Culture crime news 27 February–05 March 2017


Hot this week: Palmyra re-reclaimed.

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Weighing the Risks and Returns of Art and Antiquities
(28 February 2017; Wealth Management)
Lack of due diligence and poor provenance research puts any art buyer at risk. Don’t be like that.

Scientists Shoot Stones to Study War’s Impact on Heritage Sites
(28 February 2017; Smithsonian)
“The bullets caused hidden networks of fractures beneath the stones’ surfaces” and experts are studying them.

5 Art Market Misdeeds With Impressive Provenance
(28 February 2017; Artlyst)
Huh: “a 2016 study by Deloitte found price manipulation was the highest-ranked concern among the art market community”


Attempts to Retrieve Artifacts from Abroad Not in Egypt Favor: Former Antiquities Minister (Egypt)
(2 March 2017; Egyptian Streets)
“Former Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Al-Damaty” seems to be speaking out AGAINST the return of stolen antiquities. Yikes.


Federal government agrees to return Métis artifacts (Canada)
(1 March 2017; CBC)
Among the items are Louis Riel’s crucifix and Métis clothing.

Denuncian saqueo de piezas arqueológicas (Looting of archaeological pieces condemned; Mexico)
(1 March 2017; Diario de Yucatán)
The looting of the unprotected area sounds like theft for building materials.

Selfie-Taker Smashes Yayoi Kusama Pumpkin, Just Days Into Hirshhorn Show (USA)
(27 February 2017; ArtNet News)
Complete with Smashing Pumpkins jokes.

Man sentenced to life in prison in 2014 killing of Iraqi artist (USA)
(27 February 2017; The Sacramento Bee)
Artist Hassan Alawsi may have been targeted in part because he was Muslim.

Archaeology smuggler caught with 500 stolen artifacts at Big Bend (USA, Mexico)
(27 February 2017; KXAN)
Five years home confinement for smuggling artefacts from Mexico into Texas

Cheshire County Mother and Son Accused of Art Forgery Appear in Federal Court (USA)
(28 February 2017; NHPR)
“Lorettann Gascard claims she was a friend and former student of Golub, and that she acquired the paintings directly from the artist”. The buyer says they are fakes.

Artist Reunited with Jimmy Buffet Promotional Art After 17 Years (USA)
(1 March 2017; KSOO)
Unclear how it got to the person who returned it, but happiness all around.

Feds: Philly man stole signed Muhammad Ali painting from Kentucky museum (USA)
(1 March 2017;
“Gerald Garrett was charged with stealing a signed LeRoy Neiman print of Ali from the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky”

Will New York Get Its Own Freeport for Art? ARCIS Plans a Tax Haven in Harlem (USA)
(2 March 2017; ArtNet News)
The next Geneva? Let’s hope not in *that* way.

Peter Guber Sues His Insurance Broker Over Stolen Bronze Head (USA)
(2 March 2017; Variety)
“Guber filed a lawsuit against Abacus Insurance Brokers, alleging that the company failed to properly advise him on policies when he took possession of the multi-million dollar antiquity”, but the case is far more complicated than just that.

Wave of Bomb Threats to Jewish Museums and Community Centers Forces Evacuations in US, UK, and Australia (USA, UK, Australia)
(3 March 2017; ArtNet News)
Hoaxes thus far but terrifying hoaxes.

Who Stole Erica Morini’s $3.5 Million Stradivarius Violin (USA)
(5 March 2017; The Daily Beast)
“In 1995, as the 91-year-old Erica Morini lay in hospital, her beloved $3.5 Stradivarius violin was discovered missing”

Kennewick Man: Build bridges to prevent a repeat of ill will (USA)
(3 March 2016; Seattle Times)
“At this rate, the repatriation wars will not end”

Native American bones stolen from Ohio grave to be reburied (USA)
(2 March 2017; Turtle Island News)
Three men were sentenced to 30 days in prison and $1000 fine for digging up and selling the bones which seems like a light wrist slap.

A Suit Over Schiele Drawings Invokes New Law on Nazi-Looted Art (USA)
(27 February 2017; The New York Times)
The HEAR Act is about to be tested in court: heirs of Fritz Grunbaum are citing it in an attempt to recover two Schieles.

Christie’s eyes loophole to duck Nazi-confiscated art suit (USA)
(28 February 2017; New York Post)
Christies says that the new HEAR Act doesn’t apply to them because they don’t currently have the painting in question. They, of course, won’t say who bought the painting from them.

Bank’s Kandinsky painting was looted by Nazis, says family (USA, Germany)
(3 March 2017; The Guardian)
Bayerische Landesbank has the piece. Heirs have filed suit in a New York court to have it returned.


A Paris exhibit of Nazi-looted art honors a Europe many fear is under threat again (France)
(28 February 2017; The Washington Post)
Remembering Paul Rosenberg now in a time of division and unrest.

Ancient bronze statuette lost after the Second World War returns to Berlin (Germany, UK)
(1 March 2017; The Art Newspaper)
“In 1939, it was sent into storage to protect it from bomb damage and vanished without a trace.” A BM curator recognised it.

Why it’s so hard to return art stolen by Nazis (Poland)
(28 February 2017; The Christian Science Monitor)
“Thousands of pieces are still likely in circulation.”

Detienen a un vecino de Calonge que robó el cáliz de la iglesia de Sant Martí (Resident of Calonge arrested for stealing a chalice from the church of San Martí; Spain)
(28 February 2017; La Vanguardia)
The items were catalogued and the alleged was arrested after several months of investigation.

La Xunta tendrá mayor control sobre bienes de la Iglesia en los que invierte (Regional government will have more control over the items in Churches that it funds; Spain)
(2 March 2017; La Voz de Galicia)
After several thefts, the decree mandates that official access to heritage and sacred art is mandatory for receiving public fund.

Stolen painting finds way home (UK)
(27 February 2017; This is Wiltshire)
The paintings were stolen from an exhibition in the Link Centre, Swindon, in 1995.

Palace stripped of lightning tape by thieves (UK)
(2 March 2017; BBC News)
“Metal thieves stripped Linlithgow Palace, West Lothian, of copper taping used to conduct lightning strikes from its roof to the ground.”

Thieves take statue worth over £4,000 in art gallery break-in (UK)
(4 March 2017; The Herald)
The ‘distinctive’ statue was stolen during a break-in at a Devon gallery.


Reuniting Indigenous ‘sticks’ with their stories: the museum on a mission to give back (Australia)
(3 March 2017; The Guardian)
“The South Australian Museum wants to take a global lead in connecting its enormous collection with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”

South and East Asia

6 brass idols stolen from Nasirnagar Iskcon temple (Bangladesh)
(5 March 2017; Dhaka Tribune)
“Drug addicts or just random thieves might be involved with the robbery.”

Sentinels to guard Marayur dolmens (India)
(27 February 2017; The Hindu)
Guards have been appointed after several of the Marayur-Kanthallur dolmens have been vandalised or destroyed.

Ancient temple left in lurch (India)
(2 March 2017; The Hans India)
“Excellent stone sculpted images were vandalised by robbers as no security guard was appointed.”

Nagpur University finally lodges FIR in coins theft case (India)
(3 March 2017; The Times of India)
This is after 10 months. An odd case where something wrong has occurred with the Uni’s ancient coin collection but feet are dragging.

Antique smuggling racket: Key idol smuggler held in police raid (India)
(4 March 2017; Mid-day)
Arrest of sculptor Udit Jain, allegedly a member of the “Deenadhayalan smuggling syndicate”.

‘Piece of paper’ for accused: Cops clueless on Satyarthi’s Nobel citation (India)
(5 March 2017; The New Indian Express)
They are working under the assumption that the citation was destroyed by thieves who thought it “just a piece of paper”.

Police recover 195 ancient gold coins from Tonk in 3 months (India)
(5 March 2017; The Times of India)
Working on tip offs, the coins were recovered from people who had failed to report their discovery.

Ghost ships: why are World War II naval wrecks vanishing in Indonesia? (Indonesia)
(26 February 2017; The Conversation)
On why people ‘steal a ship’ and awareness raising regarding protection of underwater heritage

Gov’t reveals 29 lost state seals (South Korea)
(1 March 2017; The Korea Times)
Three were returned from the US but had been stolen by Japan in 1911.

West and Central Asia

In Mosul, a long-term battle to repair Iraq’s heritage (Iraq)
(26 February 2017; The Jordan Times)
France Desmarais noted that there was “a long and tragic history of trafficking in cultural objects from northern Iraq.”

Previously untouched 600BC palace discovered under shrine demolished by Isil in Mosul (Iraq)
(28 February 2017; The Telegraph)
News discoveries in looters trenches. Not quite a bright side, but a point of salvage and forward movement.

Jordan demands Israel halts works at Jerusalem’s Umayyad Palaces (Jordan)
(1 March 2017; The Jordan Times)
If true this may violate the delicate agreement over the site’s preservation

Archaeologist: Kuwait keen to safeguard relics (Kuwait)
(27 February 2017; KUNA)
Mostly about proposing sites for the World Heritage list.

Palmyra: Syrian forces ‘completely retake’ IS-held town (Syria)
(2 March 2017; BBC News)
Heritage, yes, but also people are caught in this back and forth. Let’s have no cringe-worthy Russian concerts this time, okay?

Less damage to ancient Palmyra than feared, Syrian antiquities chief says (Syria)
(3 March 2017; Reuters)
Yes new damage since the last time the site was retaken, but Abdulkarim says no more than was already known about.

Priceless 18th century icon seized in car trunk in Turkey’s Adana (Turkey, Syria)
(22 February 2017; Hurriyet Daily News)
The men stopped with the piece claimed it came from a Syrian who owed them money.

Old fisherman still homesick (Turkey, Germany)
(4 March 2017; Hurriyet Daily News)
“The body of a sculpture that was smuggled from Aphrodisias in 1904 is still in Berlin.”

In Other News

Donald Ian McCaw’s Solution for Preserving Art: Bury It (Canada)
(3 March 2017; ArtNet News)
Well, not really, but an interesting ‘spoof’ on the art storage industry.

Photo showing party inside ancient Egypt tomb sparks outrage (Egypt)
(1 March 2017; Al Arabiya)
The tomb is in El Dakhla Oasis, and the people in it are restorers. The official line is that it shouldn’t have happened but it was old news.

An Online Exhibition Asks: What Makes “The Goldfinch” So Special? (Netherlands)
(1 March 2017; Hyperallergic)
You know it from the eponymous art theft book by Donna Tartt.

Man exposes himself to four women at ancient monument site (UK)
(27 February 2017; The Oxford Times)
The incident occurred at Rollright Stones near Chipping Norton.

Rare crocodile shark found for the first time on UK beach could have been victim of exotic wildlife traders (UK)
(2 March 2017; The Telegraph)
Was it dumped on the way to the UK? It would have died the moment it hit cold northern water.

Argentinian Curator and Legal American Resident Denied Entry into US (USA)
(28 February 2017; Art Forum)
The horrible darkness in our world continues.

Anti-Fascists Clash with White Nationalists at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (USA)
(3 March 2017; Hyperallergic)
“The altercation took place outside and inside the museum. No artworks were damaged.”

[Photo by Jeff Pflueger]