Culture crime news 31 July–6 August 2017


Hot this week: Multiple antiquities seized from the Met.

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When People Steal Books
(30 July 2017; Flavorwire)
“Bibliokleptomania is the uncontrollable impulse to steal books”


Five killed while illegally digging for antiquities in Egypt’s Sohag (Egypt)
(1 August 2017; Ahram Online)
Two separate incidents, both of people digging below their houses. This is dangerous.

Stolen Guercino painting will need a year of conservation (Morocco, Italy)
(1 August 2017; The Art Newspaper)
It has lost 30% of its paint; unclear what they are going to do.


Art vandals attack Wolfville Uncommon Comon Art sites (Canada)
(3 August 2017; Kings County Advertiser)
Miyoshi Kondo’s work, Harvest Preserves, was vandalised three times.

Watertown Police still looking for artifact stolen from Bramble Park Zoo (USA)
(31 July 2017; KSFY)
Two bone awls taken.

Should a Museum Be Allowed to Sell $50 Million of Work to Keep the Lights On? (USA)
(31 July 2017; Artsy)
Deaccessioning and poor funding of museums.

The Antiquities Act of 1906: No president is licensed to revoke national monuments (USA)
(1 August 2017; The Washington Times)
“A successor president may not repeal the law by a proclamation renouncing his predecessor’s signature.”

From a “Rothko” to a “Renoir,” New Exhibit Features Fakes that Fooled the Art World (USA)
(1 August 2017; Artsy)
Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes on at the Winterthur Museum, Delaware

Richard Prince Back in Court for Artwork Appropriated from Instagram (USA)
(2 August 2017; Crave)
For Donald Graham’s photo “Rastafarian Smoking a Joint”

Bronze pig statue stolen from Texas park (USA)
(2 August 2017; UPI)
Father pig gone; baby pig had previously been stolen and recovered.

Tribal leaders, HSI partnering to help prevent plundering of Indian artifacts (USA)
(3 August 2017; ICE)
Representatives from the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) participated in a symposium on the topic.

Despite smuggled antiquities purchase, some say criticism of Bible museum is unfair (USA)
(3 August 2017; Salt Lake Tribune)
Alleging inaccurately that those scholars who are upset about the Greens buying looted antiquities are so because they are Evangelical Christians.

Somebody Stole Artist Kristin Stransky’s Artworks. She Wants to Know Who (USA)
(3 August 2017; Westword)
The missing “FabLink 3-D-printed dress required ten pounds of nylon fiber, more than 800 hours of 3-D printing time, and 150 to 200 hours of assembly and fabrication time to make”

One of Knoedler’s Rothkos Is Heading to a Museum—for a Forgery Exhibition (USA)
(3 August 2017; ArtNet News)
On loan to Delaware’s Winterthur Museum by the lawyer for Ann Freedman, the Knoedler Gallery’s ex director.

Ancient Vase Seized From Met Museum on Suspicion It Was Looted (USA, Italy)
(31 July 2017; New York Times)
Christos Tsirogiannis notified the museum about the issue years ago and got no reply. He then contacted the DA’s office who moved to seize the piece.

Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors (USA, Lebanon)
(1 August 2017; The New York Times)
On loan to the met from Lynda and William Beierwaltes who don’t believe that Lebanon has proven that the piece was taken from Byblos during the civil war.

Back-to-Back Looting Scandals Hit the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA, Lebanon, Italy)
(3 August 2017; Architectural Digetst)
“It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the famed museum”

U.S. tug of war over disputed relic from Lebanon (USA, Lebanon)
(4 August 2017; The Daily Star)
“Lynda and William Beierwaltes initially purchased the head in 1996 from a London dealer, who had bought it from an art dealer in Switzerland”


Movies From Alice Springs to Buckingham Palace: the fight for Albert Namatjira’s legacy (Australia)
(4 August 2017; The Guardian)
Film “traces his family’s quest for justice after losing the copyright to his work”

Ancient Statues Torn Down, Smashed And Discarded During French Revolution Rescued By Scientists (France)
(4 August 2017; Newsweek)
Statues of Sainte-Chapelle

A Picasso mystery examined by 60 Minutes (France)
(30 July 2017; 60 Minutes)
“Were [the 271 Picassos] a gift, as the couple who came forward with them claimed?”

When Picasso Went on Trial for Stealing the Mona Lisa (France)
(1 August 2017; Artsy)
He wasn’t the thief, but he had stolen OTHER stuff from the Louvre.

Thieves steal Paris street art in broad daylight (France)
(4 August 2017; The Connexion)
Space Invader mosaics have been targeted by people pretending to be town officials.

Paris Space Invaders street art stolen by ‘city workers’ (France)
(4 August 2017; BBC News)
More than a dozen pieces by Invader are thought to have been taken.

80 Years After Hitler’s ‘Degenerate Art’ Show, Two German Museums Confront Its Dark Legacy (Germany)
(4 August 2017; ArtNet News)
“Munich, Summer 1937” at the Haus der Kunst, and “1937: Action Against ‘Degenerate Art’ in Düsseldorf” at Kunstpalast

With Repeat Attacks, Skulptur Projekte Münster Proves a Playground for Thieves and Vandals (Germany)
(1 August 2017; ArtNet News)
Organisers say it’s normal for public art to experience vandalism.

Thieves damage Koki Tanaka work at Sculpture Projects Münster (Germany)
(1 August 2017; The Art Newspaper)
Technical equipment that was part of a work in a University building.

Not a Pretty Picture: Modigliani Exhibit Closes Amid Claims of Forgeries (Italy)
(2 August 2017; Live Science)
The questionable works have been confiscated and a complaint has been filed with the TPC

Famous statue of King Olav vandalised (Norway)
(1 August 2017; Royal Central)
One of his ski poles stolen and recovered

Spanish Police Arrest Collector’s Disgruntled Employee for Alleged Basquiat Theft in Mallorca (Spain)
(1 August 2017; ArtNet News)
Allegedly asked for €30,000 ransom for the piece.

Detenido tras robar donativos de los feligreses y un cofre del siglo XVIII de una iglesia de Puente Genil (Arrest made for theft of parishioner donations and 18th century chest from Puente Genil church; Spain)
(5 August 2017; ABC Spain)
Chest was donated to the parish in 1956.

La ‘banda de las campanas’ que arrasa las iglesias rurales: “No van a dejar ni una” (The ‘Bells gang” that devastate rural churches: “they won’t leave a single one”; Spain)
(6 August 2017; El Confidencial)
A spate of histoic bell thefts in the region, probably to be sold as scrap.

Artist appeals for return of ‘stolen’ painting (UK)
(31 July 2017; Swindon Advertiser)
Taken during a home invasion.

Antiques dealer alerts trade to fraud after scam involving 18th century painting (UK)
(1 August 2017; Antiques Trade Gazette)
Painting delivered, credit card fraudulent, painting up for sale again by the fraudsters.

More than £250,000 needed for alarms for Norfolk’s churches (UK)
(3 August 2017; KL)
Trying to alarm 200 churches against lead roof theft.

Meet the Art World’s Antiquities Sleuth (UK)
(2 August 2017; The Wall Street Journal)
A feature on forensic archaeologist, Dr Christos Tsirogiannis

Meet the Greek Archaeologist Chasing Looted Antiquities but Shunned by Greece (UK, Greece)
(4 August 2017; Greek Reporter)
Christos Tsirogiannis on his research and lack of interest from Greek authorities.

South and East Asia

Antiques smuggling: ‘Kingpin’ loaned artefacts to museum to get legal tag (India)
(31 July 2017; The Times of India)
The Antiquities act says antiquities kept in a museum don’t have the same registration requirements.

Antique smugglers’ mantra: Raze temples, strike gold (India)
(2 August 2017; The Times of India)
Sacred architectural elements also have an illicit market

Seven Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment department officials booked for theft of 6 idols (India)
(2 August 2017; The Times of India)
Theft of six panchaloha idols from two temples in Thanjavur district

Ancient temple chariot from Tamil Nadu on sale for Rs 96 lakh (India)
(2 August 2017; The Times of Israel)
It could be over 100 years old and could be being sold illegally

Idol theft Temple officials including priests in TN booked for theft of six ancient idols (India)
(3 August 2017; DNA)
Those expected to protect ancient idols are those who are being arrested for their theft.

6 stolen idols worth Rs 8 cr found in WB (India)
(6 August 2017; DNA)
They had fake documents meant to help smuggle the pieces, including one from NASA (?!)

The real cost of looting (Myanmar)
(3 August 2017; Fontier)
“How many of us would actually hand back family heirlooms to a museum in a country we’ve never visited?”

Slamming sale of fake Sadequains, media asked to raise awareness (Pakistan)
(3 August 2017; The News)
Sadequain did not believe in private ownership and gave his works away; there seems to be no law to punish dealing in fakes.

Duterte halts hunt for $10bn Marcos hoard (Philippines)
(28 July 2017; The Times)
“Sceptics see the decision to end the search as another step towards the political rehabilitation of the Marcos family”

OPINION: US should give Balangiga Bells back to Philippines, then leave Duterte to China (Philippines, USA)
(31 July 2017; Marianas Variety)
Bells taken in 1901 by US troops.

West and Central Asia

ISIS Destruction of Ancient Sites Hist Mostly Muslim Targets (Iraq, Syria)
(2 August 2017; National Geographic)
Heritage lost during the conflict goes far, far beyond the ancient.

Iraq eager to get back antiquities smuggled to US (Iraq, USA)
(3 August 2017; Al Monitor)
Hobby Lobby pieces will go back when a final verdict is issued on the case.

Arrest of Jerusalem antiquities dealers opens a smuggling Pandora’s Box (Israel)
(1 August 2017; The Times of Israel)
“Highlights the fraudulent use of Israeli law in the dealing of artifacts looted across the Middle East.”

Waqf officially forms committees to assess any Israeli damages on Al-Aqsa (Israel, Palestine)
(1 August 2017; Ma’an News Agency)
“Israeli authorities shut down Al-Aqsa compound for almost three days following a deadly shooting attack on July 14”

The Artist Didn’t Steal From Auschwitz, but Rather, From Other Artists (Israel, Poland)
(2 August 2017; Haaretz)
Saying that Rotem Bides maybe not stolen artwork is interesting.

Aleppo’s Old City can be rebuilt, UNESCO official says (Syria)
(3 August 2017; Reuters)
“Our vision is to rebuild the Old City exactly as it was before the war, with the same stones where we can”

In Other News

Rare bicycle stolen from Williton’s Bakelite Museum (UK)
(3 August 2017; Somerset County Gazette)
“Keep your eyes peeled for a strange plastic bicycle, possibly abandoned as it would be too difficult to ride”

Historic cave is set to reopen after break-in (UK)
(4 August 2017; Totnes Times)
120,000-year old-elephant tooth stolen from Buckfastleigh cave system

Prehistoric skull leads to federal law suit in Wichita Falls (USA, Mongolia)
(5 August 2017; Times Record News)
Tyrannosaurus Bataar skull taken from Mongolia in June 2012.