Culture crime news 26 October–1 November 2015


Hot this week: Govts funding international antiquities protection? We’ll see.

Receive ‘Culture crime news’ as a weekly newsletter! Sign up here


The Scientist and the Forger: Insights into the Scientific Detection of Forgery in Paintings by Jehane Ragai
(30 October 2015)
If you work in art in any capacity, you NEED a primer on art science.


TV Turns to the Art World as the Latest Glamorous Setting
(28 October 2015; The New York Times)
“The Art of More” is a new series that purports to be set in the underbelly of the art world/

How museums employ security measures to counteract art thefts
(30 October 2015; Source Security)
Basic look at museum security.


ضبط خلية تنتمي لـ«داعش» استهدفت الأهرامات و«الإنتاج الإعلامي» (“Daesh” cell arrested for plan to target the pyramids; Egypt)
(26 October 2015; Almasryalyoum)
The multinational group is being held for 45 days pending charges that they were going to target Giza in an attack.

Egypt authorities blame destroyed archaeological sites on citizens’ ‘lack of cultural awareness’ (Egypt)
(28 October 2015; Al Monitor)
Is the state neglecting antiquities…or neglecting educating people about protecting them?


Encontraron en Colinas la campana de bronce de la Iglesia de Cabalango (Bronze bell from the church of Cabalango found in Colinas; Argentina)
(27 October 2015; El Diario Carlos Paz)
The bell was found during a raid after careful investigation by the police

What’s Happening With Ux Benka? (Belize)
(30 October 2015; 7 News Belize)
Update on this difficult case: black man is accused of squatting on and destroying an archaeological site. Maya community is accused of unlawfully imprisoning him.

Vandalism of REDress art project seen as further violation of missing and murdered aboriginal women (Canada)
(30 October 2015; Global News)
The dresses hang are hung from trees and 10 have been damaged or stolen.

Spain Returning over 100 Pieces of Stolen Art to Ecuador (Ecuador)
(27 October 2015; TelesurTV)
The items were seized during a drug financing investigation.

Sorprende a las autoridades robo de campana (Authorities surprised by bell theft; Mexico)
(30 October 2015; Línea Directa)
The bell was taken from the church at Carboneras

Art Collectors Find Safe Harbor in Delaware’s Tax Laws (USA)
(25 October 2015; The New York Times)
The Delaware Free Port: trust and tax advantages for “collectors” who see art as an investment.

Is one of the world’s rarest paintings lost somewhere in Washington? (USA)
(25 October 2015; The Washington Post)
You might just have a missing painting by James Alexander Simpson in your attic. Best check.

Exclusive: Feds Investigate Hobby Lobby Boss for Illicit Artifacts (USA)
(26 October 2015; The Daily Beast)
There are no words beyond “finally”.

Court rules stolen $200m Vincent van Gogh painting can stay at Yale (USA)
(26 October 2015; The Guardian)
Federal Appeals Court results for The Night Cafe case

Court to seek out-of-county judge for former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed’s case (USA)
(26 October 2015; Penn Live)
Recall the mayor allegedly misused public funds to buy stuff for a museum that was never going to exist. Basically artefacts for himself.

Monmouth’s Earp Birthplace Museum in limbo (USA)
(26 October 2015; The Register-Mail)
A weird situation. The renter was ‘renovating’ the space by removing various modern appliances without permission to make it look ‘authentic’.

Christie’s Withdraws Portrait Gifted By Richard Avedon After Foundation Complains (USA)
(26 October 2015; ArtNet News)
The Avendon Foundation asserts that the portraits were never intended for sale but it is unclear if there is a contract in place about this.

Canoe stolen decades ago returned to Stillaguamish Tribe (USA)
(27 October 2015; Herald Net)
The dugout was stolen in the 1960s. The Stanwood Area History Museum, in researching the piece in their collection, discovered this and voted unanimously for return

2 arrested, third sought after historic Lowndes Co. churches damaged (USA)
(28 October 2015; 12 WSFA)
Alabama’s historic rural churches are being targeted by copper thieves who destroy the fabric of the buildings.

OU Undergraduate Student Congress wants research done on art with potential Nazi ties (USA)
(28 October 2015; The Oklahoma Daily)
It is interesting to see the student group entering the discussion

Is a $20 auction find a Winslow Homer or a forgery? (USA)
(28 October 2015; The Washington Post)
Connoisseurs of yore have said it’s a forgery, but we all want to live the dream.

Stolen artifacts, ISIS money and a New Orleanian on the case (USA)
(28 October 2015; The Times-Picayune)
A profile of The Antiquities Coalition’s Tess Davis

Did BLM make undue show of force during Blanding artifact arrest? (USA)
(29 October 2015; The Salt Lake Tribune)
More on the controversial Four Corners/Operation Cerberus case

A New Battleground for ‘Classic Art’ (USA)
(30 October 2015; The New York Times)
Collection of disgraced/convicted former Sotheby’s chair A. Alfred Taubman is going under the hammer.

Vandals Steal SculptureWalk Art (USA)
(30 October 2015; Keoland)
This is the fourth time a sculpture has been stolen from the Souix Falls SculptureWalk.

Sculpture stolen from Tucson artist (USA)
(31 October 2015; Tucson News Now)
The piece by Al Glann may have been taken for scrap.

Scared teens return stolen artwork by Mr. Brainwash (USA)
(31 October 2015; Page Six)
The kids stole the sculpture using skateboard transport.


Kunst hat einen Wert, nicht nur einen Preis (Art has a value and it isn’t just price; Germany)
(23 October 2015; Die Welt)
President of the Bundestag Norbert Lammert argues against an unregulated art market

National monuments must be protected by clear laws (Ireland)
(27 October 2015; The Irish Times)
A call for a constitutional amendment and comprehensive legislation to protect cultural heritage.

Da Chicago a Trani: la Diocesi recupera 109 pergamene antiche (From Chicago to Trani: the diocese recovers 109 ancient parchments; Italy)
(29 October 2015; Trani Viva)
The documents were stolen in the 70s and 80s from libraries and archives.

Saving an Ancestral Cemetery (Poland)
(26 October 2015; BU Today)
The search for Jewish headstones that were used by the Nazis to pave roads.

Valuable painting of Paula Yates stolen in Hastings (UK)
(28 October 2015; BBC News)
The painting, by Stella Vine, was taken from a private home.

Royal Institution to sell ‘non-core’ items (UK)
(28 October 2015; Antiques Trade Gazette)
Scientists are speaking out against the sale of “non core heritage items”; more public to private flow.

UK gives £3m to protect Iraq antiquities from IS terrorism (UK)
(28 October 2015; BBC News)
The £3mil project is said to be a pilot for a larger fund

Literary vandal defaces the summit of Scafell Pike with poetry in permanent black ink (UK)
(30 October 2015; The Telegraph)
R. Bennet appears to have scrawled “The Emerald Tablets of Thoth” on the rock marker.

South and East Asia

Cambodia returns sculptural fragment after 3-D scans show it fits Cleveland Museum of Art’s Krishna (photos) (Cambodia)
(30 October 2015;
You saw that right, Cambodia returns it to the US! Interesting.

Ai Weiwei Accuses Lego of Censorship and Discrimination Over Bulk Order Refusal (China)
(26 October 2015; ArtNet News)
LEGO claims they cannot approve the use of their blocks for political works. Ai suggests this has something to do with LEGO’s ties to China.

Theft at Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh’s ancestral palace (India)
(25 October 2015; Hindustan Times)
Silver items were stolen from the private temple in Shantikunj Palace at Sarahan.

SIT formed to investigate theft at Virbhadra’s ancestral palace (India)
(26 October 2015; Hindustan Times)
Now a Special Investigative Team has been formed to look into this theft from the temple at Shantikunj Palace in Sarahan.

CG Road jeweller stole 300-year-old silver idol (India)
(26 October 2015; Ahmedabad Mirror)
The jeweller was given the idol for cleaning and refused to return it, claiming it was misplaced. The temple says he stole it after commenting on the price it would fetch.

Gang breaks into temple, decamps with cash, ornaments (India)
(27 October 2015; The Hindu)
The objects, including a silver necklace for the goddess, were taken from the Sri Rajady Rakteshwari Temple at Tallur village.

1,000-year-old Idols Stolen From Kooghaiyur Village Temple (India)
(31 October 2015; The New Indian Express)
The three idols were taken from Sri Raja Narayan Perumal temple.

Gazette sites to save artefacts (Malaysia)
(31 October 2015; New Straits Times)
The HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse battleships are being looted for scrap metal

Plunder, vandalism nearly empty Bohol burial site (Philippines)
(1 November 2015; Inquirer)
Only 20 boat-like coffins remain in the caves at Barangay Basdio and there used to be hundreds

Walking an ethics tightrope: The business of collecting antiquities (Singapore)
(27 October 2015; The Straits Times)
Thoughts on the magnet pull of the past and the need to save it

3-D exhibit to bring Korean cultural properties from abroad (South Korea)
(28 October 2015; Yonhap News Agency)
Pseudo return. Are digital versions enough?

Family Rift Clouds Death of Top South Korean Artist (South Korea)
(28 October 2015; Khmer Times)
Speculation that information about Chun Kyung-Ja’s death was kept from family members because of conflict over ownership of her artworks

West and Central Asia

Isil destroys Roman-era columns in Palmyra during execution (Syria)
(26 October 2015; The Telegraph)
These reports are currently unverified. Please remember that.

El lucrativo negocio de la cultura ilegal (The lucrative business of illegal culture; Syria, Iraq)
(26 October 2015; DW)
From Günther Wessel, author of Das schmutzige Geschäft mit der Antike

Gilded Bible seized in Tokat (Turkey)
(27 October 2015; Hurriyet Daily News)
Ten people were arrested and the Syriac bible, among other things, was seized.

Building a Museum Shouldn’t Violate Human Rights (UAE)
(26 October 2015; The Nation)
The Guggenheim’s Abu Dhabi project

In Other News

Batman, Captain America vintage comics stolen from Dartmouth driveway (Canada)
(28 October 2015; CBC)
The woman left the comics in her driveway while she was unloading her car.

Modern art installation removed by cleaners who thought it was party aftermath (Italy)
(25 October 2015; Metro)
Party’s over at the Museion Bozen-Bolzano, Goldschmied & Chiari’s ‘Where are we going to dance this evening?’ was cleaned up.

Unique painting stolen from Totnes pub for ‘a drunken laugh (UK)
(26 October 2015; Herald Express)
This “unique” painting of, ahem, a ‘half Nelson’ has been returned to The Lord Nelson pub in Totnes

Ram-raiders used BULLDOZER to smash their way into an antiques shop causing £500,000 of damage — but left empty-handed because there was no cash in the safe (UK)
(26 October 2015; The Daily Mail)
There you have it.

Upstate New York Police Stop Indiana Jones in Fast Cruise Raid (USA)
(27 October 2015; New York Magazine)
A man named Indiana Z. Jones failed to stop at a traffic stop and the police chased him down.