Culture crime news 17–23 July 2017


Hot this week: Theft from a concentration camp as art

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Hobby Lobby under investigation over sale of 5th‑century Bible fragment (Egypt, USA)
(20 July 2017; The Times)
“The director of the Green Collection said they bought this papyrus from a `trusted dealer’ and refused to give his name for privacy reasons”

Nigeria: When Nigeria Celebrated Return of Stolen Artifacts (Nigeria)
(16 July 2017; All Africa)
Opening of the exhibition: “Repatriated Nigerian Cultural Property” in Lagos


Did LG Steal from Brazilian Artist Lygia Pape to Promote a Cell Phone? You Be the Judge (Brazil)
(20 July 2017; ArtNet News)
The work in question is currently on display at the Met Breuer

Artists elated to recover flame-shooting sculptures stolen after Calgary Stampede (Canada)
(20 July 2017; CBC)
Stolen along with the van it was being stored in.

Antiquities Dealer Sues Wall Street Journal Over ISIS Article (USA)
(17 July 2017; The New York Times)
One or the other of the Aboutaam brothers have previously been charged and/or convicted of antiquities smuggling offences in various places.

Ni’ihau Lei Stolen from Maui Hands (USA)
(18 July 2017; Maui Now)
Valued at over $200,000, nearly the whole collection of Ni’ihau leis was taken.

BYU professor baffled by anonymous archeologists’ accusations (USA)
(19 July 2017; Deseret News)
Lincoln Blumell, a prof at BYU, says that he has no association with the looted Iraqi objects and will not publish or work with looted material.

Precious relics of Texas history stolen from Heritage Museum (USA)
(19 July 2017; ABC United States)
“A two-man cross saw, two branding poles, a corn shuck and a fryer were all stolen last week.”

Motion to dismiss denied in copyright suit against Richard Prince and Gagosian (USA)
(19 July 2017; The Art Newspaper)
Four similar lawsuits have been filed by other photographers.

California wine county Judge resigns following theft of art deco cardholders (USA)
(19 July 2017; Blasting News)
Judge Michael S. Williams was caught on video stealing the pieces.

Author documents trail of Native American artificats (USA)
(19 July 2017; Vail Daily)
About “Plunder Skulls and Stolen Spirits” by Chip Colwell.

O.J. Simpson bust mystery: Looking back at heist from Pro Football Hall of Fame (USA)
(20 July 2017; Fox)
“Someone stole the bust of O.J. from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton on Sunday, July 23, 1995 during the height of the trial.”

Recovered Stolen Painting Now on Display at SAMFA (USA)
(20 July 2017; Fox)
“Young Bronc on a Cold Day” by Jimmy Don Cox

The Rare-Book Thief Who Looted College Libraries in the ’80s (USA)
(20 July 2017; Atlas Obscura)
“He has demonstrated the vulnerability of the academic libraries—and it was a lesson we needed.”

Man accused of trying to sell stolen Gardner art indicted (USA)
(20 July 2017; Boston Herald)
He had none of the artwork stolen in the 1990 heist but was trying to sell the online nonetheless.

Former volunteer admits theft from History Museum collection (USA)
(20 July 2017; Buffalo News)
Originally he said the letters were his from his grandfather after he was caught selling them.

Do the laws on counterfeit Native art go far enough? (USA)
(21 July 2017; High Country News)
On the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA)

Plea Deal Reached In Greenwich Art Theft Case Worth $600,000 (USA)
(21 July 2017; Patch)
Specifically it was Chinese, Native American, and African antiquities that were stolen and sold at a flea market.

Cady Noland Sues Three Galleries for Copyright Infringement Over Disavowed Log Cabin Sculpture (USA)
(21 July 2017; ArtNet News)
Because she believes the conservation without her consent went beyond what was normal.

Vandals destroy ancient artifacts to create graffiti at Mesa Verde (USA)
(22 July 2017; Fox)
“In one of the pictures, you’ll see names rubbed onto the sandstone using prehistoric charcoal which a visitor dug up in an archaeological site along the Petroglyph Point Trail.”


Louvre paintings damaged in downpour (France)
(18 July 2017; UPI)
“Water marks drips were found on two panels of Nicolas Poussin’s Four Seasons as well as The Triumph of Mordecai by Jean-Francois de Troy”

New EU Proposal Aims to Halt the Trafficking of Antiquities That Fund Terrorism (General)
(20 July 2017; ArtNet News)
“A pan-European licensing system for antiquities import is one of the key features.”

Vandals Destroy Nicole Eisenman’s Celebrated Artwork for Skulptur Projekte Münster Overnight (Germany)
(20 July 2017; ArtNet News)
The missing head will not be remade

Painting From Goering’s Collection Is Returned to Banker’s Heirs (Germany)
(21 July 2017; The New York Times)
The Bavarian State Paintings Collection, where the piece has been since 1961, has agreed to buy “The Raising of Lazarus” from the heirs

No damage to ancient artifacts from ‘spray-attack’ at Vergina Tombs in Greece (Greece)
(19 July 2017; Tornos News)
A visitor sprayed the exhibition with “a clear oily liquid”

Earthquake Damaged Kos Sites and Monuments, Archaeological Service Reports (Greece)
(21 July 2017; Greek Reporter)
Exhibits in the island’s archaeology were also damaged in the quake.

Ireland should ‘give back its looted and stolen treasures’ (Ireland)
(22 July 2017; The Journal)
A Sinn Féin senator wants to return objects associated with the colonial past.

Genoa closes art exhibition after paintings ‘turn out to be fakes’ (Italy)
(16 July 2017; The Telegraph)
Fake Modiglianis in The Doge’s Palace.

Modigliani Exhibit Closes Early Amid Allegations of Fakes (Italy)
(19 July 2017; New York Times)
“The curator of the show, who is under investigation on several counts including fraud, defended his actions”

Israeli College to Allow Auschwitz Exhibit After Assurances Artifacts Not Stolen (Poland, Israel)
(19 July 2017; Haaretz)
The student says she was misrepresented in the press and didn’t actually steal the items.

Israeli student admits stealing items from Auschwitz for art project (Poland, Israel)
(19 July 2017; The Guardian)
She stole the items on multiple visits to the site; the site is exploring action.

Did an Israeli student steal Auschwitz artifacts for an art exhibit? (Poland, Israel)
(20 July 2017; The Washington Post)
Still the memorial is pursuing a criminal investigation.

Roban cinco campanas de las iglesias de Zuazo de Kuartango y Morillas (Five bells from churches in Zuazo, Kuratango, and Morillas stolen; Spain)
(20 July 2017; Gasteiz Hoy)
The bells were most likely melted down

Spanish police recover three stolen Francis Bacon paintings (Spain)
(19 July 2017; BBC News)
“The three works were recovered after a tip-off from a London team specialising in tracking down missing art”

Spanish police recover three stolen Francis Bacon paintings (Spain)
(19 July 2017; Reuters)
Three were arrested in January in connection with the theft.

Illegal detectorists targeting Gloucestershire farmland (UK)
(17 July 2017; BBC News)
“It happens at a particular time of year after farmers have harvested crops and fields have been ploughed.”

Street artist Moonie’s dismay as Mr Bean stolen from dinosaur-themed doorway exhibit in Little Germany (UK)
(20 July 2017; Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
This is the first time any of Moonie’s work has been stolen.

British Museum evacuated: Controlled explosion of unattended vehicle carried out after ‘security concern’ (UK)
(21 July 2017; The Independent)
A suspicious vehicle in Russell Square caused the alert.

Boost for families over Nazi-looted art claims (UK)
(20 July 2017; The Jewish Chronicle)
On a conference being held on the topic in September.

Laws on Nazi-looted art to be renewed by the Government (UK)
(21 July 2017; Aol)
“Under the law, 17 national institutions, including the British Museum and the National Gallery, have returned items to their original owners or heirs.”


Thief steals 6m-long sculpture from Kensington home before driving away with it on the roof of his car (Australia)
(18 July 2017; The Advertiser)
A massive piece composed of musical notes and clefs.

South and East Asia

HC dismisses antique dealer Kapoor’s bail plea (India)
(21 July 2017; Press Trust of India)
The Judge says that Kapoor’s crimes were at an international level “against India’s culture and heritage”.

Kapoor produced before court (India)
(21 July 2017; The Hindu)
Specifically regarding “theft of idols from a temple at Suthamalli in Ariyalur district in 2008.”

HC denies advance bail to suspected idol smuggler (India)
(21 July 2017; The Hindu)
Sharad Kumar Dugar is accused of being an associate of Subash Kapoor

Idol smuggling theft of nat’l treasure: HC (India)
(22 July 2017; The Times of India)
Idol theft, according to the judge, is “not an ordinary case of commercial conspiracy and theft”

IG Manickavel to handle idol theft cases (India)
(22 July 2017; The Hindu)
The Inspector-General will head the probe into temple idol theft cases and expedite the trials associated with them.

Set up camp for idol theft cases in a week: Madras High Court (India)
(22 July 2017; The New Indian Express)
An “effective and speedy disposal of the cases, on a day-to-day basis” will be interesting for sure!

Air India loot: Jatin Das’ missing painting miraculously resurfaces (India)
(21 July 2017; India Today)
In a package returned to Air India’s head office

Jatin Das painting ‘stolen’ by former ED couriered to Air India (India)
(21 July 2017; Times of India)
Is stolen only “taken” when it is an executive director who did it? The piece arrived damaged.

West and Central Asia

Who Gets to Own Iraq’s Religious Heritage? (Iraq)
(17 July 2017; The Atlantic)
An interview with Katharyn Hanson

Ancient Sebastapolis faces illegal excavations (Turkey)
(18 July 2017; Daily Sabah)
Located in a town centre, the site has been looted many times.

British Museum helps return stolen artefact to Uzbekistan (Uzbekistan)
(17 July 2017; The Guardian)
A scholar recognised the large calligraphic tile as having been removed from the Chashma-i Ayub mausoleum in Vobkent.

In Other News

Ancient Roman Amphitheater in Caesarea sold by Greek Orthodox church to mystery foreign buyer (Israel)
(17 July 2017; The Times of Israel)
The amphitheater is used for concerts

‘Masterpiece’ Cheddars Stolen from English Cheese Competition (UK)
(18 July 2017; Food & Wine)
Two 20 kg blocks of cheese worth £800 were snatched.

Luxury lost and found: The international service aiding the war on watch theft (UK)
(21 July 2017; CNN)
The Watch Register, an offshoot of The Art Loss Register.

Madonna asks court to block sale of underwear, letter from Tupac, court agrees (USA)
(19 July 2017;
Madonna says the items were taken from her

Moon bag that Chicago-area woman got for $995 sells for $1.8 million at auction (USA)
(20 July 2017; Chicago Tribune)
She was able to keep (and sell) the bag after NASA unsuccessfully sued for return.