Culture crime news 28 September–4 October 2015


Hot this week: Lots of ISIS antiquities targeting talk out of the USA

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Hitler’s Art Thief: Hildebrand Gurlitt, the Nazis and the Looting of Europe’s Treasures by Susan Roland
(2 October; Reviewed by Donna Yates)
A largely disappointing book about the amasser of the Gurlitt art hoard.


Real or forgery? Telling the difference is a fine art
(2 October 2015; Property Casualty 360)
The trials and tribulations of art appraisal.

Marion True Does Not Deserve Our Sympathy
(2 October 2015; Hyperallergic)
Walsh argues that despite attempts to change the narrative, Marion True was a curator who knowingly bought looted antiquities for the Getty Museum on multiple occasions.


Looted Egyptian figurine arrives from France (Egypt)
(2 October 2015; The Cairo Post)
The wooden figurine of a woman was stolen from a storeroom at Sakkara sometime after 2011 and smuggled in to France.

Egypt’s embassy in London restores smuggled pharaonic stele (Egypt)
(3 October 2015; The Cairo Post)
The stela was purchased by a UK citizen from ‘an antiquities merchant’. Upon realising it was stolen from a temple in Asyut, he sent it to the Egyptian Embassy in the UK.

Court Remands Scrap Dealer For Stealing Ancient Church Bell (Ghana)
(29 September 2015; Peace FM)
The individual was seen carrying the historic bell from the Methodist church by members of the public who chased after him.

‘Islamic militant’ becomes first person ever charged with destruction of heritage sites (Mali)
(1 October 2015; The Independent)
More on Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi at the International Criminal Court

Cultural property trafficking: Army says ready to help (Zimbabwe)
(28 September 2015; New Zimbabwe)
The national museums and monuments director has blamed corrupt curators and law enforcement for the smuggling of Zimbabwean cultural objects.


Las iglesias se blindan tras sufrir casi 60 robos este año (Churches protect themselves after suffering more almost 60 thefts this year; Peru)
(28 September 2015; Atlántico)
Most of these thefts have occurred in the diocese of Tui-Vigo

Knoedler Gallery Heads Ann Freedman And Michael Hammer Named In Court-case (UK)
(4 October 2015; Artlyst)
More on the Knoedler fakes fraud trial.

Man charged with breaking $120,000 Chihuly at Tacoma Art Museum (USA)
(29 September 2015; The News Tribune)
The man is accused of breaking the piece on purpose and has a history of mental illness.

Theft Strikes Chicago Art Fair as Paintings Are Stolen From Local Artist (USA)
(29 September 2015; ArtNet News)
Eight paintings by Lydia Cash were stolen. I am very interested in this ‘non elite’, ‘everyday’ art theft.

The Most Frequently Stolen Artwork in History Is…On the High Line? (USA)
(30 September 2015; Observer)
A new take on the oft-stolen Ghent Altarpiece, NYC public art

Stolen painting of whaling ship Bark Washington returned to Oysterponds Historical Society (USA)
(1 October 2015; Newsday)
The painting was stolen at least 14 years ago

How a fake masterpiece ended up on walls of Florida museum (USA)
(4 October 2015; Palm Beach Post)
A feature on forger Mark Landis and how one of his works entered the Boca Museum.

Trevor Noah calls Isis ‘capitalist hypocrites’ for selling stolen artifacts to the US (USA, Iraq, Syria)
(30 September 2015; The Independent)
Always odd when that thing you study ends up on the Daily Show, even if Jon Stewart is no longer there.

Pop-Cultural Heritage: The Daily Show, ISIS, and Looted Antiquities (USA)
(1 October 2015; Huffington Post)
Katie A. Paul, of The Antiquities Coalition, discusses how the Daily Show presented some nuances antiquities trafficking.

Information that leads to the significant disruption of Trafficking in Oil and Antiquities Benefiting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (USA)
(29 September 2015; Rewards for Justice)
A reward of up to $5mil for info leading to significant disruption of antiquities looting/smuggling linked to ISIS. I’m guessing ‘core research into effective policy’ doesn’t count for cash?

Uniting Against Threats to Cultural Heritage in Iraq and Syria (USA, Iraq, Syria)
(30 September 2015; U.S. Department of State)
What the State Department has funded with regards to, specifically, Iraq/Syria antiquities trafficking.

The Dark Side of Globalization: Fighting Illicit Trade to Safeguard Integrity Across Economies, Markets, and Supply Chains (USA)
(1 October 2015; United States Department of State)
Remarks made by David M. Luna, Senior Director for National Security and Diplomacy Anti-Crime Programs, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Association of Art Museum Directors Establish New Protocol for Protecting Antiquities (USA)
(2 October 2015; Art Forum)
We’ll see how this goes down: the AAMD doesn’t make the law and “owner” transfer to “Safe Haven” museums may not always be legal. We’ll see.


Lot-et-Garonne: 700 objets découverts chez les pilleurs d’églises (Lot-et-Garonne : 700 objects found in the home of church robbers; France)
(26 September 2015; Sud Ouest)
Two were arrested in connection to the theft of these items.

Hermann Goering’s ‘full catalogue’ of looted Nazi art published for first time (France)
(30 September 2015; The Telegraph)
The handwritten list of Goering’s collection, kept in the French diplomatic archives, has been published in full

National Treasure or Disputes of Heritage (France)
(2 October 2015; AMA)
The French Concept of ‘National Treasure’ in light of a recent Sotheby’s Paris sale.

Drunken tourists strip off for Roman bath in famous Italian fountain (Italy)
(30 September 2015; The New Zealand Herald)
The six British tourists face obscenity charges for swimming in La Fontana delle Naiadi, Piazza della Repubblica

For Norwegian Museum, a Loss Produces a Gain (Norway)
(28 September 2015; The New York Times)
The story of the Henie Onstad art museum’s return of Nazi-looted paintings to heirs.

How a long-lost Polish painting, likely stolen by Nazis, ended up in Ohio (USA, Poland)
(28 September 2015; The Washington Post)
A little more of the back story on the movement of this painting

Possible Nazi Tunnels Fuel Treasure Seekers in Poland (Poland)
(29 September 2015; The New York Times)
Imagined Nazi Gold Trains are great for tourism and terrible for heritage preservation.

Nazi ‘gold train’: Polish Army start digging but men who originally claimed find say efforts are ‘pointless’ (Poland)
(29 September 2015; The Independent)
Apparently the army just needs to dig deeper…

Atacan una iglesia y profanan el sagrario en Bigastro (Spain)
(30 September 2015; Infovaticana)
The thieves stole the crown of the Virgin in the church of Nuestra Señora de Belén in the town of Bigastro, Alicante

El acusado de robar una medalla a una Virgen afrima que era de su abuela (Person accused of stealing the medallion of a Virgin claims it was their grandmother’s; Spain)
(1 October 2015; ABC)
The person is accused of stealing the piece from the church of Asuncion in Montemayor.

Body found in London canal identified as Italian national (UK)
(30 September 2015; The Guardian)
The Italian man ha been previously convicted for the theft of a painting from Santa Maria della Fava in Venice in 1993. His cause of death is unknown.

How did a former Italian art thief end up dead in a London canal? (UK)
(4 October 2015; The Guardian)
More on the suspicious death of Sebastiano Maganini.

Chance For Locals To Turn Detective Over Art Forgery (UK)
(1 October 2015; Bath Echo)
The Victoria Art Gallery in Bath has included fakes in their display and visitors get to hunt for them! Fun!

Collapsed Hadrian’s Wall repairs carried out (UK)
(2 October 2015; BBC News)
The 23m section of wall fell due to people walking on it;the section itself was a 19th century reconstruction.

Serious intention to raise funds to save Sekhemka Egyptian statue (UK)
(2 October 2015; BBC News)
Preventing public to private antiquities movement? Sekhemka is being retained until 29 March 2016 as there seems to be a real intention for it to be bought within the UK

South and East Asia

Vanishing artefacts: China’s cultural treasures stolen or destroyed from lack of resources (China)
(28 September 2015; South China Morning Post)
Director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage Li Xiaoji called the looting situation in China “severe”.

3 tomb raiders die from lack of air while attempting to rob ancient grave in central China (China)
(30 September 2015; Fox News)
The human cost of the antiquities trade. Three of the five people robbing the tomb near Chengjiao, Yiyang.

‘Beef up security at Daulatabad Fort’ (India)
(23 September 2015; The Times of India)
A 13th century Ganesha was among the items stolen from this site.

Museum to return tainted art objects (India)
(23 September 2015; The Toledo Blade)
The museum is returning 114 sacred Indian objects that they received from smuggler Subhash Kapoor.

திருவண்ணாமலை அருகே கோயிலில் ஐம்பொன் சிலைகள் திருட்டு (Statue theft at temple near Thiruvannamalai; India)
(29 September 2015; Tamil Murasu)
The priest found the lock broken and the stone statues missing.

Cop dilemma over antique or fake (India)
(29 September 2015; Bangalore Mirror)
Five were arrested for trying to sell a Quran, but is the book authentic? Either way, they broke the law, but which one?

Art lovers to get a digital address under the Digital India campaign (India)
(3 October 2015; India Today)
This seems to be a move to get more people in compliance with existing antiquities registration legislation.

Deity’s headgear stolen from Miao Li Temple (Malaysia)
(29 September 2015; The Borneo Post)
The crown of Guan Yin deity statue was stolen.

West and Central Asia

Where Do ISIS-Looted Antiquities Go? (Iraq, Syria)
(30 September 2015; Vice)
A much better question is where do ANY looted antiquities go?

Iraqi historian claims ‘Jewish mafia’ behind antiquities theft in Middle East (Iraq)
(30 September 2015; The Jerusalem Post)
Among the stupidest and least helpful things these men could possibly say. The statement was made by the son of Khaled al-Asaad who was killed by ISIS.

ISIS Raid Netted Stolen Treasure Trove of Ancient Artifacts (Syria)
(30 September 2015; The Daily Beast)
This is about the items seized from the Abu Sayyaf raid which were later brought to Iraq.

Getty seeks to preserve memory of Palmyra’s Roman ruins through acquisition of rare photography collection (Syria)
(2 October 2015; The Art Newspaper)
The photographs were taken in 1864 by a French naval officer.

‘Kitchen-grade’ marble used in the restoration of ancient city of Aspendos (Turkey)
(28 September 2015; BGN News)
Local tourism officials criticise the restoration choices at the Greco-Roman amphitheater in Aspendos.

Turkey’s Culture Ministry defends restoration at Aspendos (Turkey)
(30 September 2015; Hurriyet Daily News)
The stone used was not ‘kitchen grade’, rather the correct type of marble. It will eventually age to look similar to the older stone.

In Other News

British archaeologist’s 19th century engraving found on Turkey’s Mount Ida (Turkey)
(1 October 2015; Hurriyet Daily News)
Graffiti! How naughty of archaeologist Frank Calvert in the 1860s.

James Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder found after 55 years? (USA)
(1 October 2015; Left Lane)
The Volo Auto Museum offered a $1mil reward for the car Dean died in which disappeared in 1960.