Culture crime news 21–27 September 2015


Hot this week: Picasso to France, Chinese and Mexican antiquities from France

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The Orpheus Clock: The Search for My Family’s Art Treasures Stolen by the Nazis By Simon Goodman
(27 September; Reviewed by Donna Yates)
This book changed how I view the restitution of Nazi-looted art.


There Is No Romance in Art Fraud
(24 September 2015; Huffington Post)
Anthony Amore on art fraudsters.

This is bad news for people who spend millions on art
(24 September 2015; Fortune)
Spurious lawsuits scare of art authenticators and the prices have gone up for previously authenticated art

Treasures… Beware of artful codgers
(25 September 2015; The Independent)
Watch out buyers: dealers are often dodgy and you are buying fakes.

A Tug of War Over Art-Sales Transparency
(25 September 2015; The New York Times)
The inherent lack of transparency in art auctions: a loss for the many, a benefit for the few.


Stolen wooden statuette to be repatriated to Egypt from France (Egypt)
(24 September 2015; The Cairo Post)
The piece was stolen from The Imhotep Museum at Saqqara.

Egypt FM warns of suicide groups threats to antiquities (Egypt)
(25 September 2015; Egypt Independent)
The statement was made at a conference in New York.

ICC arrests rebel accused of attacking ancient Timbuktu monuments (Mali)
(26 September 2015; Reuters)
The case of Ahmad Al Mahdi Al Faqi is the first instance of someone being tried in the International Criminal Court for heritage destruction

Rampant Illicit Cultural property trafficking- security details move in (Zimbabwe)
(22 September 2015; Mafriq Music Factory)
Apparently various security services have “vouched to use gunfire” to cut down on rampant artefact theft and smuggling in Zimbabwe.


Robo al Museo Arqueológico del Huila, un caso que quedó en la impunidad (Robbery of the Archaeological museum of Huila, a case that has gone unpunished; Colombia)
(21 September 2015; Diario del Huila)
A large number of gold artefacts were taken in this theft which has never been solved.

Inseguridad pega a templos católicos e instalan alarmas (Insecurity plagues Catholic temples, and they are installing alarms; Mexico)
(20 September 2015; Terra)
A series of thefts is forcing the Catholic churches of Mexico to increase security via cameras.

México recupera bajorrelieve monumental (Mexico recovers monumental relief; Mexico)
(24 September 2015; INAH)
The Olmec piece was looted from Chiapas in the 1970s and smuggled to France.

Ancient carving stolen more than 40 years ago in Mexico found in France (Mexico)
(24 September 2015; Fox News)
More on the return of the Olmec piece (in English)

México recupera en París una pieza olmeca robada hace más de 40 años (Mexico recuperates from Paris an Olmec piece stolen more than 40 years ago; Mexico)
(24 September 2015; La Opinión)
More on the Olmec return (in Spanish)

Lake County Cracks Down on Looting of Native American Artifacts (USA)
(21 September 2015; KQED)
Another article on the increase in artefact looting in the wake of California wildfires.

Police seek paintings stolen from Vineyard home (USA)
(22 September 2015; Cape Cod Today)
The paintings were stolen from the home of the artist.

Muralist victim in Capitol Hill art heist (USA)
(22 September 2015; Capitol Hill Seattle)
A painting was stolen from the car of Seattle muralist Ryan Henry Ward.

Building owner deals with fame of alleged Fairey art (USA)
(22 September 2015; The Detroit News)
An alleged Shepard Fairey has attracted vandalism to the building it is on.

Bozeman police on lookout for missing statue (USA)
(23 September 2015; NBC Montana)
The piece was taken from Emerson Center for Arts and Culture in Bozeman

Missing Sioux City Statue (USA)
(24 September 2015; Siouxland News)
The bronze “Goddess of the Grapes” is missing and presumed stolen.

Statue stolen from Little Flower basilica (USA)
(24 September 2015; My San Antonio)
The statue of St. Thérèse dates to the 1920s.

Criminal probe into misplaced BPL artwork quietly ends (USA)
(24 September 2015; The Boston Globe)
This caused a big stir when it seemed the pieces were stolen. They were just misfiled.


Man arrested with antiquities (Cyprus)
(26 September 2015; In Cyprus)
The man had 21 looted antiquities in his house in Meneou village.

The Billionaire, the Picassos and a $30 Million Gift to Shame a Middleman (France)
(23 September 2015; The New York Times)
The return of two stolen Picassos is far more complex than it seems. Dmitry E. Rybolovlev’s battle against dealer Yves Bouvier.

Russian billionaire hands two ‘stolen’ Picassos to French authorities (France)
(24 September 2015; The Telegraph)
More on Dmitri Rybolovlev’s battle against dealer Yves Bouvier

Stolen Picasso painting found in New Jersey makes its way back to Paris museum (France)
(24 September 2015; CTV)
La Coiffeuse, recovered from a FedEx box, is going back on display at the Centre Pompidou.

French Court Tosses ‘Guggenheim vs. Guggenheim’ Lawsuit (France)
(24 September 2015; Hyperallergic)
This was the 4th attempt by several France-based Guggenheim descendants to gain some control over properties owned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York.

150.000-Euro in Offerings Stolen from Greek Orthodox Church in Paros (Greece)
(24 September 2015; Greek Reporter)
A suspect entered the Greek Orthodox church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani on Paros and stole cash and offerings.

Oligarchs and Orchestras: Inside Luxembourg’s Secretive Low-Tax ‘Fortress of Art’ Warehouse (Luxembourg)
(21 September 2015; The Wall Street Journal)
High security, minimal taxes, discretion.

Expert Says M.C. Escher Museum Is Full of Replicas (Netherlands)
(25 September 2015; Hyperallergic)
The accusation is that the museum Escher in het Paleis has been knowingly displaying replicas as real for 13 years without telling the public.

Painting lost in WWII returns to Poland (Poland)
(26 September 2015; Radio Poland)
The painting was taken from the National Museum in 1944 but the article doesn’t say how it ended up in Ohio.

Se enfrenta a prisón por robar el cepillo la iglesia y la corona de la Virgen (Prison sentence for theft of the crown of the Virgin; Spain)
(25 September 2015; ABC)
A man has been given a prison sentence for stealing the crown of the virgin from Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Montemayor

Robados dos ‘goyas’ de una casa de Madrid (Two Goyas stolen from a house in Madrid; Spain)
(26 September 2015; El País)
The home of the anonymous owner was broken into, perhaps not to specifically steal the paintings.

Precious treasure from the Shipwreck The London – could return to Southend (UK)
(21 September 2015; Yellow Advertiser)
The pieces legally belong both to the council and Southend Museums Service.

100,000-year-old animal bones stolen (UK)
(22 September 2015; North Devon Journal)
The bones were taken from a cave in Buckfastleigh which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Hastings museum mascot missing (UK)
(22 September 2015; Hastings & St. Leonards Observer)
True Crime Museum’s mascot Jack ‘The Rat’ Mcvitie, a stuffed animal, has gone missing.

Thieves turn to stealing stone from roofs and graveyards to feed fashion for expensive home makeovers (UK)
(21 September 2015; The Daily Mail)
The articles says this is both a rural and urban issue as the demand for ‘used’ stone increases among homeowners.

Stevenage Art Society’s stolen mural found abandoned by 12-year-old schoolboy (UK)
(25 September 2015; The Comet)
It is still unclear who stole it.

Cambridge academic David Barrowclough jailed for six years after stealing £238k in lottery fraud (UK)
(23 September 2015; Cambridge News)
The archaeologist was convicted of bilking the Heritage Lottery Fund. A strange and surprising case.

Police launch nationwide appeal to trace stolen Hertfordshire artwork (UK)
(23 September 2015; Dunmow Broadcast)
23 paintings were taken from the studio of painter Alan Davie, but there is hope they can be traced.


Mt Surprise gem owner offers $20,000 reward for return of stolen stones (Australia)
(24 September 2015; The Cairns Post)
The gem, stolen in August, is still missing and the rural private museum wants it back.

South and East Asia

French collector returns gold artifacts to China (China)
(22 September 2015; Xinhua)
This is the second set of ornaments returned by Christian Deydier.

Treasure hunters ravage temples in Chittoor district (India)
(21 September 2015; The Hindu)
Because of local lore of hidden treasure, people have been digging under temples in Valmikipuram Assembly constituency in western Chittoor.

Alarm prevents idol theft (India)
(22 September 2015; The Hindu)
Although the robbers were not caught, an alarm in Sri Bairavanathar temple at Thagattur near Vedaranyam prevented idols from being taken.

Germany returns Hindu statue to India (India)
(23 September 2015; DW)
The Durga Mahishasuramardini was bought for $250,000 by the Linden State Museum for Ethnology in Stuttgart from art smuggler Subhash Kapoor.

Icon centres to protect prized ancient idols (India)
(27 September 2015; The Hindu)
Perambalur and Ariyalur are building “Icon Centres” to house idols that are currently in insecure temples in bid to prevent theft.

A Market Transcendent: Demand for Himalayan Bronze Is on the Rise (Nepal)
(20 September 2015; Blouin ArtInfo)
With a rising market for Himalayan pieces, particularly in China, we can pretty much say Nepali temples aren’t safe.

Arbitration claim over Korean pagoda ends in failure (North Korea)
(20 September 2015; The Japan Times)
The pagoda left North Korea under unknown circumstances and is now in the Okura Shukokan museum in Minato Ward, Tokyo.

Hanoians worry about more deadly collapses of colonial houses (Vietnam)
(25 September 2015; Thanh Nien News)
Of the 1600 French homes in Hanoi, about 600 are in private hands and may not be being maintained properly.

West and Central Asia

Legal settlement with Armenian church lets Getty Museum keep prized medieval Bible pages (Armenia)
(21 September 2015; Los Angeles Times)
The Getty keeps the pages, the Church is recognised as the rightful owner. The church contends that the bible pages were illegally separated from the rest of the book during the Armenian genocide.

Geneva orders Roman relic returned to Turkey (Turkey)
(23 September 2015; The Local)
The sarcophagus was seized from Phoenix Ancient Art by Swiss customs in 2010 during a freeport inventory check.

Turkey major conduit for Syrian ‘blood antiquities’ (Turkey)
(25 September 2015; Al-Monitor)
We can say Turkey is a transit country. Grain of salt on specifics, though.