Petroglyphs at Bear Ears by Tim D Peterson

Culture crime news 26 December 2016–1 January 2017


Hot this week: New National Parks bring looting protection at the very last minute

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Donna Yates is back compiling again. Thanks again to Ryan Casey for all her hard work on Culture Crime News these past two months.


The Year of the Fake: The 8 Biggest Forgery Controversies of 2016
(27 December 2016; ArtNet News)
This year in news about art fakes.

The 10 Biggest International Art Scandals of 2016
(30 December 2016; ArtNet News)
It’s been quite the absurd year for art scandal.


Egypt retrieves 340 smuggled artifacts from Jordan (Egypt, Jordan)
(26 December 2016; Egypt Independent)
The pieces were seized via customs at Aqaba port in a shipment of coal coming from Nuweiba port.

New ‘Red List’ for West Africa helps to protect art, cultural antiquities (General)
(29 December 2016; Africa Times)
A positive addition to ICOM’s collection of illicit antiquities Red Lists


Can street art be preserved? Undoing of a Montreal mural raises questions (Canada)
(28 December 2016; CBC)
When street art gets grafittied.

Roban imagen de Niño Jesús en Iglesia de la zona uno (Sculpture of the Baby Jesus stolen from church in zone one; Guatemala)
(28 December 2016; La Hora)
The 16th century piece was photographed and registered as cultural patrimony of the nation in 1977.

PGR investiga robo de Niño Dios en iglesia de Tlaxcala (PGR investigating the theft of the Baby Jesus from the church of Tlaxcala; Mexico)
(31 December 2016; Televisa)
Nativity scene theft at Christmas.

Colombia returns ancient relics (Peru, Colombia)
(27 December 2016; Living in Peru)
Very little information offered as to the circumstances of the seizure of these items.

Case Against Robert Motherwell’s Foundation Is Dismissed (USA)
(20 December 2016; The New York Times)
The former director, Joan Banach, had filed a wrongful dismissal lawsuit. The foundation says that she stole some of his work and sold it.

Art Dealer Ordered to Pay $500 a Day to Artist (USA)
(28 December 2016; ArtNet News)
Jomar Statkun originally sued art dealer Tanja Grunert for a VARA violation concerning modification of his works.

Statue Widely Ridiculed After Restoration Returned to Artist (USA)
(28 December 2016; ArtNet News)
The artist who created the much-maligned head seems like a perfectly lovely woman.

Miami Heat doctor sues store over fake Russian collectibles (USA, Russia)
(28 December 2016; New York Post)
Probably not the spoon of the Czars and very likely not a real Faberge egg.

Provo City School District’s most expensive piece of art is missing (USA)
(29 December 2016; Daily Herald)
Most were probably given as gifts, not specifically stolen.

Suit alleging Notre Dame has pilfered art collection is transferred to Indiana (USA)
(30 December 2016; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Jay Leff’s son claims that the University of Notre Dame has been displaying Olmec antiquities stolen from his father. I, of course, think those Olmec figurines were stolen from Mexico…

2 women charged following Drew County Museum audit (USA)
(31 December 2016; My Arklamiss)
Two former employees of the Drew County Historical Museum Commission have been charged with theft of funds.

Obama declares Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah (USA)
(28 December 2016; The Salt Lake Tribune)
This is wonderful. A bit of bright news in the darkness. Hopefully this will allow some real looting protection at these sites.

Obama leaves ‘phenomenal legacy’ of protecting historic and natural land (USA)
(31 December 2016; The Guardian)
‘ The president designated large landscapes as well as places significant to landmark social movements, highlighting ‘under-told parts of American history’’

Man charged in replica, artifact thefts from Fort Dobbs (USA)
(29 December 2016; Record & Landmark)
The stolen items were later found under a bush in the museum parking lot.

Old Bedford Village gains national attention after historic rifles were stolen (USA)
(29 December 2016; WJAC)
Not the greatest claim to fame.


Director of Belgian Royal Museums Files Criminal Complaint Against Secretary of State (Belgium)
(23 December 2016; ArtNet News)
Selurs is accused of waging an unfounded campaign against the Modern Museum and Draquet which he claims were a factor in his wife’s suicide.

Modern fight over ancient library (Germany)
(27 December 2016; The Journal Gazette)
Will this unique collection of manuscripts from a now-shut Bridgettine monastery be broken up, divided, or sold?

David Chipperfield’s Nazi-Era Renovation Plan of Munich’s Haus der Kunst Sparks Outrage (Germany)
(29 December 2016; ArtNet News)
Quite a number of people aren’t excited about a ‘plan to revert Munich’s Haus der Kunst to its original Nazi-era state’

Cyprus petition launched for return on Elgin Marbles to Greece (Greece, Cyprus, UK)
(28 December 2016; The Cyprus Mail)
Solidarity from the Cyprus News Agency.

Early Christian book shrine caused much soul searching (Ireland)
(29 December 2016; The Irish Times)
“State papers: debate over ownership of €2.5m artefact found in Lough Kinale”

Quem é o pintor mais falsificado em Portugal? (Who is the most faked painter in Portugal?; Portugal)
(28 December 2016; Observador)
A very interesting long read about art forgery in Portugal

Three suspects in theft of Levitan paintings from museum arrested (Russia)
(28 December 2016; RAPSI)
The paintings, which were stolen in 2014, have been recovered.

Roman Antiquity Missing Since World War II Found in Russia Roman Antiquity Missing Since World War II Found in Russia (Russia, Germany)
(28 December 2016; ArtNet News)
The piece was moved from the Altes Museum in 1939 and place in to storage where it was, apparently, taken by Russian soldiers to the Hermitage Museum who wrongly classified it as 17th century in 1946.

Una Hermandad de Guillena restituye la corona y el Niño Jesús robado para la Misa del Gallo (Brotherhood of Guillena restores the stolen crown and the Baby Jesus for midnight mass; Spain)
(27 December 2016; Arahal Información)
The pieces were stolen in the early hours of 24 December 2015 after the thieves crashed a vehicle into the church door.

Roban dos campanas de bronce de 500 kilos en una iglesia de Porto do Son, A Coruña (Two 500 kilo bronze bells stolen from the church of Porto do Son; Spain)
(28 December 2016; Antena 3)
It’s assumed that the bells were stolen because of the value of scrap bronze.

Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller, ‘gentleman collector’ of ethnographic art, has died aged 86 (Switzerland)
(26 December 2016; The Art Newspaper)
Barbier-Mueller was no stranger to criticism about the sources of both his father-in-law’s and his own collections.

Country’s ‘one of a kind’ cannon is stolen from garden (UK)
(2 January 2016; Daily Echo)
“Lyle cannons threw lines out into the water – rather than shots – either from the shore or from naval vessels projecting the line some 250 yards.”

Lane Bryant Issues Public Apology After Using Shantell Martin’s Designs Without Authorization (UK)
(22 December 2016; ArtNet News)
A rare positive ending for a case of a fashion retailer stealing designs from a contemporary artist.

Another artist is claiming that a big fashion brand has ripped off her designs (UK)
(28 December 2016; Metro)
This time it is patch copying from Topshop.

Kirklees council considers selling Francis Bacon painting (UK)
(28 December 2016; The Guardian)
Another painful chapter in the “defunding leads to deaccessioning” saga and we all lose public art to the private market.

Owner of Zoffany painting destroyed in fire could receive £4m from UK government (UK)
(29 December 2016; The Art Newspaper)
The piece was destroyed in the 2015 Clandon Park country mansion fire alongside National Trust pieces which were only insured against damage, not total loss.

Thieves steal £20,000 painting in smash and grab raid at Belsize art gallery (UK)
(29 December 2016; Ham & High)
The piece taken from Sylvester Fine Art is by Ceri Richards

South and East Asia

Indore: Theft at a temple at Subhash Chowk (India)
(26 December 2016; The Times of India)
The theft of the goddess’ crown happened after the priest had left the temple.

Subhash Kapoor remanded in Pazhavoor idol theft case (India)
(27 December 2016; The Hindu)
More charges it seems for Kapoor after even more arrests related to idol smuggling in India.

Aurangzeb-era Quran stolen from Kashmir in 2003 may be with New Delhi museum, hints CBI (India)
(30 December 2016; Kashmir Reader)
A book wish “similar features” to the stolen Quran has been confiscated by the Crime Branch of New Delhi.

Cash, silver stolen from Ludhiana temple (India)
(31 December 2016; The Times of India)
“The thieves also took away silver from the Shivling and the snake idol”

राधा कृष्ण मंदिर हनुमान की मूर्ति चुरायी (Hanuman Idol Stolen; India)
(31 December 2016; Live Hindustan)
The priest discovered the statue was stolen in the morning.

Ancient idols of gods under serious threat in Nepal (Nepal)
(26 December 2016; My Republica)
Including allegations that the Royal family were involved in idol smuggling in the past.

Police find new lead on stolen idols from Jumla (Nepal)
(27 December 2016; My Republica)
A conch shell related to the massive idol theft has been located in Kathmandu

Art world embroiled in series of forgery scandals (South Korea)
(27 December 2016; Korea Times)
Two interesting fakes cases, both leave us to question who, exactly, gets to decide what is authentic. Apparently not the artist.

French art experts blast Seoul over ‘fake’ painting (South Korea)
(28 December 2016; Bangkok Post)
Both science and the artist say the painting is fake.

West and Central Asia

Turning Iraq history to rubble, leaving mess to looters (Iraq)
(31 December 2016; Detroit News)
There are, understandably, no guards at Nimrud.

After Islamic State institutionalized looting in Syria, the market for fake antiquities is booming (Syria)
(31 December 2016; The Los Angeles Times)
Fakes are being made, but to say a market for fakes seems a wilful misunderstanding of what is going on.

In Other News

China Bans Its Ivory Trade, Moving Against Elephant Poaching (China)
(30 December 2016; The New York Times)
“The decision by China follows years of growing international and domestic pressure and gives wildlife protection advocates hope that the threatened extinction of certain elephant populations in Africa can be averted.”