Culture crime news 6–12 March 2017


Hot this week: Views of the Mosul museum in ruins

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Door and decorative elements of Sultan Al-Kamel Al-Ayyubi shrine stolen (Egypt)
(9 March 2017; Ahram Online)
“The 70-centimetre tall wooden door of the shrine has been stolen as well as a number of tiny wooden decorative elements.”

Officials deny any damage to newly-discovered king Ramses II statue during excavation (Egypt)
(10 March 2017; Egypt Independent)
Yes they used heavy machinery to lift the head, but it was necessary and done with care.

Tunisian authorities foil smuggling of 15th-century Torah scroll (Tunisia)
(11 March 2017; Ynet News)
The 15th century Torah was seized thanks to a tip that it was about to be smuggled to a European country.


Delincuentes roban custodia con hostia consagrada de iglesia argentina (Delinquents steal custodia with consecrated hosts from Argentina church; Argentina)
(11 March 2017; ACI Prensa)
The piece was taken from the church of Sagrado Corazón de Jesús in City Bell, La Plata

Police seek tips on stolen sculpture (Canada)
(9 March 2017; CBC)
The work was stolen from an Edmonton garage.

Three iron crosses honoring Confederate veterans have been stolen from historic Sheldon church near Beaufort (USA)
(6 March 2017; The Post and Courier)
It was suggested that the thefts were either ‘protest vandalism’ or were taken as ‘black market collector’s items’.

Health care worker gets 10 years for stealing artwork from elderly Wheat Ridge woman (USA)
(7 March 2017; The Denver Post)
The pieces were taken from Colorado artist Delores Toscano.

NCSO investigating possible stolen artifacts (USA)
(7 March 2017; White Mountain Independent)
The artefacts were seized during a meth bust in Arizona.

Controversial trove from imperial Chinese shipwreck lands in New York (USA, Indonesia)
(7 March 2017; The Art Newspaper)
“Ultimately, the museum believes that the trove’s scholarly value outweighs its divisive provenance.” Not everyone agrees.

Art adviser ordered to pay $1m she made in private sale of Basquiat painting (USA)
(8 March 2017; The Art Newspaper)
The dealer told the seller that she was selling it for $5.5m. She sold it for $6.5m and kept the difference.

The American Government Is Searching For Its Own Lost Art (USA)
(8 March 2017; Atlas Obscura)
Some of the General Service Administration’s art may have been stolen or illegally sold, others might just be in storage somewhere.

de Kooning Estate Battles the Blockage Discount (USA)
(9 March 2017; Art Market Monitor)
The estate is challenging the IRS’ valuation of the works inherited by de Kooning’s daughter.

How Big Of A Problem Is Art Theft In The US? (USA)
(10 March 2017; KJZZ)
A radio interview with the FBI’s Bonnie Magness-Gardiner

After finding forgeries of his work across Orange County, artist wages court fight against Newport billionaire (USA)
(10 March 2017; The Orange County Register)
Donald Wakefield has discovered unauthorised copies of his work at various properties held by Igor Olenicoff.

Museum wants to teach Holocaust survivors and their families how to seek restitution (USA)
(10 March 2017; Miami Herald)
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is trying to reach survivors and their families through an educational program in Florida.

Police ask for help finding stolen painting (USA)
(11 March 2017; Channel 3000)
This beautiful, undervalued piece was stolen from the Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison.

$30,000 worth of artwork stolen (USA)
(11 March 2017; KOAT)
The paintings by Hitomi Johnson were taken from the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival.

Detenidas cuatro personas por robo de reliquia del museo de la Virgen del Valle (Four people arrested for theft of reliquary from the museum of the Virgen del Valle; Venezuela)
(7 March 2017; El Carabobeño)
Those arrested include a lawyer and a museum worker.


Jeff Koons LLC and the Centre Pompidou are both found liable for copyright infringement in Paris court case (France)
(10 March 2017; The Art Newspaper)
“The High Court of Paris ruled that the 1988 sculpture Naked by Jeff Koons…plaigiarised Enfants, a 1975 photograph by the French photographer Jean-François Bauret”

A Shelter for Art Caught in the Crossfire (France, Syria)
(11 March 2017; The New York Times)
Sounds good on paper but deeply problematic.

Facing Germany’s colonial heritage: It’s ‘detective work’ (Germany)
(7 March 2017; DW)
A discussion about colonial era artefact collecting with Inés de Castro of the Linden Museum.

Nazi art theft: Germany helps Jewish collector’s heirs hunt stolen works (Germany, USA)
(7 March 2017; The Guardian)
“The project, called the Mosse Art Research Initiative (Mari), will pursue the whereabouts of thousands of works now scattered throughout the world.”

Dr. Oetker Is Showing the World What to Do with Nazi-Looted Art (Germany)
(8 March 2017; Artsy)
“The collection is engaging in a systematic campaign to determine which of the pieces it holds were looted or expropriated by the Nazi regime”

Police Raid Artist’s Berlin Studio, Confiscate Artwork (Germany)
(10 March 2017; Artsy)
Julian Charrière’s “The Purchase of the South Pole” includes a coconut cannon which may be an illegal weapon.

Ancient monuments damaged by modern day life (Ireland)
(7 March 2017; Irish Examiner)
From illegal metal detecting to damage from drone crashes.

Four Tefaf art dealers in disrepute due to potential forgeries (Netherlands)
(8 March 2017; NRC)
Criticism of the fair’s failure to take action against possible forgeries and their floggers.

Cleaning house: Russian oligarch loses $150million selling four paintings from his famous art collection after bulldozing the $95million Palm Beach estate he bought from Donald Trump (Russia)
(9 March 2017; The Daily Mail)
Dmitry Rybolovlev holds that the paintings were sold to him at inflated prices by Swiss freeporter/art dealer Yves Bouvier.

Tres detenidos por robar a la familia Borbón-Dos Sicilias (Three arrested for theft from the Borbón-Dos Sicilias family; Spain)
(6 March 2017; Noticias de Gipuzkoa)
The thieves had stolen over 50 medals jewellery from the Duke of Calabria.

Swiss Authorities Seize Artworks From Billionaire Urs Schwarzenbach (Switzerland)
(8 March 2017; ArtNet News)
Taken from the walls of his hotel for the second time in 6 months over back taxes.

Was ancient church at Santon Downham, near Thetford, targeted by nighthawks? (UK)
(6 March 2017; Eastern Daily Press)
Metal detectorists were seen leaving the woods near the site.

Mysterious return from the Caribbean of stolen rare 200 year-old Padstow Bank note (UK, Saint Lucia)
(6 March 2017; Cornwall Live)
It had been stolen from the Padstow Museum 20 years ago and was sent back home seemingly from Saint Lucia

Policeman who stole ancient gold coins he found with metal detector is jailed (UK)
(8 March 2017; Manchester Evening News)
He both failed to tell the coroner that he had found treasure and broke his agreement with the landowner to split the proceeds. Jailed for 16 months!

New £50,000 reward appeal for return of Scotland’s first ever coins – as rest of collection is gifted to nation (UK)
(10 March 2017; The Herald)
The coins in question were stolen from Lord and Lady Stewartby ten years ago.


No takers for large collection of works belonging to art forger (New Zealand)
(7 March 2017; The Northern Advocate)
A man is trying to sell works by an infamous faker of works by Charles Frederick Goldie.

South and East Asia

Chinese grave robbers poison themselves inside ancient tomb (China)
(10 March 2017; ECNS)
Four out of ten robbers died from inhaling air from their oil-fed generator within the tomb they were robbing.

House linked to China’s ‘founding father’ damaged again (Hong Kong, China)
(8 March 2017; Hong Kong Free Press)
Workers using tools broke windows of a house linked to Sun Yat-sen.

Idol smuggling suspect kills self (India)
(9 March 2017; The Hindu)
Srikanth Omkaram, grandson of alleged idol smuggling mastermind Deenadayalan, hung himself.

Smuggler Vijay Nanda stole Parvati idol from MP: Police (India)
(10 March 2017; Mid-day)
“Besides the Parvati idol, Nanda is believed have traded over 250 precious Indian artefacts”

BJP demands fencing of Bihar temples, burial grounds (India)
(6 March 2017; The Indian Express)
The call for fencing comes from fear of ancient statue theft.

Sabarmati Ashram mulls to step up security after theft (India)
(6 March 2017; India)
Replica statues of Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘three wise monkeys’ were stolen.

Illegal stone mining a major danger to five ASI monuments (India)
(7 March 2017; The Times of India)
“Jain and Shiva temples of 9 and 10 AD at Badoh and Pathari near Vidisha are bearing the brunt of illegal stones quarrying.”

US returns 8 ancient idols in big retrieval (India, USA)
(9 March 2017; The Times of India)
“After it emerged that smugglers had stolen the artefacts from India, private art collectors handed them over to the consulate general of India in New York.”

Centaurs, archers and modern vandals (India)
(10 March 2017; The Hindu)
Protecting the cave paintings at Porivarai? No concrete plans yet.

Police Recover Kailash Satyarthi’s Stolen Nobel Citation From Jungle (India)
(11 March 2017; Outlook)
The thieves had dumped it thinking that it was worthless.

Theft of artifacts rampant due to legal loopholes Police crack down on thieves, but critics say laws need to change (South Korea)
(6 March 2017; Korea JoongAng Daily)
“What’s also startling is how oftentimes private museums are found to have been involved in treasure theft.”

West and Central Asia

Photos reveal ISIL’s destruction to antiquities museum in Mosul (Iraq)
(8 March 2017; The National)
Tragic. Be sceptical of the simplicity of the looting for the black market angle though.

Scars of looting, destruction all that remain at Mosul museum (Iraq)
(11 March 2017; Reuters)
“Dozens of Assyrian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Persian and Roman artifacts that the ransacked museum held have all been stolen or damaged.”

Antiquities theft from second temple period prevented in central Israel (Israel, Palestine)
(6 March 2017; Jerusalem Post)
The men were arrested at the site of Beit Shana and they had a metal detector.

Antiquities agency chief says Jordan Codices fake (Jordan)
(9 March 2017; The Jordan Times)
The DoA says that the lead codices it seized seven years ago have not proved authentic and have criticised a British scientists findings about the matter.

Ancient book stolen in Syria seized in Turkey (Turkey)
(8 March 2017; Hurriyet Daily News)
Although it is being reported as being from a Syrian museum, we should question the story that comes with it.

A Painting and News Report Land a Turkish Artist in Prison (Turkey)
(9 March 2017; Hyperallergic)
2 years 10 months for a painting that shows the destruction of the city of Nusaybin by government forces.

As Dubai’s Skyline Adds a Trophy, the Architect Calls It Stolen (UAE)
(8 March 2017; The New York Times)
Fernando Donis has filed suit saying he was not compensated for his design of “The Dubai Frame”

In Other News

Pharaonic relics submerged with Titanic must be recovered: Egyptologist (Egypt)
(12 March 2017; Egypt Independent)
Not mad at all… Hoping this is a joke that fell flat on the reporter.

Liberty, fraternity, Fossil Free: activists protest oil giant Total’s sponsorship at Louvre (France)
(7 March 2017; The Art Newspaper)
“Protesters shed black clothes to create a mock oil spill”

Poachers kill rhino and saw off its horn at zoo near Paris (France)
(8 March 2017; The Local)
It was probably removed with a chainsaw

Man (52) who damaged Monet painting admits supermarket theft (Ireland)
(11 March 2017; Irish Independent)
The pan who punched the Monet has now admitted to stealing €200 worth of toothbrushes

Police: Man Smashes Bottle Over Security Guard’s Head At Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA)
(6 March 2017; CBS)
The guard had told the man not to touch the artwork.

Stolen Stradivarius violin will sing again (USA)
(10 March 2017; Deccan Chronicle)
“After a meticulous restoration that took more than a year, a Stradivarius violin that was stolen from violinist Roman Totenberg and missing for decades is about to return to the stage.”