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Valtice Castle (photo by Huhulenik/Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Castle Manager Goes Medieval on Artworks

The former manager of the medieval castle in Valtice, a town and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Czech Republic, is now the prime suspect in the disappearance and apparent destruction of 58 paintings that were included in the latest edition of the castle’s annual Large Format exhibition. The estimated value of the missing art is €170,000 (~$180,000). One of the lost paintings is a work by Vladimir Franz, a composer whose entire body is covered in tattoos and who ran for president of the Czech Republic in 2013 after his friends and fans started a “Franz for President” campaign.

Verdict: This never would have happened under President Franz.

Opera Company Brings Down Curtain on Sculpture

The artist John Raimondi is suing the Palm Beach Opera for allegedly dismantling his 39-foot-tall, 2.5-ton bronze sculpture “Spirit Ascending” and selling off its parts to a scrapyard. The artist claims in his federal lawsuit that the sculpture was destined to be installed outside the company’s opera house, but when plans to construct the building were abandoned, Palm Beach Opera destroyed the artwork without consulting Raimondi. At the time that the philanthropist who commissioned “Spirit Ascending” donated it to the opera company, the sculpture was appraised at $350,000.

Verdict: You know the crisis in the opera community is bad when companies resort to scrapyards for funding.

Start Something New — in Court!

Artwork by Craig Redman and Karl Maier for Apple’s “Start Something New” campaign, which Romero Britto alleges misuses his artwork. (screenshot by the author)

The artist Romero Britto is suing Apple and designers Craig Redman and Karl Maier in federal court in Miami for allegedly misusing his distinctive, colorful, pop-y imagery as part of the tech giant’s “Start Something New” advertising campaign — which showcases artworks made using only Apple products. The lawsuit accuses Apple and the design duo of unfair competition, copyright infringement, and other charges, and demands that a judge end their alleged misuse of his art.

Verdict: Using Apple products to make knockoffs of bad art doesn’t really seem like “something new.”

In Putin’s Russia, Photography Exhibition Snaps You!

The Metenkov House Museum of Photography in Yekaterinburg, the fourth-largest city in Russia, shut down abruptly right before it was scheduled to open Triumph and Tragedy: The Allies During World War II, an exhibition of 150 images by British and American photographers. A report in a local, government-controlled newspaper that has since been rescinded claimed that the Federal Security Service had shut down the museum. A subsequent report suggested that the exhibition was targeted because it did not contain images of Soviet soldiers and gave the impression that the US and its Western allies had won the war without help from Russia.

Verdict: Real subtle, Russian security service — real subtle.

Flip’s Thief Flip-Flops

Security camera footage of an art thief walking out of Flip’s Wine Bar and Trattoria. (screenshot by the author)

Weeks after being caught on camera walking out of Flip’s Wine Bar and Trattoria in Oklahoma City with three vintage prints under his arm, a man returned the purloined posters. However, a fourth stolen artwork — a photograph of a cow by local artist Charlie Schmidt said to be worth over $1,000 — remains at large.

Verdict: The art’s return is a double win for Flip’s — clearly the thief balked at the idea of never being able to eat at the popular Italian eatery again.

Art Lovers Bank on Fire Department Rescue

Though it’s not strictly speaking crime-related, this story is too good not to share: Two men visiting a pop-up exhibition in a former bank in Cardiff had to be rescued by firefighters after the vault door was closed behind them. During the five hours that 21-year-old Jacob Church and 29-year-old Joe Tobin were trapped in the vault together they passed the time by “running around and singing,” and talking to a penguin sculpture they had nicknamed “Wilson” in homage to the Tom Hanks movie Castaway.

Verdict: Castaway is an overrated movie.

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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...

One reply on “Crimes of the Art”

  1. I agree with the Romero Britto lawsuit. Whether he wins or not, I most definitely expected the Apple store displays to be by him. His style is all over so many other products and in other venues, so I expected those pieces to be his. I was surprised when they were not. It’s almost as if Apple used a Keith Haring-like set of designs. Maybe it was cheaper for them?

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