Culture crime news 13–19 March 2017


Hot this week: Many recoveries of stolen European art

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The Hidden World of Stolen Art and Artifacts
(14 March 2017; WMRA)
A short radio piece

What Happens If You Break an Artwork?
(14 March 2017; Artsy)
Generally if it is a mistake and you’re a museum-goer, you won’t have to pay.

Why everyone’s talking about forensics in the art market
(15 March 2017; Apollo)
It’s all money and mitigating substantial risk.

Is museum security robust enough to counter crime and terrorism?
(16 March 2017; Apollo)
“Operating cultural heritage sites in the modern era is not without risk”

Why expensive security alarms could actually be putting your valuables at risk
(18 March 2017; Wired)
Charney asserts that reliance on tech “is leaving loopholes in the world of art crime”


Egypt thwarts 24 cases of antiquities theft in one week (Egypt)
(13 March 2017; Andalou Agency)
“In the period from March 7 to 12, Egyptian tourism and antiquities police carried out raids targeting suspected antiquities thieves in ten different provinces”

New Kingdom mummy mask recovered from France (Egypt, France)
(18 March 2017; Ahram Online)
The piece was stolen from the Elephantine Antiquities Galleries in Aswan in 2013 and recovered from an auction house.

Crosses under grave threat (South Africa)
(13 March 2017; Times Live)
“Almost all of the 22000 cast-metal crosses on the graves of British and Imperial soldiers who died during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) have been stolen in the past 20 years.”


Tráfico de bienes culturales: las claves del cuarto comercio ilegal del mundo (Trafficking in cultural goods: the keys to the fourth largest illegal market in the world; Argentina)
(19 March 2017; Clarín)
A long piece in Spanish on Cultural Property trafficking and art crime

Bolivia ratifies the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (Bolivia)
(1 March 2017; UNESCO)
They may be landlocked, doesn’t mean they don’t care about underwater heritage protection

Windsor art heist: $20,000 taken in early morning break-in (Canada)
(13 March 2017; Windsor Star)
The items and artwork were taken from the artist Denial.

Otras piezas “Quimbaya” de los tesoros colombianos en el exterior y en el interior del país (Other “Quimbaya” Colombian treasure pieces abroad and inside the country; Colombia, Spain)
(19 March 2017; Cronica Del Cuinddio)
Some want the famous Quimbaya treasure returned, but how about the Quimbaya cultural objects in other collections?

$8k in artwork stolen from North Valley home (USA)
(13 March 2017; Albuquerque Journal)
Some of the paintings were by the robbery victim herself.

$6,000 worth of paintings stolen from Saugerties art studio (USA)
(13 March 2017; Daily Freeman)
“The artist, Kelli Bickman, said three of her paintings, along with one by T.S. Young, a deceased artist, were stolen, and other works were vandalized.”

Woman suspected of stealing painting, police say (USA)
(13 March 2017; Channel 3000)
The suspect is in jail on an unrelated charge and the painting has not been recovered.

WWII vet hopes Japanese flag can be given to owner’s family (USA, Japan)
(13 March 2017; The Daily Astorian)
A desire to return spoils taken off the body of a Japanese soldier.

WPD: $40,000 worth of paintings stolen from south Wichita storage unit (USA)
(14 March 2017; KWCH)
Works of artists including Marco Sassone and Don Ruffin

For Holocaust victims, a path to reclaim stolen assets and stories of their loved ones (USA)
(15 March 2017; Miami Herald)
Research at the Holocaust Museum is helping families find justice.

Priceless Van Goghs or just plain art? (USA)
(16 March 2017; The Daily Mail)
Unauthenticated works that were once in the possession of Jelle de Boer, a controversial figure in the Van Gogh world.

The Forged ‘Ancient’ Statues That Fooled the Met’s Art Experts for Decades (USA)
(16 March 2017; Atlas Obscura)
Looking at the photos of these today is almost painful.

Stolen gold rings and cross devastating to St. Leo Abbey, community (USA)
(16 March 2017; WFLA)
Rings and a gold cross were taken from a display case

How One Anthropologist Balances Human Skeletons And Human Rights (USA)
(17 March 2017; Forbes)
A feature on Chip Colwell

Bronze arrowhead stolen from Ditto Landing sculpture (USA)
(17 March 2017; WAFF)
The large piece was bronze so this seems likely to be a theft for scrap

DC Police: Historical item given to President Reagan by PM Margaret Thatcher stolen (USA, UK)
(17 March 2017; WJLA)
“The tea set was stolen within the last month from the Capitol Hill home of Jim Denton, son of late Alabama Senator Jeremiah Denton.”

Six theories behind the stolen Gardner Museum paintings (USA)
(18 March 2017; The Boston Globe)
26 years later and still a mystery.

Tribal group says elimination of Bears Ears would be tragic (USA)
(18 March 2017; The Daily Progress)
It is not only a sacred space, but it is home to at-risk heritage sites


Police Recover 67 Works Stolen in $2.6 Million Vienna Art Heist (Austria)
(15 March 2017; ArtNet News)
Four works stolen from the villa in Lainz are still missing and no arrests have yet been made.

16 Years Later, Stash of Stolen Paintings Found Near Crime Scene (Denmark)
(15 March 2017; ArtNet News)
The pieces by Carl Vilhelm Holsøe were found an hour from the site of theft after someone put one up for auction.

Centre Pompidou broke even on Koons retrospective, Paris court decision reveals (France)
(17 March 2017; The Art Newspaper)
This revealed during a plagiarism lawsuit against Koons and the museum.

German Art Collectors Face a Painful Past: Do I Own Nazi Loot? (Germany)
(14 March 2017; The New York Times)
“As one generation of Germans has died and given its art to the next, a number of people with prominent collections and unsettled consciences have stepped forward to investigate what they own.”

Greece offers ancient archaeological wonders in exchange for Elgin Marbles (Greece, UK)
(14 March 2017; The Independent)
Loan of top quality antiquities for the marbles return? Sounds good to me, but alas.

Greece denies report on Parthenon Marbles (Greece, UK)
(14 March 2017; eKathimerini)
Greece denies a report the UK paper The Independent that they’re calling for the return of the sculpture as a gesture against anti-democratic forces that seek “the dissolution of Europe.”

Italian anti-mafia raids target politicians and businessmen (Italy)
(15 March 2017; BBC News)
Among those arrested was “Naples’ top archaeology official”

Stolen Etruscan Vessel to Be Returned to Italy (Italy, USA)
(16 March 2017; The New York Times)
Another solid identification of a looted vessel from Christos Tsirogiannis

Thieves’ smoke bombs spark panic in Venice’s St Mark’s Square (Italy)
(17 March 2017; The Telegraph)
They were trying to rob a jewellery store. Tourists, understandably, panicked.

Why the fuss over de Valette’s dagger? (Malta, France)
(18 March 2017; Times of Malta)
“The sword and dagger were never Malta’s property, but rather the personal possession of Grand Master de Valette.”

Shadow of Old Masters’ Forgeries Hangs Over an Art Fair (Netherlands)
(15 March 2017; The New York Times)
Are dealers and buyers at Tefaf worried? “There’s a very strict vetting regulation about letting dealers into the fair in the first place”

Russia’s oriental museum takes custody of Roerich paintings seized in fraud probe (Russia)
(16 March 2017; TASS)
The Svyatoslav and Nikolai Roerich paintings were seized in a probe against the ex owner of defunct Master Bank

Los enemigos del patrimonio histórico (The enemies of historic heritage; Spain)
(13 March 2017; El Diario)
Vandalism at Spain’s historic and sacred sites.

Detenido tras robar limosnas y varias joyas en siete iglesias (Arrest for theft of offerings and various jewels in seven churches; Spain)
(17 March 2017; Atlántico)
The accused is Portuguese and has used several identities.

Nueve obras de arte confiscadas de Siria, Yemen y Libia se exponen en Suiza (Nine artworks from Syria, Yemen, and Libya exhibited in Switzerland; Switzerland, Syria, Yemen, Libya)
(14 March 2017; El Diario)
They were imported illegally between 2009 and 2010 and were found in the freeport in 2013

Veterans appeal for help a er historic stones vanish from old Ox and Bucks barracks in Cowley (UK)
(11 March 2017; The Oxford Times)
“Veterens have appealed for help a er two historic stone lintels vanished from the old Cowley Barracks a er they were demolished for 674 student rooms.”

Comment: Scholarly research is flourishing but curators’ ability to judge an object’s quality is not (UK)
(13 March 2017; The Art Newspaper)
A point to discuss, but the author only offers a 15-year-old case as proof of problem.

Teenager caused £5,000 of damage to ancient church in Dalgety Bay (UK)
(17 March 2017; Dunfermline Press)
He “repeatedly spray painted walls at St Bridget’s Kirk”

Primary school ‘devastated’ after historic lanterns stolen (UK)
(18 March 2017; Express & Star)
The copper art deco lanterns were prised off with a crowbar and drill according to CCTV

World renowned artist will hold first exhibition since £100,000 theft of paintings from Marwell Zoo (UK)
(19 March 2017; Hampshire Chronicle)
Valuable paintings by Pip McGarry were stolen from the Owslebury zoo.

Man charged over attack on Gainsborough painting at National Gallery (UK)
(19 March 2017; The Guardian)
The man scratched “Mr and Mrs William Hallett” aka “The Morning Walk” with a screwdriver.

South and East Asia

Buyer Beware: US Market for Ancient Asian Art Still the Wild, Wild East (Cambodia)
(14 March 2017; The Diplomat)
“Cultural treasures stolen from conflict zones continue to pop up for sale in the United States and elsewhere.”

No guns for guards: Central Museum is an easy prey (India)
(10 March 2017; The Times of India)
The Central Museum Nagpur is lacking in modern security devices.

Four ancient Panchaloha idols were reported stolen from a Ramalayam temple in Choutuppa (India)
(19 March 2017; The Times of India)
“This is the second such case to be reported within the Rachakonda commissionerate limits in the last three months”

Pakistani faces 20-year imprisonment in US (Pakistan, USA)
(13 March 2017; Dawn)
Ijaz Khan will be sentenced in may for trafficking Pakistani antiquities to the United States

Stolen Buddhist statue to return to Buyeo temple after 30 years (South Korea)
(13 March 2017; Yonhap News Agency)
The piece was found in the Songam Art Museum which identified it as stolen from Muryang Temple.

Painting pincher gets the axe (Thailand, Japan)
(16 March 2017; Bangkok Post)
There’s no place in Thailand’s Dept of Intellectual Property for officials who steal paintings from Japanese hotels.

West and Central Asia

Diving Robbers Are Looting Underwater Treasures, Archaeologists Wail (Israel)
(15 March 2017; Haaretz)
It’s difficult to police and protect underwater sites.

Law of Return (Israel)
(17 March 2017; Art & Antiques)
“Nazi-looted art brought to Israel after World War II now reposes in that country’s museums and is at the center of a debate over restitution.”

Art Trafficking (Syria, Iraq)
(17 March 2017; Al Jazeera)
Containing a long documentary on the topic

Christie’s Dubai Yanks Iraqi Painting From Sale Over Smuggling Allegations (UAE, Iraq)
(17 March 2017; ArtNet News)
The 1968 piece by Faeq Hassan may have been smuggled out of Iraq and Iraq says it is property of the state and was once displayed in the defence ministry.

In Other News

Piano gold hoard is ‘life-changing’ sovereign stockpile (UK)
(16 March 2017; BBC News)
Now to see if it counts as Treasure.

Disowning Ivanka: The Art World Stares Down the First Daughter (USA)
(7 March 2017; Art News)
As a public participant in the art world, the younger Trump is facing critique from within it.

Rock may find a home at last (USA)
(15 March 2017; The Daily Independent)
Is Indian Head Rock, with its possible petroglyphs, Kentucky property? Seems so.