSeal, reinforce this theme of European primacy.”

US government sues over Michigan, Maine lighthouse lenses (USA)
(12 September 2016; The Daily Mail)
“The U.S. Justice Department has sued a hunter of maritime antiques in hopes of recovering a pair of 2-foot (0.6 meter) tall glass lenses worth an estimated $600,000 that disappeared decades ago from lighthouses in Michigan and Maine.”

Art. Passion. Politics. (USA, Russia)
(13 September 2016; Huffington Post)
Russia, the United States, collecting, and restitution.

Moll Heirs Response to Statement from the National Gallery Regarding Suit for Return of Stolen Matisse Portrait of Greta Moll (USA, UK)
(16 September 2016; MMD Newswire)
The release says that “the Moll heirs did not take this step lightly, but only as a last resort, after discussions with the National Gallery failed.”

Missing Coltsville Plaque Found Chopped Into Nearly Two Dozen Pieces (USA)
(14 September 2016; Hartford Courant)
The plaque was taken from the Samuel Colt monument and found at a scrap dealership.

Group Raising Funds To Fix Vandalism At Hartford’s Ancient Burying Ground (USA)
(16 September 2016; Hartford Courant)
Strange graffiti was written on six of the historic cemetery’s most prominent monuments.

Police seeking information for 9/11 monument theft (USA)
(11 September 2016; Standard-Times)
Vandals broke apart the Texas monument in June and stole a piece of steel from the World Trade Centre.

When Artwork Survives Catastrophe (USA)
(12 September 2016; The Creator’s Project)
“Fifteen years after surviving the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Fritz Koenig’s bronze Sphere for Plaza Fountain is returning to the World Trade Center site this year”

Senate panel approves Nazi-stolen art recovery bill (USA)
(15 September 2016; The Hill)
The Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act has advanced.

Will Victims of Nazi Art Thieves Finally Get Justice? (USA)
(17 September 2016; The Daily Beast)
On the HEAR act.

Russia critics, museums square off over Senate artwork bill (USA)
(15 September 2016; Politico)
The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act would prevent claimants from trying to have art seized while it is on loan in the US, no matter how valid their claim.


Police probe Marrache art collection theft (Gibralter)
(13 September 2016; Gibralter Chronicle)
“The stolen paintings are part of a significant number of artworks, prints and books sold by the liquidators of collapsed law firm Marrache & Co to the Gibraltar Government for £200,000.”

Piano di Sorrento, nascondeva reperti archeologici in casa: medico denunciato (Piano di Sorrento: Archaeological finds hidden in home, doctor implicated; Italy)
(13 September 2016; Il Mattino)
A 62-year-old Neapolitan coroner has been found with around 200 archaeological objects.

Man accused of stealing priceless Chester Cathedral icon to stand trial this week (UK)
(12 September 2016; The Chester Chronicle)
“The 18th century Greek Orthodox icon depicting the Raising of Lazarus was stolen from the cathedral’s Chapel of St Anselm in August 2014”

Yobs ‘mindlessly’ smash historic stained-glass window in 12th-century Rye church (UK)
(15 September 2016; The Argus)
The late 19th century window in St Mary’s Church in Rye was smashed over the night of 29/30 August.

Teesdale mayfly stone carving stolen (UK)
(16 September 2016; The Northern Echo)
The piece was part of an installation placed next to a County Durham waterfall.

Trust appealing for return of stolen tribute to Borders poet (UK)
(16 September 2016; Harwick News)
A clear metal for scrap theft, “a charity has issued an appeal to the thieves responsible for the theft of a memorial book to give it back.”

Vandals daub bizarre message on cathedral’s 900 year old walls (UK)
(13 September 2016; The Plymouth Herald)
‘Cinderella. F*ck the church’ was painted on one of the Norman towers of the Cathedral.

Offensive graffiti removed from Exeter Cathedral (UK)
(13 September 2016; Express & Echo)
The spray-painted message was fully removed from the church’s Norman-built tower.

Museum hopeful stolen paintings in Ukraine will be home soon (Ukraine, Netherlands)
(12 September 2016; Dutch News)
“Dutch and Ukrainian authorities agreed to organise transport”; the canvasses have been badly damaged.

Ukraine hands back stolen paintings to Dutch museum (Ukraine, Netherlands)
(16 September 2016; Reuters)
The pieces stolen from the Westfries Museum in 2005 and recovered in Ukraine have been returned.


NGA hands back suspect antiquities to India (Australia, India)
(19 September 2016; The Australian)
“A 900-year-old stone Goddess Pratyangira statue and a third century rock carving of worshippers of the Buddha” were returned to India’s art minister.

South and East Asia

Preventing the plunder of Asean’s heritage (Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar)
(16 September 2016; The Straits Times)
“Technology to track artefacts, along with education and better law enforcement, will help safeguard valuable cultural assets”

Diverted traffic: Stolen Gods are in the queue (India)
(11 September 2016; Telegraph)
On temple theft in Tamil Nadu

Karnataka yet to get proper inventory report on 14 heritage cities (India)
(12 September 2016; The New Indian Express)
“Four years after the state government declared 14 places as `Heritage Cities’, the government is yet to get an inventory report that meets its standards and start the work on protecting heritage monuments.”

Idol, car, jewellery recovered (India)
(13 September 2016; The Free Press Journal)
Police recovered a Jain idol that had been stolen from Indore two weeks before.

Jewellery, cash looted from Hanuman temple (India)
(13 September 2016; The Times of India)
The crowns of the deities and a necklace were taken from the Indiranagar temple.

इन्दौर में जैन मंदिर से चोरी की गयी मूर्ति, भोपाल में चोरी की गयी कार सहित पकड़ाया अन्तर्राज्यीय नकबजनी गिरोह (Statue was stolen from Jain temple in Indore; India)
(13 September 2016; Palpal India)
The police said that this was the work of an interstate gang.

Missing idols cause concern in Telangana, AP (India)
(14 September 2016; The Hans India)
“According to experts, there are close to 100 precious idols that date back to over 300-400 years that come under “untraceable category”

ये है देश का इकलौता हिंदी माता मंदिर, भक्त करते हैं हिंदी माता की पूजा (Country’s only Hindi Mata Temple: idol was stolen, now picture is being worshiped; India)
(16 September 2016; Bhaskar)
People are still using the sacred space, even after the loss of the idol.

5 members of gang involved in temple thefts in Karnataka held (India)
(15 September 2016; India Today)
“The gang had stolen 48.50 kg of silver items, 353 gms of gold ornaments collectively worth Rs 26.19 lakh, including Rs 70,000 cash, from Karnataka”

City cops nab gang involved in 13 temple thefts in Karnataka (India)
(16 September 2016; The Times of India)
The gang was nabbed trying to rob a jewellery shop and, upon interrogation, it was found they had looted 13 temples.

Rani Pokhari reconstruction to resume this week (Nepal)
(12 September 2016; The Kathmandu Post)
Work will resume following an agreement between the Department of Archaeology (DoA) and Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) about the proper way to restore the structure.

An 18th-Century Temple Buddha Painting Returns to Korea after an Epic Journey (South Korea)
(15 September 2016; Artsy)
The story of the stolen, trafficked, and returned Five Buddhas painting.

23 cultural assets damaged after quake in ancient capital (South Korea)
(13 September 2016; Yonhap News Agency)
The authorities “examined the national treasures and other monuments in Gyeongju, the epicenter of the quake, as well as in nearby regions”/

Gov’t checking safety of cultural assets after quake in ancient capital (South Korea)
(13 September 2016; Yonhap News Agency)
“Cultural heritage authorities on Tuesday began checking to see if the latest earthquake has caused any damage to important cultural sites in the ancient city of Gyeongju”

West and Central Asia

Arqueólogos intentan hacer de Afganistán un museo entre saqueos (Archaeologists intend to make Afghanistan a museum despite looting; Afghanistan)
(14 September 2016; Panorama)
An international team is inventorying what is still there.

In Other News

The search is on for Britain’s lost public sculptures as Historic England protects five more artworks (UK)
(11 September 2016; Culture 24)
Historic England are continuing their public appeal to find missing public sculptures

Donald Trump Used His Foundation’s Money to Buy a Painting of Himself (USA)
(12 September 2016; Hyperallergic)
But where is it? Get in touch with the authors if you know.