Culture crime news 17–23 October 2016


Hot this week: Lots of Libya chatter

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Massive Art Forgery Ring Reinforces Need For Vigilance Among Buyers
(17 October 2016; Wealth Management)
They suggest due diligence, documentation, and independent advice. Your dealer and your auction house want you to buy, hire a provenance expert.

Forgery fiction: literature’s fascination with fake art
(19 October 2016; The Guardian)
Thinking about art forgery and two recent novels.


Antiquities ministry trying to stop sale of Egyptian artefacts at New York auction (Egypt, USA)
(21 October 2016; Ahram Online)
The pieces have been deaccessioned from the Toledo Museum of Art and are being sold at Christie’s

Looters exploit the political chaos in Libya (Libya)
(20 October 2016; The Art Newspaper)
With allegations of looting to order

The ICC’s Al-Mahdi Ruling Protects Cultural Heritage, But Didn’t Go Far Enough (Mali)
(20 October 2016; The Wire)
Thinking about who the victims are in crimes that include the destruction of world heritage.


Art stolen from Steinberg heir likely to go to organized crime: expert (Canada)
(21 October 2016; Montreal Gazette)
It seems as if the thieves were selective about which artworks they stole from the Ivry-sur-le-Lac home.

Black Market for Latin American Cultural Heritage Revealed (the main auction houses of Europe and the U.S. sold more than 7; General)
(18 October 2016; TeleSur)
Between 2008 and 2016

Doña Neria, la mujer que rescató 560 piezas mayas de saqueadores (Doña Neria, the woman who rescued 560 Maya pieces from looters; Guatemala)
(16 October 2016; Soy 502)
If you are near Uaxactun in Petén, you must visit her and her museum.

Sólo se recupera 1 de cada 100 bienes culturales robados en México (Only 1 in 100 cultural objects stolen in Mexico are recovered; Mexico)
(17 October 2016; Animal Politico)
Amazing information from the Memoria Robada project.

Saint Jerome once owned by controversial collector Giulano Ruffini sent for technical tests (USA)
(17 October 2016; The Art Newspaper)
Sotheby’s has confirmed that they are investigating the painting that they sold in 2008 for $800k.

Alec Baldwin lawsuit is helping dealer sell more art (USA)
(17 October 2016; Page Six)
Any publicity is good publicity, but this article cites exactly one person who’s bought a Bleckner based on the Baldwin news.

Wall Street Dealmaker Says Professor Took Him for a Ride (USA)
(17 October 2016; The New York Times)
Lorettann Gascard of Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, is accused of selling fake Golubs.

Texas man busted at border with Mexican artifacts (USA)
(18 October 2016; Chron)
The man had stone artefacts, mostly projectile points and tools.

The Marker Where Emmett Till’s Body Was Found Has Been Riddled With Bullet Holes for Years (USA)
(18 October 2016; Slate)
The black 14-year-old’s white murderers were set free in the mid 50s by a white jury. Now signs recording what happened are being defaced and shot at.

Former Knoedler director settles lawsuit with casino billionaire over fake Rothko ( USA)
(19 October 2016; The Art Newspaper)
Ann Freedman is the former director

Stolen Artifacts! Drunk Teens! And More True Tales of Florida’s First State Archaeologist (USA)
(19 October 2016; Atlas Obscura)
Vernon Lamme was not your average archaeologist.

U.S. Senators are pushing for Native American Artifact legislation (USA)
(18 October 2016; KOAT)
This push gained traction when a sacred shield belonging to the Pueblo of Acoma showed up at an auction in Paris years after it was stolen.

Loopholes in U.S. Laws Allow Trafficking in Sacred Tribal Artifacts (USA)
(19 October 2016; AllGov)
Critics say that current laws prohibit the trafficking of the federally protected items domestically but don’t explicitly ban dealers from exporting them to foreign markets

Udall Leads Senate Hearing On Action To Prevent Theft, Illegal Possession, Sale Of Tribal Cultural Items (USA)
(19 October 2016; Los Alamos Daily Post)
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall has chaired a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on the critically important issue of the theft and sale of Tribal religious and cultural items and its impact on Tribal communities.


Versailles Staffers Caught Selling Counterfeit Tickets (France)
(14 October 2016; ArtNet News)
The five employees sold fake or reused tickets to tourists in exchange for cash.

Picking Apart 18th-Century French Furniture to Detect Forgery (France)
(20 October 2016; The New York Times)
A cluster of forgeries has been identified on the market including copies of pieces that belonged to Marie Antoinette.

Prosecutor recommends four-year prison sentence and €250m fine for Guy Wildenstein in Paris trial (France)
(14 October 2016; The Art Newspaper)
A lot of this complicated case hinges on France not recognising trusts and what the heirs did and didn’t know about some very expensive paintings.

Billionaire Art Dealer Is Awaiting Verdict in Tax Fraud Case (France)
(21 October 2016; The New York Times)
The tribunal at the Palais de Justice will now spend nearly three months weighing a decision in the Wildenstein case

Trucker nabbed smuggling antiquities from Patra port (Greece, Italy)
(19 October 2016; eKathimerini)
The truck was about to embark on a ship heading to Italy.

Ritrovati tre quadri rubati a Roma nel 1983: Opere di valore inestimabile (Three paintings stolen from Rome in 1983 recovered: Priceless works; Italy)
(14 October 2016; Roma Today)
They surfaced in “the region of the Black Sea” (no specifics offered) and were recovered by the Carabinieri.

Art Dealer Claims Monet in 1MDB Scandal (Monaco, Switzerland, Malaysia)
(19 October 2016; The Wall Street Journal)
David Nahmad says that a Monet that the US Government is seeking for forfeiture is his, not financier Jho Low’s.

European Parliament bungles shipment of Nazi artifacts (Netherlands)
(19 October 2016; Politico)
The pieces from the Nuremberg trial which were on loan from US Holocaust Memorial Museum, were delivered to a private collector and not the House of European History.

Roban ornamentos religiosos y joyas en la iglesia de Santa María en Ocaña (Religious ornaments and jewellery stolen from the church of Santa María in Ocaña; Spain)
(18 October 2016; ABC España)
Among the items stolen were several crowns, rosaries, rings, and the ciborium

Swiss field just two claims in seven decades (Switzerland)
(19 October 2016; Swiss Info)
A govt report says that the country will focus on authenticating ownership and solving disputes, with publishing provenance a top priority.

Burrell’s world tour struggles to get beyond Glasgow (UK)
(17 October 2016; The Art Newspaper)
Burrell stipulated that the artworks should not leave Scotland so the government had to grant special permission for this tour. Now it looks like it is in trouble.

The art of deception (UK)
(20 October 2016; Financial Times)
Art forgers Ken Perenyi and John Myatt have gone straight and are making money having done so.

Divers steal a bronze gun from ‘at risk’ shipwreck site on Dunwich Bank (UK)
(21 October 2016; Ipswich Star)
The wreck is of an armed merchant vessel from the 1500s and is now on the Historic England at risk

Steve McQueen painting stolen from Belfast bar (UK)
(17 October 2016; ITV News)
Steve was stolen by two women their 60s, one in a zebra print jacket.

Belfast police take hour to respond to art theft at Bullitt hotel – station is just metres away (UK)
(19 October 2016; Belfast Telegraph)
The piece, depicting Steve McQueen, was too big to fit in the getaway car, and it seems that the police didn’t take this very seriously.


AGNSW’s Indian sculptures feared stolen (Australia, India)
(17 October 2016; The Australian)
The NSW gallery project does not disclose what it paid for the 21 suspect items. Nor does it reveal if any research was undertaken before the purchases.

Framed: art crime in focus (New Zealand)
(19 October 2016; Otago Daily Times)
Art crime in New Zealand

South and East Asia

Maninag temple heist: Stolen jewellery found (India)
(16 October 2016; Orissa Post)
The men accused were already being held for other crimes.

Heritage furniture theft: Cops to quiz hostel staff (India)
(17 October 2016; The Tribune)
Another Le Corbusier theft from Chandigarh

Police crack 4-yr-old temple theft case, 2 held (India)
(17 October 2016; The Times of India)
The thieves took the Goddess Nagamani’s silver ornaments and sold them to a local jeweler who was also arrested.

Police arrest five for theft at Kateel temple priest’s house (India)
(18 October 2016; Deccan Herald)
The burglars entered the priest’s house expending to find sacred art and ornaments.

Why India Must Counter The Heritage Plunder (India)
(18 October 2016; Swarajya)
An interview with Anuraag Saxena, co-founder of the India Pride Project.

Sellers of ancient coins in Tamil Nadu make a killing online (India)
(20 October 2016; The Times of India)
Poor farmers collect these coins from river beds after every monsoon. They sell them to agents after taking a meagre sum from them.

Idol case: Four arrested in Ramanathapuram (India)
(18 October 2016; The Hindu)
The four allegedly stole idols for kingpin Deenadayalan and had links to Kapoor.

Arrested men smuggled many idols out of TN: Police (India)
(19 October 2016; The Times of India)
The four men have admitted to smuggling idols to foreign countries, declaring them to be handicrafts.

Four sent to judicial custody for stealing 4-century-old Buddha idols (Nepal)
(19 October 2016; The Himalayan Times)
The men are accused of stealing the idol from a temple at Naudebahal of Lalitpur Sub-Metropolitan City-12.

Find the artifact thief and win (Pakistan)
(18 October 2016; Pakistan Today)
About 40 objects were taken from the Mohenjo Daro museum in 2002. A reward for their return is being offered.

Measures needed to protect antique relics (Vietnam)
(20 October 2016; Vietnam Net)
Discussing how inefficiencies in the heritage management system in Vietnam lead to thefts.

West and Central Asia

Israel’s antiquities chief compares UNESCO to Islamic State (Israel, Palestine)
(20 October 2016; The Times of Israel)
This is in response to UNESCO passing a resolution referred to the Temple Mount and Western Wall only by their Muslim names and condemned Israel as “the occupying power”.

A tale of Vermeers, art experts, and the most notorious- forger of the 20th century (Israel, Netherlands)
(21 October 2016; I24 News)
An exhibition about fakes in Tel Aviv features some famous fakes by van Meegeren.

Some looted Idlib National Museum artifacts resurface, fate of others a mystery amidst ‘thriving black market trade’ (Syria)
(18 October 2016; Syria Direct)
A Q&A with Ayman Nabu, founding director of the Idlib Antiquities Center.

Emirati Police Holding 3 Foreigners Trying to Sell Artifacts (UAE)
(18 October 2016; ABC United States)
They had daggers and coins and are identified as Arabs but that’s it.

Qatar Museums opens ‘Fragments’ exhibition in Katara (UAE)
(18 October 2016; GDN Online)
Mahmoud Obaidi’s response to that which has been lost and destroyed in his native Iraq, including antiquities.

In Other News

Baby Jesus statue in Canada turns heads with artists’ ‘shocking’ restoration (Canada)
(20 October 2016; The Guardian)
Stolen head of stone statue outside an Ontario Catholic church was replaced with orange clay one

Danish bog mummy’s missing toe returned after 60 years (Denmark)
(21 October 2016; The Local)
The man responsible for restoring Tollund Man took his toe home to experiment on preservation technique and it never went back to the museum. Now it’s back.

The Mysterious Reason Tourists Keep Mailing Rocks Back To Hawaii (USA)
(19 October 2016; Huffington Post)
Curses and thieves regret.

Photographer Sues Trump for Copyright Infringement Over Skittles Image (USA, UK)
(21 October 2016; Hyperallergic)
It appears as if an image Trump used to bash refugees was taken by a former child refugee and used without his permission.