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Amanda Packard making off with a painting (video screenshot by the author)

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.

Thief Leaves Government Building with Canvas

On March 6, Amanda Packard visited the Monroe County Administration Building in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, to buy two dog licenses — and on her way out helped herself to a lovely autumnal landscape painting by Danielle Reish titled “Old Brinkers Mill” that was hanging outside the county voter registration office. Security cameras caught Packard in the act and, following a flurry of tips after her photo was publicized, the Monroe County District Attorney’s office arrested her on March 23.

Verdict: Case closed, but who’s taking care of her dogs?

Not-Banksy Bites Back

Richard Pfeiffer, a 33-year-old engineer based in Brooklyn, is suing the city of New York and six NYPD police officers after he was arrested on July 12, 2014, and accused of being the elusive British street artist Banksy. Pfeiffer was cuffed after he and his fiancé were spotted admiring an alleged Banksy work and a marker was found in his pocket.

Verdict: The NYPD needs to study up on street art (among other things).

Student’s Anti-Police Art Censored

A painting that a 17-year-old high school student created and submitted to an exhibition at a New Orleans mall was removed from the show following complaints over its controversial imagery: a police officer holding a baton, surrounded by silhouettes with their arms raised and the text, “Join the Force & Get Away with Murder.”

Verdict: Forget the mall, get that student an art school scholarship!

Gallery Nabbed in Painting Switcheroo

The manager of London’s Envie d’art gallery mistakenly sold a collector’s £5,000 (~$7,400) painting to someone else and, when the collector asked for the work — a colorful, collage-like composition by French painter Florent Chopin — to be returned, supplied him with a poor imitation of the original.

Verdict: How does the old saying go? “Imitation is the highest form of fakery”?

Historic Pottery’s Name Goes to Pot

Red Wing Stoneware and Pottery, which was founded in 1877 in Red Wing, Minnesota, is suing the much newer Red Wing Collectors Society Foundation (founded 1977) and its Pottery Museum of Red Wing (founded in 2001) for copyright infringement. At issue are uses of similar images (including the Red Wing logo), photos, and names.

Verdict: First, the Red Wing Collectors Society Foundation and the Pottery Museum of Red Wing — who will they sue next, the Detroit Red Wings?!

Taco Bell Art to Go

A nearly identical version of the Mark T. Smith painting stolen from Taco Bell (courtesy Westlake Police Department, via WKYC)

A large acrylic painting by Mark T. Smith worth $800 was stolen from the Taco Bell at 1345 Columbia Road in Westlake, Ohio, late on March 14 or in the wee morning hours of March 15. A second, virtually identical version of the painting — which features a large green monster with a bell for a head — was left behind in the fast food art heist.

Verdict: Taco Bell’s art is better than its tacos.

Thieves Ransack Museum, Leave the Art

One or more thieves broke into the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art in Great Falls, Montana, late on March 18, smashing its donation box, making off with an untold cash sum and office equipment, and damaging museum records in the process. The intruder(s) did not, however, touch or take any of the art.

Verdict: If it had been us, we would’ve skipped the donation box and gone straight for John Isaiah Pepion’s beautiful drawings on antique ledge paper (on view through April 13) — just saying.

Vandals Can’t Stand Kant

The hunt is on for vandals who tagged the home of philosopher Immanuel Kant in Kaliningrad, Russia, with a Valentine’s heart, a flower, and the message: “Kant is a moron.”

Verdict: According to Kant’s Perpetual Peace, buildings should only be tagged “with reference to every rational being (whether yourself or another) so that it is an end in itself in your maxim.”

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Benjamin Sutton

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...

2 replies on “Crimes of the Art”

  1. NYPD aren’t hired for their brain cells. It’s “Round ’em up and let the courts sort it out” — at considerable expense, of course.

  2. Mr. Pfeiffer is lucky he didn’t end up spending a couple of years in Rikers “awaiting trial.”

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