Tony Matelli, "Stray Dog" (2014) (photo by nadinejohnsonpr/Instagram)

Tony Matelli, “Stray Dog” (2014) (photo by nadinejohnsonpr/Instagram)

Crimes of the Art is a weekly survey of artless criminals’ cultural misdeeds. Crimes are rated on a highly subjective scale from one “Scream” emoji — the equivalent of a vandal tagging the exterior of a local history museum in a remote part of the US — to five “Scream” emojis — the equivalent of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist.

Stolen Dog Sculpture Homeward Bound After Off-Leash Stroll


Tony Matelli’s hyperrealistic sculpture of a seeing eye dog, “Stray Dog” (2014), went truly astray last weekend when it was stolen from the intersection of 72nd Street and Broadway in Manhattan. The bronze pup, a popular attraction since it was installed as part of the Broadway Morey Boogie public art exhibition in September, was found by the New York Parks Department propped up against a tree in nearby Riverside Park.

Verdict: I have a hunch Matelli decided to activate his sculpture by setting it free. This could very well be a case of the tail wagging the dog.

Suspected Forger Set Free, for Now


Lawrence H. Ulvi, who allegedly sold forged works he passed off as Mark Tobey originals to art dealers in Washington and California — and was looking for buyers of Edward Hopper, Charles Burchfield, Morris Graves, and Kenneth Callahan knock-offs — was arrested in Portland, Oregon, on March 9, and released on March 10. Though prosecutors fear he may attempt to flee, Ulvi is due to be arraigned on March 31.

Verdict: Tobey, Callahan, Burchfield, and Hopper? That’s an impressive range. Someone get Ulvi a solo show!

Artifacts Take Off from Aircraft Museum

A display at the Solent Sky Museum in Southampton, UK (photo by David Blaikie/Flickr)

A display at the Solent Sky Museum in Southampton, UK (photo by David Blaikie/Flickr)


On the evening of March 9 thieves broke into the Solent Sky Museum, an institution in Southampton, UK, chronicling the history of aviation, and lifted several valuable objects including a cigarette case that had belonged to the inventor of the Spitfire, RJ Mitchell.

Verdict: Those thieves should be grounded.

Das Ist Fraud


German art and luxury goods dealer Helge Achenbach was convicted of overcharging one of his clients, the late supermarket mogul Berthold Albrecht, some €19 million (~$20.1 million) on purchases of luxury automobiles and works by artists including Gerhard Richter, Pablo Picasso, and Roy Lichtenstein. Achenbach was sentenced to six years in prison.

Verdict: Achtung, Achenbach, you skimmed too much off the top.

Flags of Our Toddlers


Photographer and Navy veteran Vanessa Hicks is being accused by some of violating the US Federal Flag Code for taking a photo of a Navy serviceman holding his newborn child in a US flag. US citizens who have treated the flag in ways deemed improper by the Federal Flag Code have often sought (and found) protection from punishment by appealing to the First Amendment.

“I have seen first-hand what is desecration of the flag,” Hicks said. “At the end of the day I didn’t do anything that disrespected this flag.”

Verdict: This photo would only be improper if the flag in question were a Jasper Johns.

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...