Culture crime news 9–15 October 2017


Hot this week: Obviously looted bull sculpture heading back to Lebanon

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Ethiopia: The Unfortunate Case of Ethiopia’s Looted Heritages (Ethiopia)
(12 October 2017; All Africa)
Antiquities trafficking is still rife in Ethiopia, official complain the law isn’t properly enforced.


US returns 95 works from money laundering banker’s collection to Brazil (Brazil, USA)
(12 October 2017; The Art Newspaper)
Former Banco Santos director Edemar Cid Ferreira, sentenced to 21 years in prison for financial crimes, had part of his art collection smuggled to the US. Now the items will go back to Brazil.

Why Isn’t Anyone Searching for Montreal’s Stolen Masterpieces? (Canada)
(12 October 2017; Observer)
On the 1972 theft of paintings from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

More than $20,000 in handcrafted items stolen from First Nations store (Canada)
(12 October 2017; Regina Leader-Post)
The stolen works were make by artists from Regina’s First Nations community

Police say plumber who stole $239K worth of comics, art from Sparta home fled to Italy (USA, Italy)
(9 October 2017; Daily Record)
Sold to art dealers and auction houses.

Richard Prince Wasn’t the First Artist to Face Copyright Battles—Just Ask Warhol and Rauschenberg (USA)
(10 October 2017; Artsy)
“Most disputes end in settlements rather than judgments in favor of the artist”

Christie’s to sell Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (USA)
(10 October 2017; The Art Newspaper)
“Salvator Mundi has been at the centre of multiple legal battles since its rediscovery.”

Some priceless Niihau shell lei return home (USA)
(11 October 2017; The Maui News)
25 precious leis and five knives were stolen from the store; $70k worth of leis were returned.

Multimillion dollar sculpture missing since 1930s discovered in Morris County (USA)
(11 October 2017; Daily Record)
Rodin bust of Napoleon had been sitting in a borough hall for 85 years

Reward offered for recovery of stolen Tourmaline pieces (USA)
(11 October 2017; Fallbrook & Bonsall Village News)
Specimens taken from the Fallbrook Gem & Mineral Society museum

Major Conceptual Artwork Is at the Heart of a Lawsuit Between Dueling Foundations (USA, Japan)
(11 October 2017; ArtNet News)
The disputed piece is The Mechanism of Meaning by Shusaku Arakawa, who owns it?

Forgery of ancient silk leaves chemical footprint (USA, Iran)
(11 October 2017; C&EN)
“Amino acid signature suggests artificial aging of purported Persian silks”

Harvey Weinstein Never Paid for the $100,000 Cecily Brown He Bought at Planned Parenthood’s Charity Auction (USA)
(12 October 2017; ArtNet News)
“Harvey Weinstein is not and has never been a donor to Planned Parenthood Federation of America…The $100,000 pledge referenced went unfulfilled.”

Owner of Missing Shirley Temple Dress Offers Big Reward for Lucky Finder (USA)
(12 October 2017; Closer Weekly)
A dress worn by child star Shirley Temple in a 1939 film has gone missing from an avid fan’s collection.

How an Oversight in Public Arts Policy Caused a Kerfuffle in Palo Alto (USA)
(12 October 2017; Hyperallergic)
The city is deaccessioning the work and the artist thinks it should stay city property.

Legal Threats Mount for Berkshire Museum as Deaccession Controversy Rages On (USA)
(13 October 2017; ArtNet News)
The museum may be violating state laws governing the deaccessioning of material donated to non-profit institutions with their controversial Rockwell sale.

Stolen comic book art in North Jersey highlights increasing value of original drawings (USA)
(10 October 2017; North Jersey)
Comic book collectors and dealers are taking out major insurance policies on their collection.

Theft of Marvel exec’s art reads like a comic book caper (USA)
(10 October 2017; North Jersey)
Contracted to repair water damage in the home of a Marvel executive, the man allegedly stole art and comic books.

Unesco: Israel joins US in quitting UN heritage agency over ‘anti-Israel bias’ (USA, Israel)
(12 October 2017; The Guardian)
Israeli UN ambassador applauds US decision to quit UNESCO, calling it proof that “absurd and shameful resolutions against Israel have consequences.”


Nazi-looted Pissarro painting at center of Paris legal tussle (France)
(9 October 2017; The Times of Israel)
“Court to determine whether 1887 gouache belongs to descendants of French-Jewish art collector or US couple who claim they unknowingly bought it in 1995”

Nazi-looted painting by impressionist artist Pissarro fuels legal battle (France, USA)
(10 October 2017; Daily Sabah)
The New York collector claims he bought the piece in good faith, however in the US good faith doesn’t grant good title.

Viking loot plundered: Irish help sought in tracing artefacts (Norway, Ireland)
(13 October 2017; The Irish Times)
Interesting note: the items stolen from the museum in Norway were Irish. The Vikings traded for them or, well, stole them.

Romanian Police recover 5,000 archaeological artifacts from treasure hunters (Romania)
(11 October 2017; Romania Insider)
“5,000 archaeological artifacts [seized] following raids at treasure hunters in Western Romania’s Caras-Severin, Arad, Timis and Bihor counties.”

Gurlitt’s Swiss dealer breaks silence on his client (Switzerland, Germany)
(12 October 2017; Expatica)
Art dealer Eberhard Kornfeld is surprisingly candid about his late client, but unsurprisingly, reticent about his own role in anything.

V&A director calls for Exhibition Road to be fully pedestrianised after 11 injured in accident (UK)
(9 October 2017; The Art Newspaper)
“Tristram Hunt had already voiced concerns” about the security situation on the road before the incident.

UK finally steps-up to Chinese ivory efforts (UK)
(9 October 2017; Sino)
The UK Government reveals the proposal to ban the trade of almost all ivory.

Border guards detain Briton who tried to smuggle collection of antiquities from Ukraine (Ukraine, UK)
(12 October 2017; Interfax Ukraine)
At the Porubne checkpoint, the article says historical items were being moved including coins, a bible, award pins, books, and swords.


Mutter Museum to return skull of Australian soldier killed in WWI (Australia, USA, Belgium)
(3 October 2017;
The skull belonged to Pvt. Thomas Hurdis of New South Wales who died near Ypres.

South and East Asia

A Chinese Museum Has Removed Photographs Comparing Africans to Animals After a Public Outcry (China)
(13 October 2017; ArtNet News)
“Yu Huiping’s photographs that seem to compare black people and wild animals have been removed” from the Hubei Provincial Museum

Open ‘art market’ may put a price tag on our Gods (India)
(11 October 2017; The Times of India)
Diluting the protections of the Antiquities Act in India

Maharashtra museum to get better security, go solar (India)
(11 October 2017; DNA)
Light and better security measures to protect about 40,000 objects

36-yr-old case: HC stays order of cost on CBI’s sr officer (India)
(12 October 2017; Outlook)
A cost ordered on the Director of Prosecution for delaying a 36-year-old idol theft case.

Theft of Aurangzeb-era Quran copy: HC Seeks Status of CBI Investigation (India)
(12 October 2017; Kashmir Observer)
The theft happened in 2003 but nothing has come of investigation.

600-year-old idol worth Rs 2.35 crore recovered, 4 held (India, Malaysia)
(12 October 2017; The Times of India)
Stolen from a temple at Uthiramerur near Kancheepuram, they planned to sell it to someone in Malaysia.

‘Join hands to fight idol theft’ (India)
(14 October 2017; The Hindu)
A call for high-def cameras and a potential order for handicraft makers to inscribe fabrication dates on their works.

Sword attacker charged with murder attempt (Taiwan)
(14 October 2017; Taipei Times)
He stole the Japanese sword from the Armed Forces Museum

West and Central Asia

Idol Wing IG’s special camp office comes up at Tiruchi (India)
(9 October 2017; The Hindu)
“One of the main objectives of forming the special camp office is to expedite trial in 363 cases relating to theft and burglary of temple idols”

Looted Antiquity, Once at Met Museum, to Return to Lebanon (Lebanon, USA)
(11 October 2017; The New York Times)
Lynda and William Beierwaltes have admitted that the bulls head was obviously stolen from Byblos.

Turkey launches new initiative to return stolen pieces of Zeugma mosaics from US university (Turkey, USA)
(10 October 2017; Daily Sabah)
The 12 mosaic pieces are at Bowling Green State University and really, really shouldn’t be.

In Other News

Censored ‘sexual’ sculpture finds new home at the Centre Pompidou (France)
(13 October 2017; The Art Newspaper)
“Domestikator” has found a new museum home.

Audrey Azoulay, former French culture minister, to be Unesco’s next director-general (General)
(13 October 2017; The Art Newspaper)
She beat Qatari candidate Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari just barely.

Thai man faces prison for doubting story about ancient king (Thailand)
(9 October 2017; South China Morning Post)
A Thai man questions the story about the ancient king and is charged with insulting the monarchy.

Dr. Seuss museum to replace mural after complaints that it depicted ‘jarring racial stereotype’ (USA)
(6 October 2017; The Washington Post)
Aspects of Seuss haven’t aged well.