Culture crime news 2–8 October 2017


Hot this week: A draft antiquities law for India that’s no steps forward and ten steps back

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Special thanks to Diana Berzina, Talfan Davies, and Luise Loges who have help compile Culture Crime News.


Why Art Basel’s New Ethics Rules Are Good News for the Market (and Other Insights)
(2 October 2017; ArtNet News)
The rules include a set of guidelines for exhibitors to ensure transparency and legal compliance. This does not mean the whole art market will “go legit” but it’s a step in the rigt direction.


Why ‘stolen’ artifacts cannot be returned now, by U.S. representatives (Nigeria, USA)
(30 September 2017; The Guardian)
The director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Arts insists it’s better to keep artefacts in the US and promote African culture there.

Why we can’t return African artworks –Smithsonian museum (Nigeria, USA)
(30 September 2017; Punch)
Dr Johnetta Cole thinks African cultural heritage is better off in the Smithsonian museum, because we do everything in our power […] to tell your stories.”


Thieves in smash-and-grab heist take ‘iconic’ museum gems (USA)
(29 September 2017; The San Diego Union-Tribune)
One of a kind gems stolen from a volunteer-run museum in Fallbrook, California.

3 sentenced to prison for looting Mississippi Indian mound (USA)
(30 September 2017; The Republic)
For looting at Doskie Indian Mound in 2014.

The Prison Guards Who Stole a Salvador Dalí Painting (USA)
(1 October 2017; Daily Beast)
Painted for the prisoners of Riker’s Island, stolen by guards

US court to decide on terror victims’ claim on lent artefacts (USA, Iran, Israel)
(2 October 2017; The Art Newspaper)
US citizens, injured in a terror attack in 1997, are suing to seize Iranian antiquities on loan to the Oriental Institute Chicago as recompensation.

Stolen Rockwell painting returned to family after 40 years set for auction (USA)
(5 October 2017;
“The 1919 painting, known as “Taking a Break” and “Lazybones,” was returned to members of the Grant family by FBI art crimes agents”

Handyman wanted in Sparta art theft (USA)
(8 October 2017; New Jersey Herald)
The missing artwork is valued at about $239,000 but no details about it are offered


Matisse’s heirs claim two cut-outs worth $4.5m (France, Hong Kong)
(29 September 2017; The Art Newspaper)
Heirs claim the cut-outs vanished while they were in storage

Renoir painting stolen before auction near Paris (France)
(30 September 2017; BBC News)
The small piece was on display in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in advance of the sale.

1,000 African Skulls Stolen for Racist Research in Germany Discovered in a Museum Basement (Germany, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi)
(6 October 2017; Newsweek)
“It seems like [von Luschan] got them from some burial places”

Italy’s heritage under threat (Italy)
(4 October 2017; EuroNews)
From deliberate destruction to theft

Police appeal for witnesses after 2000 pieces of silver stolen from Kent antiques dealer (UK)
(29 September 2017; Antiques Trade Gazette)
“More than 2000 items of silver were taken including carriage clocks, jewellery, dishes and cutlery”

Thousands of artefacts ‘missing’ from Britain’s top musuems (UK)
(1 October 2017; The Telegraph)
All museums misplace things, this article seems surprised by that.

Fraudster who tried to sell fake Greek bowl foiled by Poundland notebook (UK)
(2 October 2017; The Telegraph)
“Suspicions were raised by the Art Loss Register, which refused to issue a certificate”

Artists using living proof that their work is genuine (UK)
(2 October 2017; The Times)
Artists are turning to vellum to avoid possible forgeries of their works.

Police release images of paintings stolen from art gallery (UK)
(4 October 2017; Nottingham Post)
And the thief set fire to a painting of ODB…

Nighthawks cause damage at scheduled monument (UK)
(6 October 2017; Northumberland Gazette)
Holes 50m to the south of the Corbridge site and stuff has been stolen

The damage being done to our churches (UK)
(6 October 2017; KLFM)
It will cost £100k to repair damage to St Andrew’s in Walpole after roof lead theft

From Rhino horns to Egyptian jewels – these are the items that have been stolen from Leicester’s museums (UK)
(4 October 2017; Leicester Mercury)
Grab bag of local museum theft

Burglars steal cash from New Walk Museum – but ignore priceless artefacts (UK)
(4 October 2017; Leicester Mercury)
A close call for the collection


The government must bring the stolen Indigenous dead home (Australia)
(4 October 2017; The Guardian)
When will Australia have a proper keeping place for Indigenous remains?

South and East Asia

After Tip-Off, Police Roll Up Nationwide Tomb Raiding Gangs (China)
(3 October 2017; Sixth Tone)
34 suspects in rounded up for antiquities looting related crime

Antique Idol Stolen From Cuttack Recovered In UP (India)
(29 September 2017; Odisha TV)
“A rare ancient Buddha idol from Fakirpatna”

Theft at puja older than city (India)
(30 September 2017; Telegraph India)
Thieves struck in the night before the Durga Puja festival, taking ancient jewellery and saris from the idol.

4 try to steal idol from temple, land in villagers’ net (India)
(2 October 2017; The Times of India)
Villagers caught the failed idol thieves after being woken up by the break in.

वराह मंदिर से पांच सौ साल पुरानी पत्थर की प्रतिमा चोरी (Stone idol of the God Varaha stolen last night from temple; India)
(2 October 2017; News 18)
Villagers noticed the theft of the 500 year old statue the same night, finding the temple door ajar when returning from the field.

ASI writes to Indian mission at Australia with details of stolen artefacts from Tamil Nadu (India, Australia)
(3 October 2017; The Times of India)
The idols in Canberra have been traced to Tamil Nadu and the pieces in Sydney have been traced to West Bengal.

Madhya Pradesh STF arrests 2 men for smuggling antiques (India)
(5 October 2017; The Times of India)
Two idols and a painting dating to 1931 were recovered

Two held with antique idols, painting (India)
(6 October 2017; The Hitavada)
It is assumed the idols and painting were stolen from somewhere, but where?

Burglars decamp with temple jewellery (India)
(7 October 2017; India Today)
From the 500-year-old Ramachandi temple in Kendrapara, Odisha

Now, monumental fines for graffiti (India)
(7 October 2017; DNA India)
Fine of up to 5000 rupees and imprisonment of up to three months

Six panchaloha idols stolen from temple in Chennai (India)
(8 October 2017; The News Minute)
From the Srinivasa Perumal temple in Perungudi

10th-century Shiva idol to be on home ground soon (India)
(8 October 2017; The New Indian Express)
Taken from a Rajasthan temple 10 years ago, located in a London private collection

Draft antiquities bill triggers jubilation and alarm (India)
(6 October 2017; The Print)
Terrible: “draft antiquities bill seeks to do away with requirement of a licence for selling antiques”

New draft antiquities bill will facilitate idol theft & smuggling, say activists (India)
(8 October 2017; The Times of India)
What seems to be a spectacularly terrible idea, eliminating licensing for antiquities selling. There is no pro, only con.

Theft at Ekvira Devi Temple (India)
(4 October 2017; The Hindu)
The ornament on the dome was taken from the temple on the Pune-Mumbai highway

Temple’s Stolen Dome Sparks Quarrel Over its Fabrication (India)
(5 October 2017; Pune Mirror)
Villagers donated gold, but somehow that isn’t what the stolen dome was made of…

CBI faces flak from court as case of idol theft in Allahabad drags on for 37 years (India)
(1 October 2017; First Post)
The 37-year-old idol theft case is probably the oldest pending matter in the country of India.

CBI faces flak for delaying 37-year-old case (India)
(2 October 2017; The Asian Age)
A case of idol an theft that happened in 1981 is halted in its last stages because the prosecutor was transferred without a successor.

Bid to smuggle Mughal-era antiquities foiled (Pakistan, Afghanistan)
(7 October 2017; The Express Tribune)
Found in a car headed to Afghanistan; driver tried to bribe security personnel

West and Central Asia

Senate Minority Leader: Don’t Return Trove of Jewish Artifacts to Iraq (Iraq, USA)
(4 October 2017; The Jerusalem Post)
Charles Schumer is asking the State Department not to return antiquities that are legally the property of Iraq

Dead Sea Scrolls scam: Dozens of recently sold fragments are fakes, experts warn (Israel, Palestine, USA)
(3 October 2017; The Times of Israel)
The Museum of the Bible appears to hold fakes as well as likely-looted antiquities.

An Ancient Canaanite Treasure in Gaza Was Leveled to the Ground by Hamas (Palestine)
(6 October 2017; Haaretz)
“Tel Es-Sakan (hill of ash) was the largest Canaanite city between Palestine and Egypt”

In Gaza, Hamas levels an ancient treasure (Palestine)
(6 October 2017;
Development, not ideology, caused this destruction. It appears to have been a major site.

Swastikas found spray-painted outside settlement archaeology site (Palestine)
(3 October 2017; The Times of Israel)
“Incident is the third such defacement in the past four years” at the site

Swastikas Painted on Sign to Site of Ancient Susiya Excavation (Palestine)
(3 October 2017; Jewish Press)
Spray-painted on the ancient site’s sign.

Ancient Statue Damaged by ISIS Resurrected in Damascus (Syria)
(3 October 2007;
Palmyra’s Lion of Al-lāt is on display at the National Museum of Damascus.

Palmyra statue damaged by militants goes on display in Damascus (Syria)
(1 October 2017; Gulf Times)
The Lion of Al-Lat was moved to Damascus for restoration and is now on display in the National Museum

Two works of Ottoman-era Turkish national painter seized 5 years after museum theft (Turkey)
(5 October 2017; Daily Sabah)
By Hoca Ali Rıza, among 180 works stolen from the Ankara State Museum of Paintings and Sculpture in 2012

In Other News

Picasso’s Weeping Woman covered in National Gallery of Victoria protest against Wilson Security (Australia)
(6 October 2017; ABC Australia)
Protesting the museum’s contract with a security company that is involved in running detention centres

Louvre Pulls Sculpture, Saying It Was Sexually Explicit (France)
(2 October 2017; The New York Times)
“Domestikator” by the collective Atelier Van Lieshout shows, well, abstracted copulation

He smuggled a rhino horn artifact out of Miami, but the feds were watching (USA)
(2 October 2017; The Washington Post)
Member os the so-called Rathkeale Rovers successfully bid on an illegal Chinese libation cup made from rhino horn at an auction.