Culture crime news 11–17 July 2016


Hot this week: New World Heritage, new World Heritage at risk

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Cultural Heritage’s Nautical Future
(11 July 2016; The Wall Street Journal)
These spectacular sites are vulnerable to what amounts to commercial looting.

How Replicas Could Save Threatened Artworks
(12 July 2016; The Creator’s Project)
Can high-quality facsimiles replace stolen art and let the public interact with otherwise prohibitively fragile objects?


Libya’s archaeological heritage among the world’s most endangered (Libya)
(14 July 2016; Libya Herald)
“UNESCO explained that damage had already been inflicted by armed groups at or near the sites. It feared that worse could follow”.


Art thief John Mark Tillmann granted full parole (Canada)
(12 July 2016; CBC)
But he has been ordered to stay away from museums and libraries.

Hombre robó imagen de la Virgen del Carmen desde Parroquia Buen Pastor de Los Ángeles (Man steals statue of the Virgen del Carmen from the Buen Pastor church in Los Ángeles; Chile)
(13 July 2016; Biobio Chile)
The theft was recorded on a security camera installed within the church.

No ha habido robos en templos que son Patrimonio de la humanidad: INAH (There haven’t been robberies in church that are Heritage of humanity: INAH; Mexico)
(10 July 2016; AM De Querétaro)
They also say that the sacred art department of the Dioceses of Querétaro is charged with security at churches.

INAH debe entregar documentos sobre robo de piezas de arte (INAH must release documents about theft of pieces of art; Mexico)
(12 July 2016; Quadratin)
This is an order coming from the National Transparency Institute

Robos a iglesia católica deben preocupar a la sociedad: Diócesis (Theft from Catholic churches should worry society: Diocese; Mexico)
(13 July 2016; Quadratin)
A statement of concern from the Diócesis of Querétaro following a church theft in Amealco.

El Inai, el INAH y el robo de “arte sacro” (The INAI, the INAH, and the theft of “sacred art”; Mexico)
(17 July 2016; Excelsior)
The state must protect sacred art and be transparent about threats to it.

Así se recuperaron 150 piezas preincas que fueron profanadas de la Huaca San Antonio (150 Pre-Inca pieces looted from the Huaca San Antonio have been recovered; Peru)
(10 July 2016; Diario Correro)
A truly stunning haul including textiles, vessels, and a complete mummy.

Ringling Museum Asian art donor sues to get millions back (USA)
(1 July 2016; Tampa Bay Times)
Helga Wall-Apelt is suing the museum for breach of contract regarding a new wing for her donated collection.

Can a trove of Native American ruins be saved from eBay and ‘white people’ ideology? (USA)
(14 July 2016; Fusion)
Discussion of the threats to the Bear Ears area.

State successfully retrieves artifacts from dive company (USA)
(15 July 2016; Carteret County News-Times)
The artefacts were transferred as part of a state investigation into the nonprofit Surface Interval Dive Co.

Rocks stolen from Gettysburg Battlefield are cursed, repentant thieves confess (USA)
(15 July 2016;
This is a common occurrence at US National Parks and other historic sites.

Religious artifacts and equipment stolen from Chabad Jewish center of USC (USA)
(15 July 2016; Los Angeles Times)
The thief stole three pairs of tefillin.

Yale employee battling for job after smashing stained glass depicting slaves (USA)
(12 July 2016; The Guardian)
The African-American dishwasher at Calhoun College smashed the window and faces felony charges

Yale Drops Case Against Worker Who Smashed Window Depicting Slaves (USA)
(12 July 2016; The New York Times)
“No employee should be subject to coming to work and seeing slave portraits on a daily basis,” Mr. Menafee told a police officer

Break-in shuts Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson down until Tuesday (USA)
(10 July 2016; WETC)
The thief took money from a cash register and donation box as well as 3 civil war buttons.

Staff devastated after Civil War artifacts stolen from historic site (USA)
(12 July 2016; WECT)
The theft of the civil war buttons has had an emotional impact on museum staff, an aspect of art crime we rarely consider.

Senator continues battle to save Native American artifacts from theft and sale (USA)
(11 July 2016; The Guardian)
“The New Mexico senator who helped halt the auction of a ceremonial shield is attempting to crack down on sacred items sold on international markets”

Editorial: Rest of delegation should join fight for tribal artifacts (USA)
(13 July 2016; Albuquerque Journal)
The paper’s editorial staff urges all of New Mexico’s congresspeople to back legislation that would make dealing in Native American antiquities more difficult.


Art Dealer Under Investigation Again as New Evidence Emerges in Case of Stolen Picassos Linked to Yves Bouvier (France)
(12 July 2016; ArtNet News)
Digital devices seized from Olivier Thomas have revealed photos of the disputed artworks, allegedly taken by Thomas himself.

Art ‘Expert’ Vanishes With an Elderly Client’s Precious Leonardo da Vinci Sketch (France)
(12 July 2016; ArtNet News)
An “expert” that was tasked with authenticating the piece ran off with it. It is unclear why they think they can sell it on since it is so obviously stolen.

Nazi Art Loot Returned… to Nazis (Germany)
(15 July 2016; The New York Times)
Bavarian authorities tasked with returning art to Jews actually ended up giving the pieces to Nazis.

Un año y tres meses por robar en una iglesia rumana de Roquetas (On year and three month for theft from a Romanian church in Roquetas; Spain)
(13 July 2016; Diario de Almería)
Several sacred items were taken from the Orthodox church.

Destrozan con pintadas la fachada de la ermita del Calvario y sus estaciones de penitencia (The facade of the hermitage of Calvario and it’s stations of the cross destroyed by graffiti; Spain)
(13 July 2016; Marbella Directo)
The site was graffitied with black spray paint

Spanish Archive Raises Franco-Era Ghosts and Shadows of a New Chasm (Spain)
(16 July 2016; The New York Times)
Some family booklets and photos seized during the Franco era, are being returned.

Who Stole These Francis Bacon Masterpieces? (Spain)
(17 July 2016; The Daily Beast)
The five pieces were stolen from a Spanish banker’s home in Madrid.

MPs introduce Bill to return ‘Elgin Marbles’ to Greece 200 years after the UK decided to buy them (UK, Greece)
(11 July 2016; The Independent)
Some good arguments, but unlikely to gain any new traction.

How Lucian Freud and a grudge kept his rival from a fortune (UK)
(12 July 2016; The Telegraph)
Advertising the TV show Fake or Fortune, Freud always said it wasn’t his work.

Londoner’s Diary: Thieves steal the show from Soho gallery (UK)
(14 July 2016; Evening Standard)
“£100,000 worth of neon art hasn’t made the trip from Sweden”


Banksy stencils ‘destroyed’ in AC/DC Lane construction works (Australia)
(10 July 2016; The Age)
This was due to construction work to install a doorway.

Heritage New Zealand charges dropped against Marlborough landowners Haysley and Phillip MacDonald (New Zealand)
(13 July 2016;
“Marlborough landowners who risked displacing archaeological material close to the site of a historical massacre have settled with Heritage New Zealand following a lengthy and secretive dispute.”

South and East Asia

Hong Kong MTR trains graffitied by fugitive American artist pair; China may be their next target (Hong Kong)
(13 July 2016; South China Morning Post)
One of the artists is now being held in Australia for vandalism offences.

Items smuggled under guise of iron goods (India)
(11 July 2016; The Times of India)
Stolen idols and restricted wood were being smuggled together in a shipment that was purposefully mislabelled at Chennai Port.

DRI crackdown nets huge haul of red sanders, idols (India)
(11 July 2016; The Hindu)
“Antique stone idols, including one of Lord Vishnu, ivory statues, rare wooden carvings, walking sticks made of snake bones etc were among the seizures.”

भगवान की खोज में एएसआई के नेतृत्व में राजिम पहुंची पुलिस (Dantewada police looking for stolen idol of god; India)
(12 July 2016; Naidunia)
Another temple in the area was robbed on 7 July.

Idol robberies rising in Chhattisgarh, allege Congress (India)
(14 July 2016; The Times of India)
“Opposition Congress pointed out that an organised gang of idol thieves with international links was active in the state”

Deenadhayalan produced in CJM court in Srivilliputtur (India)
(14 July 2016; The Hindu)
The 84-year-old accused idol smuggler has been remanded to judicial custody until 27 July.

Theft in temple (India)
(15 July 2016; The Hindu)
Idols with silver masks and donations were taken from the Karnakata temple.

Looted antique idol recovered in Bargarh (India)
(15 July 2016; Orissa Post)
The statue was found dumped under a banyan tree.

Why confiscating idols alone will not break up the smuggling ring thriving in TN (India)
(11 July 2016; The News Minute)
The problems are more systematic and deep-rooted, a seizures won’t change the insecurity.

TN gets back two 1,000-year-old idols smuggled to US (India)
(12 July 2016; The Times of India)
The two idols had been stolen from Varadharaja Perumal temple at Suthamalli in Ariyalur district

Ariyalur to America and back: How 2 antique idols returned (India)
(12 July 2016; The Times of India)
The pieces are, of course, tied to Subhash Kapoor

The rogue’s gallery: Subhash Kapoor and India’s stolen artefacts (India)
(17 July 2016; The Indian Express)
A long read recapping much of the Kapoor case up to this point.

Gold goddess idol stolen from temple in Bargarh (India)
(13 July 2016; Prameya News)
The idol was taken from Maa Uma Maheshwari Temple located near Kurua Gaon.

Three statues smashed at 70-year-old place of worship in Jln Tengku Kudin (Malaysia)
(1 July 2016; The Star)
“Three statues of the deities at the Sri Muneeswarar Temple in Jalan Tengku Kudin… were smashed”

Police set up task force following desecration of 4 Hindu temples (Malaysia)
(11 July 2016; The Sun Daily)
The task force is committed to discovering the motive behind the spate of vandalism at Hindu temples.

Gold statues of deities stolen from Penang temple (Malaysia)
(13 July 2016; Asia One)
This is the fifth case of temple break in in Penang in the past two months.

End to Penang temple vandalism streak? Cops believe they caught the man (VIDEO) (Malaysia)
(14 July 2016; The Malay Mail)
“We have a CCTV recording showing him gesturing angrily at the deities before defiling them and stealing some items”

Another Chun Kyung-ja painting suspected of forgery (South Korea)
(11 July 2016; Korea Times)
“An art critic claimed that the sketches pieced together artworks in Chun’s catalogue published in 1995”

West and Central Asia

Leading Iranian artist accused by authorities of disturbing the peace (Iran)
(11 July 2016; The Art Newspaper)
“The accusations are that my art is based on ‘spreading the falsehood’ and ‘creating public anxiety'”

Netanyahu Reportedly Secreted Auschwitz Blueprints to Israel (Israel)
(13 July 2016; The Jewish Voice)
The Israeli PM apparently did not know he was doing something illegal.

UNESCO deplores damage to Aleppo National Museum; warns five Heritage Sites in Libya are in danger (Syria, Libya)
(14 July 2016; UN News Centre)
The list of World Heritage Sites at risk has been announced.

Turkey’s artists face growing government pressure (Turkey)
(11 July 2016; Al Monitor)
“Pressure to toe the AKP’s conservative line or face sanctions.”

Police seize priceless 2,000-year-old Aphrodite statue in Istanbul (Turkey)
(12 July 2016; Hurriyet Daily News)
One of the men detained claimed he got the artefacts in exchange for a house he had sold.

In Other News

China’s Toilet Shaped Building Defies Architecture Ban (China)
(14 July 2016; Artlyst)
There’s meant to be a ban on buildings that are “oversized”, “xenocentric”, or “weird”.

Pokémon Go in the Holocaust Museum or Ground Zero: Nintendo has no fix yet (General)
(13 July 2016; Vox)
The game encourages players to visit heritage spots, but some are deemed too solemn for hunting Pokémon.

North Korean diplomats implicated in illegal rhino horn trade — report (North Korea, Mozambique)
(15 July 2016; The Guardian)
The horns are reportedly being moved out of Mozambique by ‘dodgy diplomats’

Another attempt to find Amber Room fails in Poland (Russia, Poland)
(12 July 2016; TASS)
Ground penetrating radar results turned out to be wrong. No cavity found.

Stolen Southampton zebra sculpture leads art trail parade (UK)
(12 July 2016; BBC News)
A triumphant return for the painted Zebra!