Culture crime news 22–28 February 2016


Hot this week: Site guards murdered in Egypt.

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The Lives of Colonial Objects edited by Anabel Cooper, Lachy Paterson, and Angela Wanhalla
(29 February 2016)
A beautiful, personal collection of vignettes about the meanings of material things from New Zealand’s past.


Where it is safe to do so, cultural artefacts should be repatriated
(23 February 2016; The Economist)
The complicated business of return, with quotes from me!

To Detect Fakes, Art Meets Science
(24 February 2016; The Wall Street Journal)
Science as art buyer reassurance.

How western art collectors are helping to fund Isis
(26 February 2016; The Guardian)
“For collectors, the solution is simple: don’t buy antiquities without completing due diligence. If you truly love art and antiquities, do not buy stolen art.”

Illicit antiquities chic? Faux decapitated Buddha heads as decor
(26 February 2016; Anonymous Swiss Collector)
A surprising number of fake decapitated Buddha heads are available at your high street shops.


Guard Shot Dead by Looters at Archaeological Site in Egypt (Egypt)
(22 February 2016; ArtNet News)
The guards shot in the looting attempt have died.

Looters Kill Two Guards at Ancient Egyptian Necropolis (Egypt)
(22 February 2016; Hyperallergic)
The guards have been identified as A’srāwy Kāmel Jād and Ali Khalaf Shāker. The looters are still at large.


Roban dos piezas del Museo Larreta (Two pieces stolen from the Larreta Museum; Argentina)
(10 February 2016; Ámbito Financiero)
A ceramic plate and a pieta statue were found to be stolen.

$5,000 statue stolen from Ottawa restaurant (Canada)
(25 February 2016; Ottawa Sun)
The Ganesh wasn’t ancient, but it was still stolen.

Saquean zona arqueológica (Archaeological sites looted; Mexico)
(22 February 2016; El Sol de León)
Looting at the archaeological site of Cerrito de Jerez in León.

Temen saqueo de piezas arqueológicas en Sierra La Palma de Altamira (Archaeological pieces feared looted in Sierra La Palma, Altamira; Mexico)
(24 February 2016; Hoy Tamaulipas)
City officials fear that archaeological sites are not being protected from looting.

Thief returns missing Waldo Water Tower painting to KC library with remorseful letter included (USA)
(22 February 2016; Fox 4 KC)
“I made a very immature and stupid mistake by taking this painting.”

University of Oklahoma agrees to return Nazi-stolen painting (USA)
(23 February 2016; Associated Press)
Camille Pissarro’s 1886 “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep” will be returned to a French Holocaust survivor.

Judge Swaps Vote on Iran Bank to Save Relics (USA, Iran)
(23 February 2016; Courthouse News Service)
Another step for a complicated, long running case.

Theft of Tiffany window unsolved (USA)
(24 February 2016; Mount Desert Islander)
The piece was taken from St. Saviour’s Church, Bar Harbor, Maine 28 years ago.

Preservation Is a Civil Rights Issue (USA)
(25 February 2016; Indian Country Today)
“When it comes to treating Native peoples and their ancestral lands with respect, some politicians and outdoor enthusiasts seem to have a double standard.”

Native art goes missing from Juneau school (USA)
(26 February 2016; Juneau Empire)
The pieces were taken off the wall of the Glacier Valley Elementary School library.

Birmingham Museum of Art wants painting gone, but who owns the artwork? (USA)
(26 February 2016;
The piece is on loan, but from who?

Richard Prince Moves to Dismiss Latest Copyright Infringement Lawsuit (USA)
(26 February 2016; ArtNet News)
The case “could have major implications for intellectual property law.”

Met clarifies ‘pay what you wish’ entry after legal settlement (USA)
(26 February 2016; The Art Newspaper)
So “recommended admission” will now be “suggested admission”. In other words, no you do not have to pay.

Harrisburg to National Civil War Museum: Secure our artifacts or else (USA)
(22 February 2016; Penn Live)
City owned artefacts were stolen from this not for profit, privately-owned museum and the city has demanded better security.

Alarm system disconnected at National Civil War Museum prior to burglary (USA)
(25 February 2016; Penn Live)
How it became disconnected and why the disconnection didn’t alert anyone is unclear.

Museum officials disagree over security issues that led to pistol theft (USA)
(27 February 2016; ABC27)
Now there is going to be an outside security review.

Suspect identified in Albuquerque museum dog statue theft (USA)
(23 February 2016; KRQE News)
The police have identified a suspect in the theft of a dog statue from the Albuquerque Museum of Art.

Police arrest suspect in stolen dog statue case (USA)
(25 February 2016; KOB4)
The man who allegedly stole a dog statue from the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History has been arrested.


2 Treasure Hunters Arrested While Destroying Ancient Roman City Ratiaria near Bulgaria’s Archar (Bulgaria)
(8 February 2016; Archaeology in Bulgaria)
They were looting the Roman site of Ratiaria

Treasure Hunters Destroy Ancient Roman Bridge near Bulgaria’s Drangovo in Search of Legendary Gold Treasure (Bulgaria)
(23 February 2016; Archaeology in Bulgaria)
“The Ancient Roman bridge on the Peshterska River seems to have been destroyed over the past weekend when local residents have seen evidence of treasure hunting raids all over Drangovo”

Setback for Picasso’s Daughter in Battle Over Sculpture (France)
(25 February 2016; The New York Times)
Maya Widmaier-Picasso has been ordered to pay €28k to the Qatari royal family as she allegedly sold it to Larry Gagosian after it had already been sold.

Symposium at MKG develops ideas for dealing with silver formerly owned by Jews in museums (Germany)
(22 February 2016; Art Daily)
Hosted at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg which has about 3000 silver objects that were part of Nazi confiscation operation.

Police seize 1 mln euros’ worth of antiquities from three suspects (Greece)
(26 February 2016; eKathimerini)
The men were arrested in Athens with artefacts that appear to have come from Melitaia.

Statue stolen from Mussolini’s Roman villa to be returned (Italy, USA)
(26 February 2016; The Art Newspaper)
The current “owner” [sic] tried to sell it via an auction house in New York when it got flagged as stolen in 1983. Another win for US Attorney Preet Bharara.

The Art Loss Register locates two paintings stolen in a house burglary in Amsterdam in 2010 (Netherlands, Switzerland)
(16 February 2016; Art Daily)
The pieces were identified in a Swiss auction house catalogue.

Rare $3 million painting by French master Jean-Léon Gérôme returned after 70 years (Russia)
(25 February 2016; The Siberian Times)
Stolen at “a time when people were not looking for entertainment, but for food”.

U.S. will return stolen historical documents to Russia (Russia, USA)
(26 February 2016; Russia Beyond the Headlines)
The 18th through 20th century documents were stolen from archives in the 90s and 00s.

Get Ready for the Upcoming ‘Beast Jesus’ Documentary (Spain)
(22 February 2016; ArtNet News)
Our favourite ‘restoration’ is back and on TV.

De robar vírgenes en León a plagiar la Gioconda (Stealing virgins in León to fake the Mona Lisa; Spain)
(23 February 2016; Diario de León)
An exhibition of ‘copies’ by art forger Erik el Belga

Archivan tras cinco años la mayor operación contra el expolio en décadas (Biggest operation against against plundering in decades shelved after five years; Spain)
(24 February 2016; Ideal)
With 85 arrested and thousands of antiquities recovered.

Roban varias de las conchas de bronce que indican el Camino de Santiago en Valladolid (Some of the bronze shells that mark the Camino de Santiago in Valladolid are stolen; Spain)
(25 February 2016; El Norte de Castilla)
Sixty shells in total mark the walk.

Right-on students demand Cambridge removes bronze statue …because it was looted by Britain (UK, Nigeria)
(22 February 2016; Express)
But calling this a ‘political correctness row’ reveals the reality of this news source.

Chelmsford Museum gold coin theft linked to national security alert (UK)
(24 February 2016; The Art Newspaper)
The 14 coins which were stolen appear to be linked to a threat warning for UK museums.

Police search for stolen 18th century prints (UK)
(25 February 2016; East Grinstead Online)
Five out of 6 18th century small Hogarth prints were taken.

UK Imposes Export Ban on $2.9 Million Giacometti Sculpture (UK)
(26 February 2016; ArtNet News)
But will someone match the asking price of £2mil+?

Cambridge church community devastated by theft of ‘priceless’ stained glass window (UK)
(23 February 2016; Cambridge News)
The 700-year-old window in St Mary & St Michael, Trumpington, had only been reinstalled 6 months ago and was taken over the weekend.

Church congregation in shock after thieves steal priceless medieval stained glass window (UK)
(24 February 2016; ITV News)
A CCTV image of the thief has been released.


Graffiti tagger destroys historical Smith Street feminist mural (Australia)
(26 February 2016; The Age)
The piece was painted in 1986 by Melbourne artists Eve Glenn and Megan Evans and is likely too badly damaged to save.

Australian gallery identifies looted Indian treasures (Australia, India)
(26 February 2016; Nikkei)
“The gallery aims eventually to publish the provenance of all 5,000 objects in its Asian art collection.”

South and East Asia

Denver museum to return last of looted Cambodian statues (Cambodia, USA)
(24 February 2016; Digital Journal)
“How do you think they reached the market, many missing their feet and any paperwork?”

Cambodian warrior comes home: Denver Art Museum returns Khmer statue (Cambodia, USA)
(26 February 2016; The Art Newspaper)
The last of the looted Prasat Chen pieces is back in Cambodia.

Cultural Protection Law Revision Triggers Doubts as China’s Economy Slows (China)
(26 February 2016; The Wall Street Journal)
“The change would hand too much power to local governments and make it easier for historic sites to be destroyed.”

Ancient Buddha sculpture head to return to mainland after 20 years (China, Taiwan)
(22 February 2016; ECNS)
It was returned by a private collector.

Taiwan Buddhist helps lost statue head home after 20 years (China, Taiwan)
(26 February 2016; Shanghai Daily)
The piece was stolen from Youju Temple in Hebei province in 1996.

Karkala: Thieves break into Shirlalu Basadi, decamp with valuable idols, ornaments (India)
(21 February 2016; Daijiworld)
The idols and other pieces were taken from the historic Shree Adinathaswamy Basadi in Shirlalu in Karkala.

Idols, jewellery stolen from Jain Basadi (India)
(22 February 2016; The Hindu)
The four mini idols are around 150 years old.

Three Held for Temple Heist in Odisha (India)
(23 February 2016; The New Indian Express)
Two of the arrested were temple watchmen. They allegedly stole a gold cobra.

Calangute theft probe draws blank (India)
(24 February 2016; The Times of India)
No breaks in the case of several Christian statues stolen from Sant Khuris chapel.

1000-year-old Idol Awaits ‘Security Clearance’ (India)
(24 February 2016; The New Indian Express)
The Uma will not be returned to the temple it was stolen from until the ASI is happy that it is secure.

Dolls Worth Rs 25 Lakh Stolen From Museum Warehouse In Rajkot (India)
(25 February 2016; Scoop Whoop)
The museum features over 700 dolls from 110 countries; these were missing from storage.

ఆలయంలో నంది విగ్రహం చోరీ (Nandi temple theft; India)
(27 February 2016; Sakshi Post)
The theft of the idol was noticed by devotees. There were two other attempted thefts at this temple.

ASI seeks info on provenance of idols (India)
(28 February 2016; The Hindu)
More partnership between the ASI and French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP) to look at stolen idol provenance.

Old graveyard dug up and no one knows who’s doing it (Pakistan)
(26 February 2016; The Express Tribune)
The Lakho Pir graveyard dates back at least 800 years and it is unclear who is destroying it.

Art gallery owner admits keeping client’s $2m (Singapore)
(27 February 2016; The Straits Times)
Jasmine Tay admitted to keeping S$2mil that was given to her by an Indonesian tycoon to buy art.

West and Central Asia

Boy finds ancient figurine during Beit She’an outing (Israel)
(25 February 2016; Times of Israel)
A rare positive story for us. The little boy was given a good citizen award by the Israeli Antiquities Authority for reporting his find. Well done!

Stolen archaeological pieces seized in Qamishli (Syria)
(26 February 2016; Syrian Radio & TV)
The pieces appear to have been stolen from various archaeological sites.

In Other News

Naughty Dog Apologizes For Stolen Artwork in Uncharted 4 Trailer (General)
(25 February 2016; The Escapist)
The game maker has acknowledged they used artwork by Azaizia Aymar without permission.

‘We think owl Kevin was stolen to order’ — Baytree Owl Centre manager (UK)
(25 February 2016; Spalding Guardian)
Oh no! Kevin!

Tucson gem show dinosaur smuggler convicted (USA)
(24 February 2016; Arizona Daily Star)
“Jun Yang, a 36-year-old resident of British Columbia, pleaded guilty to smuggling a psittacosaurus fossil and 16 hadrosaur egg fossils into the United States.”

New rewards offered in case of stolen championship boxing belts (USA)
(25 February 2016; Localsyr)
Tony Zale’s belts were stolen from the Boxing Hall of Fame.

Man charged with stealing $25,000 in rare video games (USA)
(25 February 2016; Reading Eagle)
The man stole them as a house guest. Nearly all of the games have been recovered.

Some Asshole Stole This Gorgeous Piece of Batman Art Before It Reached Its New Owner (USA)
(26 February 2016; io9)
The commissioned piece by Bill Sienkiewicz was stolen en route.