Culture crime news 10–16 August 2015


Hot this week: Film maker? Idol smuggler!

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What is the Art Law on Authenticating Works by Old Masters? (General)
(9 August 2015; ArtNet News)
The legal standing and protections for art authenticators.

Why Is Stolen Art So Hard to Find? (General)
(14 August 2015; Slate)
I know, right?

The China Collectors by Karl E. Meyer & Shareen Blair Brysac [Review] (General)
(14 August 2015; Anonymous Swiss Collector)
My own review of the book The China Collectors by Karl E. Meyer & Shareen Blair Brysac


Community forced to pay tax to reclaim its stolen treasures (Kenya)
(9 August 2015; The Counties)
The Kenyan govt is charging a tax on 50 stolen Mijikenda cultural artefacts being repatriated from the US.

Robert Mugabe tells Natural History Museum to return human skulls (Zimbabwe)
(13 August 2015; The Guardian)
A strange morning when one totally agrees with Mugabe: “Surely, keeping decapitated heads as war trophies, in this day and age, in a national history museum, must rank among the highest forms of racist moral decadence, sadism and human insensitivity.”

2600 Zim artefacts looted (Zimbabwe)
(14 August 2015; The Herald)
In addition to the heads, Zimbabwe may be seeking the return of looted cultural artefacts now in the British Museum.


Adolf Hitler book stolen from rural museum north of Winnipeg (Canada)
(10 August 2015; CBC)
The book was taken from the Cook’s Creek Heritage Museum. Also taken was ‘a Jewish Badge’.

Sculpture stolen from Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery found (Canada)
(13 August 2015; CTV)
The piece was recovered and the alleged thief has been charged.

Saqueadores de cuevas atacan en Tulum (Looters attack caves at Tulum; Mexico)
(9 August 2015; Novedades Quintana Roo)
Underwater Maya cenote sites have suffered a lot of looting, most recently two weeks ago at Chan Hol near Tulum.

Queda lista primera etapa de medidas de seguridad en Catedral (First stage of security measures in Cathedra is ready; Mexico)
(11 August 2015; Uniradio Informa)
The Cathedral at Hermosillo has a new security system to help protect its sacred art.

PGR va tras grafiteros de pinturas rupestres (PGR going after rock art vandals; Mexico)
(12 August 2015; Sipse)
Vandals have spray painted all over the Cueva de Diablo rock art archaeological site at Totolac, Tlaxcala.

Se retractan pobladores de Tehuipango tras acusar de robo al sacerdote Lidio Limón (Residents of Tehuipango retract their accusation of theft against the priest Lido Limón; Mexico)
(13 August 2015; Alcalor Politico)
The community now says that they were too quick to judge the priest and have retracted their statements about alleged sacred art theft.

After Illegally Copying Sculptures, Billionaire Owes Artist $640,000 (USA)
(7 August 2015; ArtNews)
Unauthorized special-made Chinese copies of John Raimondi’s work were on display in California The copier has been given a $640,000 copyright infringement charge.

Los restos humanos en los pecios hispanos saqueados en Florida (Human remains in the looted hispanic wrecks off Florida; USA)
(10 August 2015; ABC)
As ships are looted under the guise of ‘salvage’, what happens to the human remains?

Honolulu Museum of Art sues donor for nearly $1M for selling undocumented art (USA)
(10 August 2015; Pacific Business News)
Joel Alexander Greene of San Francisco apparently ‘failed to provide documents that clarify the origin of the art, as he promised’. More of this needs to happen.

Attorney says former client can ID man in Gardner video (USA)
(10 August 2015;
Apparently someone has recognized the man in the ‘dry run’ heist video.

U.S. Says Mobster Lied, Claiming Ignorance Of Museum Heist (USA)
(12 August 2015; Hartford Courant)
The feds say they believe Robert Gentile was lying when he said he knew nothing about the Gardner heist.

Knoedler gallery and former director quietly settle three claims over fake paintings (USA)
(11 August 2015; The Art Newspaper)
That is three out of ten lawsuits. Terms not disclosed.

New York’s Hasted Kraeutler Gallery Closes Amid Accusations of Financial Misdeeds (USA)
(11 August 2015; ArtNet News)
One of the two partners is accused of financial misdeeds, which she denies.

Tennessee State Museum employee arraigned on theft charges (USA)
(12 August 2015; The Tennessean)
Kathy L. Alexander is accused of stealing more than $60k from the Tennessee State Museum while on parole for stealing from Habitat for Humanity.

Five years later, $550,000 gold bar stolen from Key West still in the wind (USA)
(12 August 2015; Keys Info Net)
The bar was stolen from a touch case in the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum which, obviously failed. The bar itself was salvaged from a wreck commercially and, thus, is already dubious.

Back of disputed painting lacks Nazi stamp, University of Oklahoma says (USA)
(14 August 2015; NewsOK)
The “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep” saga: the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art says no stamp, others say it must have been removed.

Looters desecrating state park sites (USA)
(14 August 2015; The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Looters have targeted Native American sites in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, California, at least 5 times in the past two years.


Sigmar Polke Estate Ordered to Return Allegedly Stolen Painting (Germany)
(12 August 2015; ArtNet News)
Seems to be a case of the artist’s disorganisation. The artist reported the painting stolen but later acknowledged that maybe he DID sell it to the collector in this case. The collector gets to keep the paining.

The search for a family’s art treasures stolen by the Nazis (Germany)
(13 August 2015; The Irish Times)
An article by Simon Goodman about his new book talking about his grandfather’s Nazi-looted Rubens

An Taisce files lawsuit against National Gallery of Ireland (Ireland)
(10 August 2015; Art Media Agency)
The NGO An Taisce are claiming that all export licenses for art issued after 1985 are illegal.

Dutch boy steals Pompeii relic to pay for iPhone (Italy)
(11 August 2015; The Local)
The boy says he was going to sell it on eBay for an iPhone. Another tourist turned him in and he has been charged.

Picasso Paintings Put Spotlight on Art Theft, Disputed Ownership (Spain)
(12 August 2015; NBC News)
Return of La Coiffeuse from the US and seizure of Head of a Young Woman in Corsica.

Government extends Sekhemka export bar (UK)
(11 August 2015; Museums Journal)
More statue saga. The deadline for a public entity in the UK to buy the thing has been extended to 28 August and could go on to 29 March 2016.

Wigan photography club treasurer accused of forging picture to win competition (UK)
(13 August 2015; The Telegraph)
The photographer is accused of stealing the work of Carri Angel, editing it, and passing it off as his own.

Police hunt man after £100,000 panther sculpture stolen from art show (UK)
(14 August 2015; Evening Standard)
The 1925 piece by Francois Pompon was taken from the Masterpiece Art Fair held at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.

Chandelier in First Minister’s official residence ‘may have been looted from Nazi Germany’ (UK)
(16 August 2015; The Herald)
Was it ‘”abandoned in one of the streets of Cleves”, in northern Germany, by English interior decorator Felix Harbord’? Or perhaps just flat out looted from Germany.

Smuggled Picasso Heading Home to France After 14-Year Odyssey (France)
(12 August 2015; Bloomberg)
Stolen from Centre Georges Pompidou in 2001, La Coiffeuse turned up in a FedEx container in Newark.


Court fight over Maori artefacts comes to an end (New Zealand)
(14 August 2015; The Northern Advocate)
The 9 taonga were found during stabilisation works and courts have determined that they can’t determine which Maori group claimant should have it.

South and East Asia

Suspects stick to stories in Oudong theft (Cambodia)
(12 August 2015; The Phnom Penh Post)
The six men charged with stealing ‘a golden urn said to hold the Buddha’s remains from Oudong Mountain’ await a verdict.

How a Chinese librarian made $6 million in forged art over two years (China)
(10 August 2015; National Post)
More on Xiao Yuan’s theft and forgery at Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts.

‘Cloud Gate’-Gate: Artist Refutes Chicago Mayor over China Art (China)
(14 August 2015; The Wall Street Journal)
Anish Kapoor is surprised that Rahm Emanual is not taking the Chinese copy of the bean/cloud gate seriously.

From Nataraja to Yogini Vrishanana, 13 antiques India did bring back (India)
(10 August 2015; The Indian Express)
Some numbers and case notes.

Accused in idol theft case held in capital city (India)
(12 August 2015; Kaumudi Online)
An arrest was made for the theft of an idol from the Anandavalleeswaram temple in Kollam.

Stolen panchaloha idol recovered from capital suburb (India)
(13 August 2015; The Hindu)
The 400-year-old idol of Lord Krishna stolen from Anandawalleshwaram Sri Mahadevar Temple in Kerala was recovered and police have made an arrest.

Eight ‘stolen’ ornaments found in hundi (India)
(13 August 2015; The Hindu)
Several ornaments that were reported stolen from the historical Sri Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple a few years ago were found returned in a donation box.

Gang trying to sell 500-yr-old Quran busted in Karnataka (India)
(13 August 2015; The Indian Express)
By law the people were meant to have informed the Archaeology Dept that they were in possession of the book. It is unclear where they got it.

Veteran filmmaker held for idol smuggling (India)
(13 August 2015; The Times of India)
Tamil director/producer V Sekar has been arrested on charges of smuggling 8 stolen idols. Wild!

Filmmaker in idol theft net (India)
(14 August 2015; The Telegraph)
More on V Sekar. Speculation that he entered the idol theft ring due to recent film failures.

Idol smuggling: Woman journo turns approver (India)
(15 August 2015; The Times of India)
The journalist that is accused of being in the idol smuggling ring along with filmmaker V Sekar has confessed and offered testimony against the others.

Kapoor’s Clues Help TN Cops Locate Antiques (India)
(15 August 2015; The New Indian Express)
Police following up on Kapoor.

45,000 Temples Across TN Vulnerable to Theft (India)
(15 August 2015; The New Indian Express)
That number is more like how many temples are in TN, not which are likely targets.

Kundapur: Items worth Rs 70 lac stolen from temple, lack of security exposed (India)
(15 August 2015; Daijiworld)
Among the items stolen from the Saukuru Durgaparameshwari Temple was a gold idol. Lots of photos of the investigation.

Singapore Museum Has Eight Idols Stolen From TN (Singapore)
(15 August 2015; The New Indian Express)
These are items tied to Subhash Kapoor

South Korean monk gets six years in prison for stealing Japanese religious items (Japan)
(13 August 2015; The Japan Times)
They stole a statue and 360 volumes of Buddhist scripture from the Bairin temple in Tsusshima.

Monk jailed for Buddha statue theft (Japan)
(13 August 2015; IOL News)
More on this story

A step toward bringing Korean treasures home (South Korea)
(10 August 2015; Korea JoongAng Daily)
A look at the work of the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation

In Other News

Is it OK to buy replica furniture? (Australia)
(11 August 2015; Domain)
Design theft is art theft.

Police taunt Manchester United fans on Twitter after theft from football museum (UK)
(13 August 2015; Mirror)
The police made light of a scarf theft from the museum shop and everyone had a grump about it.


Artwork by Stik