Culture crime news 30 May–4 June 2017


Hot this week: Genocide as a repatriation roadblock

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Why It’s So Hard to Find the Original Owners of Nazi-Looted Art
(31 May 2017; Smithsonian)
Problems with provenance and the importance of provenance research.

Selfies Add to Museum Hazards
(2 June 2017; Claims Journal)
People looking at their phones are people who are not looking what they are bumping in to


US museum returns ancient Egyptian stele missing since WWII (Egypt)
(30 May 2017;
Kelsey Museum in Michigan has agreed to return the stela to The National Museums in Berlin. It had been assumed destroyed in aerial bombardment, but apparently not!


Insólito: robaron la campana de una iglesia y la cargaron en el auto (Unusual: Bell stolen from a church and loaded into a car; Argentina)
(29 May 2017; El Periódico)
Bell from the church of San Vicente near Sauce Punco stolen and recovered

Paintings stolen from Nepean gallery (Canada)
(2 June 2017; CBC)
The two pieces were by a local artist in Ottawa.

Ontario Gov’t Overpaying For Giant Counterfeit Of My Rubber Duck: Artist (Canada)
(2 June 2017; Huffington Post)
Florentijn Hofman says the World’s Largest Rubber Duck is a fake version of his original.

Krannert Art Museum shining spotlight on art detectives (USA)
(28 May 2017; The News Gazete)
“I think a lot of museums are worried about what provenance researchers might find in their collections and might reveal through their exhibitions”

After decades-long saga, Lexington family settles claim for Nazi-looted art (USA, Austria, France)
(28 May 2017; The Boston Globe)
The Graf family, Austrian who fled and ended up in Massachusetts, has agreed to split the proceeds of the upcoming sale of the Michele Marieschi

Vietnam memorial wall in Venice restored (USA)
(29 May 2017; Fox)
The memorial had been vandalised twice recently.

Hopis Hoping to Recover Katsina Friends (USA, France)
(1 June 2017; Lake Powell Life)
Another sale of Native American items in Paris is contested

Priceless regalia stolen in Pendleton (USA)
(2 June 2017; East Oregonian)
The items were over a century old and had importance cultural and historical significance to victim’s family and tribe.

Former Contractor Sues Dale Chihuly, Claiming He Helped Create Artwork (USA)
(3 June 2017; The New York Times)
Lawyers for the artist counter that this is a handyman, not an assistant, who is trying to take advantage of Chihuly’s illness.

Gallery owner alleges major US Western art sale defamed him (USA)
(3 June 2017; The Daily Mail)
Gerald P. Peters of Santa Fe seeks unspecified damages from Peter Stremmel Galleries of Reno for calling into question the authenticity of a piece he sold.

Sam Durant’s controversial Scaffold to be dismantled and burned (USA)
(31 May 2017; The Art Newspaper)
This was after mediation with Dakota elders.

Ideas about art sometimes cause real damage to people (USA)
(2 June 2017; Star Tribune)
“Walker Art Center not only failed to talk to Native Americans before erecting “Scaffold” but also failed to understand its multiple meanings.”


Why did the Nazis steal so many books? (Germany)
(28 May 2017; Salon)
“Scale of book theft during the World War II is immense, far dwarfing the already boggling numbers of Nazi art theft.”

Lost Since World War II, Egyptian Artifact Returns to Germany (Germany, USA, Egypt)
(1 June 2017; Live Science)
Wild story: thought to have been destroyed in bombing of Berlin, but found in a Uni Museum.

How Two Top Collectors Avoided Germanys New Protectionist Art Law (Germany)
(2 June 2017; ArtNet News)
Misunderstandings of the law and its purpose abound in this piece.

Illegal metal detectors damage 3,000-year-old wooden road (Ireland)
(2 June 2017; Irish Independent)
Located on Mayne Bog in Coole, the road has been irreparably damaged.

Notorious Italian art theft ring foiled by Swedish academic (Italy, Sweden)
(28 May 2017; The Telegraph)
16th century prayer book had a Library of Turin stamp in it and the academic didn’t ignore it.

Roban reliquias de San Bosco en Turín (Relics of Saint Bosco stolen in Turin; Italy)
(3 June 2017; El Debate)
They were stolen from the Basilica of Castelnuovo Don Bosco east of Turin.

Serbia seeks return of leaders’ missing autographs (Serbia, Spain)
(31 May 2017; Outlook)
Famous leaders had signed a memory book at Tito’s death.

‘Stolen’ book of world leaders’ autographs turns up in Spain (Serbia, Spain)
(31 May 2017; The Local)
“We reported the case to police and they will inform Interpol… We are waiting for a response”

Auction house pulls ‘stolen’ leaders’ autographs from Spain (Serbia, Spain)
(2 June 2017; Outlook)
The theft from Tito’s mausoleum appears to have happened before 2015.

Art Basel Sues Adidas for Trademark Infringement (Switzerland)
(31 May 2017; Artsy)
Adidas didn’t have a license to use “Art Basel” on some limited edition shoes.

Prominent Art Family Entangled in ISIS Antiquities-Looting Investigations (Switzerland, Syria, Lebanon, Belgium, France, USA)
(31 May 2017; The Wall Street Journal)
Ali and Hicham Aboutaam who have a long track record of illicit antiquities arrests and convictions.

Swiss capital beefs up research team for Nazi-looted art (Switzerland)
(3 June 2017; Catherine Hickley)
“Bern is positioning itself as a Swiss hub for research into Nazi-looted art.”

REVEALED: The fake portrait among Ashmolean masterpieces (UK)
(30 May 2017; The Oxford Times)
Part of the programme ‘Fakes’, a work in the British Impressionism collection was replaced with a forgery.

Walkers’ rock piles damaging ancient features of the North York Moors (UK)
(31 May 2017; The Yorkshire Post)
1/3 of all protected ancient sites on the Moors have been damaged by this practice.

Banksy thief reveals how he stole street artist’s work in new documentary (UK)
(2 June 2017; Evening Standard)
Andy Link, also known as AK47, on removing a Banksy piece

Artist sets up six cameras to catch thieves of shark-themed art in Chatham (UK)
(2 June 2017; The Boston Globe)
“Three women were caught on camera last week attempting to steal a large piece of shark-shaped artwork”

Indigenous groups in Canada call for National Museum of Scotland to return human remains (UK, Canada)
(30 May 2017; Common Space)
Scotland’s national museum is requiring a formal request, and there are issues with that.

Museum urged to return body of Beothuk chief to Canada (UK, Canada)
(2 June 2017; STV)
“Scots-Canadian explorer William Cormack found their graves near Red Indian Lake in Newfoundland and removed their remains.”


A Northland man is under investigation by Heritage New Zealand for tampering with historic burial sites (New Zealand)
(27 May 2017;
When you promote your racist theories in the news by claiming that you’ve unearth human remains, the authorities are eventually going to come knocking

Man out to prove Māori not original settlers under investigation (New Zealand)
(30 May 2017; Radio New Zealand)
“If a member of the public came across human remains they should call authorities.”

South and East Asia

Millions at stake as Chinese villagers take collector to court over “man in the Buddha” (China, Netherlands)
(2 June 2017; AFR)
“Counsel for the Dutch collector will counter that numerous museums and private collectors own mummies and Van Overeem’s is in any case not the one stolen from Yangchun”

Fences erected near historic Red House linked to Sun Yat-sen, as residents fear for future (Hong Kong)
(1 June 2017; Hong Kong Free Press)
“Land on which the building sits was sold to a company owned by a mainland Chinese person for HK$5 million last November.”

Police to seek documents from Australian authorities (India, Australia)
(2 June 2017; The Hindu)
Temple staff members have been added to the list of people accused of being involved in the idol theft and smuggling.

Solapur: Idol robbery in ancient Jain temple (India)
(3 June 2017; Maharashtra Today)
Two were taken from “the ancient Digambar Jain temple of the famous Deenambirgi of Maharashtra-Karnataka border area”

One of S Koreas Most Famous Paintings, but by Whom? (South Korea)
(2 June 2017; Korea Exposé)
‘She claimed the painting in it was forged, and uttered the now-legendary line: “Would a mother not recognize her own child?”’

West and Central Asia

ISIS militants battered Syria’s ancient Palmyra, but signs of splendor still stand (Syria)
(2 June 2017; Los Angeles Times)
On the current situation in Syria

In Other News

Rare Violin Stolen From Irish Musician (Canada)
(29 May 2017; VOCM)
Stolen from a car, the piece is rare and made in 1908.

Ten sandalwood poachers arrested, four absconding (India)
(30 May 2017; Bangalore Mirror)
“Two fully-grown trees were stolen from Jayamahal Palace Hotel”

From the moon to Kansas to Sotheby’s: Bag could bring $2 million-plus at auction (USA)
(29 May 2017; The Kansas City Star)
Stolen, sold, recovered, sold (by accident), retained, now sold.

Urinating dog joins Wall Street statue row (USA)
(30 May 2017; BBC News)
Di Modica, who made the original bull, is suing the corporate sorts who put the Fearless Girl up. Artist Alex Gardega added the now-removed pissing pug.

Two Nooses Discovered at Smithsonian Museums This Week (USA)
(31 May 2017; Hyperallergic)
One at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, one at the Hirshhorn.