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.
Nazi Salute OK If It’s Art
State prosecutors in Germany have dropped criminal charges against artist Jonathan Meese over his performance “The Dictatorship of Art” in November 2014, during which he repeatedly performed the Nazi salute. Display of Nazi symbols or performing the salute is punishable by up to three years in prison under German law.
Verdict: This is the fourth time Meese has been acquitted in a trial over his use of the Nazi salute in performances. Maybe state prosecutors can think of some better uses for their time and taxpayers’ money.
Picassos Go Missing in Transit
Catherine Hutin-Blay, daughter of Pablo and Jacqueline Picasso, claims Parisian art dealer Olivier Thomas stole artworks of her father’s that he was charged with transporting. French prosecutors are now investigating Thomas on charges of fraud, theft, and receiving stolen goods.
Verdict: Perhaps the Picassos simply fell off the back of the truck?
Failed Flippers of Fake Giacometti in Trouble
Two German men, identified in court documents as Wolf G. and Hans K., stand accused of trying to sell a fake Alberto Giacometti sculpture. The crooked deal was allegedly set in motion when Wolf G. acquired a fake Giacometti in a barter deal with a man close to Robert Driessen, the Dutch Giacometti forger. The sculpture was successfully consigned to a Swiss auction house in 2009, with an estimate of 5 million Swiss francs (~$5.3 million), but a Giacometti expert identified it as a copy and it was returned to Wolf G. Subsequent attempts at selling it privately and through Sotheby’s also failed.
Verdict: Further proof that it’s time to revise the old consigner’s rule of thumb: “If at first you don’t succeed, try again, and if you don’t succeed again, try once more.”
Jetsetting Spaniard Stole Swedish Churches’ Art
A 63-year-old Spanish man has been arrested on Tenerife for stealing more than 40 artworks from Swedish churches. He allegedly stored some stolen objects — which include 15th-century engravings and an 18th-century bible — in a Danish warehouse.
Verdict: Didn’t the man realize there’s not much money in pilfering church artifacts? Creatively “restoring” them is much more lucrative.
“I’ll Take Three Lowrys of Coke.”
Bill Clark, owner of the Clark Art Gallery in Hale, Cheshire — where three paintings by LS Lowry were among 13 artworks stolen in a 2006 heist — was told by a loss adjuster who visited the gallery in the theft’s aftermath that the paintings were probably now being used as currency in trades between criminal cells. “The loss adjuster said stolen Lowry paintings are used as collateral within the criminal underground,” Clark told the Independent.
Verdict: Somehow, in light of the working-class subject matter Lowry favored, this makes a lot of sense.
A Photographer’s Unwanted Chelsea Show
Photographer Peter Beard claims that three works of his that went missing from a 2013 party at which he demonstrated his distinctive collaging and embellishing techniques turned up earlier this year at Chelsea’s Hoerle-Guggenheim Gallery. Beard is suing the gallery and Bernie Chase, the businessman who organized the fateful party. Chase’s attorney claims he bought the works legally from Beard’s former assistant, Natalie White, with whom the artist has had extensive legal battles. Beard most recently sued White for enticing him to settle an earlier lawsuit at a drug- and booze-filled party.
Verdict: These people all sound very responsible, why can’t they just work out their disagreements like adults?
Mural Painted Over Graffiti Will Be Painted Over Too
After local volunteers painted a colorful mural over the graffiti under the historic Roosevelt Bridge in Austin, Minnesota — home of the Spam Museum — the county government has deemed the mural equally inappropriate and will paint it over as well.
“We thanked them for their efforts and said that was, at best, a miscommunication between county staff and their group,” said Mower County Engineer Mike Hanson. “We apologized for that miscommunication, however, we want to keep it historic. We don’t believe there should be any artwork on that bridge.”
Verdict: Another great moment in municipal government efficiency!
Saatchi to Saatchi: Stop Using “Saatchi!”
British art collector Charles Saatchi is suing California-based company Demand Media over its subsidiary Saatchi Online, Inc.’s use of the “Saatchi Art” brand name.
Verdict: Saatchi Saatchi Saatchi Saatchi Saatchi Saatchi. Also, Saatchi.