Culture crime news 28 August–3 September 2017


Hot this week: Nothing will stop the sale of a museum collection…

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The mysterious disappearances of the world’s greatest treasures
(31 August 2017; New York Post)
Collection of usual art crime suspects.


Looters of Egyptian Artifacts Try to Recruit Egyptologists for Help (Egypt)
(28 August 2017; Live Science)
Unsolicited contact with reporters and other via Facebook. I think most of us working in this field get these.

Egypt returns stolen antique money to Iraq and China (Egypt, China)
(28 August 2017; Al Arabiya)
Citing the UNESCO convention

Egypt returns stolen currency artefacts to Iraq, China (Egypt, China, Iraq)
(28 August 2017; Ahram Online)
Seized before they could be smuggled out of Egypt

European Summit to Discuss the Return of Looted West African Art (Nigeria, UK)
(31 August 2017; Smithsonian)
Operative word is “discuss”

South Africa’s first legal auction of rhinoceros horn fails to attract buyers (South Africa)
(28 August 2017; The Art Newspaper)
500kg of “farmed” horn was on offer


Bowfort Towers ‘never meant to be an Indigenous artwork,’ city and Treaty 7 chiefs say in joint statement (Canada)
(31 August 2017; CBC)
Trying to quell cultural appropriation controversy.

Skeleton plundered from Mexican cave was one of the Americas’ oldest (Mexico)
(30 August 2017; Nature)
A truly painful looting story. Skeleton stolen and what little was left was 13,000 years old.

Waterlogged Texas Museums Assess the Damage Caused by Hurricane Harvey (USA)
(28 August 2017; ArtNet News)
Unclear if the sculptures at Rockport Center for the Arts have survived the storm

Court Grants Billionaire Rybolovlev’s Request for Sotheby’s Documents in Ongoing Feud With ‘Freeport King’ (USA, Switzerland, Russia)
(29 August 2017; ArtNet News)
“Protracted legal battle stems from the record-setting sale of a Leonardo da Vinci painting”

‘Don’t Honor Genocide’ Graffiti Painted on Columbus Monument in Astoria (USA)
(31 August 2017; DNA Info)
Stencilled on; “Take it Down” also tagged on the monument.

National monuments protect meaning, not just landscapes (USA)
(1 September 2017; High Country News)
“If Bears Ears shrinks, it will be to our national cultural detriment.”

Popular tiny camel statue stolen from downtown Colorado Springs (USA)
(2 September 2017; KOAA)
A kickstarter fund has been started to raise money for a replacement

Why a Massachusetts museum selling its prized Norman Rockwell painting should worry art museums everywhere (USA)
(23 August 2017; Los Angeles Times)
Deaccessioning “to raise as much as $60 million to fund future museum operations.”

Berkshire Museum board turns down $1m to pause art sale (USA)
(29 August 2017; The Art Newspaper)
Turned down $1m in hopes of selling Rockwells for much more.

The Berkshire Museum Is ‘Under Review’ For Planned Sale, Massachusetts Attorney General Confirms (USA)
(30 August 2017; ArtNet News)
On the deaccessioning: the AG is “reviewing the transaction for how it comports with applicable charities law”


Catacomb thieves drill into Paris cellar to swipe €250,000 of top wine (France)
(30 August 2017; The Telegraph)
Broke into the catacombs then drilled into the wine cellar. Interesting!

Germany investigating cultural goods lost under communists (Germany)
(1 September 2017; Timmins Today)
The German Lost Art Foundation launched two pilot projects into Stasi operations regarding art

Illegal treasure-hunter arrested in Crete (Greece, Spain)
(31 August 2017; eKathimerini)
Spaniard caught looting Falassarna near Hania with a metal detector

Italy relaxes stringent export laws for post-war art (Italy)
(30 August 2017; The Art Newspaper)
“Extends the window during which private owners of works by deceased artists may self-certify them for export from Italy without a licence, from 50 to 70 years after they were made”

Italy displays marble Roman head stolen in World War II (Italy, Algeria, France, Germany, USA)
(2 September 2017; The Times of Israel)
Returned by the Cleveland Museum of Art, stolen by the Nazis

Ex-Polish president’s waiter on trial over theft of painting (Poland)
(31 August 2017; Radio Poland)
Accused of stealing a 19th century painting from the presidential palace.

The Mystery Behind The Lost Books Of A Cherished Lublin Yeshiva (Poland, Germany)
(31 August 2017; Forward)
Did the Nazis burn the 30k-volume library

Briton arrested in Spanish hotel on suspicion of stealing ancient artifacts from Italy (Spain, UK, Italy)
(29 August 2017; The Telegraph)
Name came up as having a warrant out for his arrest in Italy for antiquities theft.

Meet the Archaeologist Who Helps Find Stolen Art (UK)
(30 August 2017; History)
The amazing Christos Tsirogiannis

The Art World Calls This Man When Masterpieces Go Missing (UK)
(31 August 2017; Observer)
Chris Marinello of Art Recovery

A Green Light for Art Criminals? (UK)
(1 September 2017; The New York Times)
What will happen if the Met’s Art and Antiques Squad is shuttered?


Popular Victoria Park sculpture stolen from Duncan Street Reserve (Australia)
(28 August 2017; Southern Gazette)
Hyatti’ (You are my all, my everything) by Ayad Alqaragholli

Archaeological objects exposed by storms, stolen (New Zealand)
(1 September 2017; Otago Daily Times)
Theft from the 650-year-old site near Oamaru is subject to criminal prosecution.

Man heartbroken after 50 year bonsai collection stolen (New Zealand)
(2 September 2017; Bay of Plenty Times)
Owner had recently stopped someone from stealing them

South and East Asia

China’s Peking University to investigate graffiti found on ancient bell (China)
(31 August 2017; South China Morning Post)
Graffiti in several languages; unclear how long it has been there

Subash Kapoor, 10 others produced before court (India)
(30 August 2017; The Times of India)
The case seems to be slowly moving forward after all these years.

Absconding idol theft accused arrested (India)
(30 August 2017; The Times of India)
Stole 32 idols from various temples over the course of years.

महराजगंज: महंगे शौक के चलते चुराई करोड़ों की मूर्तियां [ पूरी ख़बर यहाँ से पढ़ें: ] (Maharajganj Police arrest two people who stole idols worth cores from temple; India)
(31 August 2017; Dynamite News)
Arrested on a bridge, statues of Vishnu and Lakshmi recovered.

Smuggling of heritage furniture: UT begins probe into role of former director of Museum and Art Gallery (India)
(1 September 2017; The Indian Express)
Ongoing issues with Le Corbusier items in Chandigarh

Antiques smuggling: After DRI letter, Navjot Singh Sidhu writes to CM, seeks inquiry against Randhawa (India)
(1 September 2017; The Indian Express)
Randhawa has admitted to assisting accused antiquities smuggler Vijay Nanda

Sullia: Thieves steal idol of goddess, ornaments from Subrahmanya temple (India)
(1 September 2017; Daiji World)
Goddess Marakatha Durgaparameshwari temple at Subrahmanya

Mangaluru: 800-yr-old idol, ornaments stolen from temple (India)
(2 September 2017; Bangalore Mirror)
“From the historically significant Marakata Shri Duraparameshwari Temple in Nalkur village of Sullia Taluk”

Idol stolen from temple (India)
(2 September 2017; Kaumudi)
Panchaloha Lakshminarayana stolen from Urumi locality near Manjeshwaram

One of stolen plaques irreplaceable (Malaysia, Australia)
(2 September 2017; Daily Express)
Two bronze plaques at Labuan’s Surrender Point

West and Central Asia

Iraq establishes new security force to protect its archaeological wealth (Iraq)
(1 September 2017; Al Monitor)
Dhi Qar province created the force but there are questions as to if it is properly provisioned for the task.

Christie’s Defends Sale of 5,000-Year-Old Turkish Idol (Turkey, USA)
(29 August 2017; Courthouse News)
Guennol Stargazer case heats up

Christie’s and Hedge-Fund Titan Move to Quash Turkey’s Lawsuit Over `Stargazer’ Idol (Turkey, USA)
(30 August 2017; ArtNet News)
Claiming that the claim is outside any applicable statute of limitations.