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Crimes of the Art

One of Josef Thorak's bronze horse sculptures outside the Reich Chancellery in Berlin in 1939 (photo courtesy German Federal Archives, via Wikimedia Commons)
One of Josef Thorak’s bronze horse sculptures outside the New Reich Chancellery in Berlin in 1939 (photo courtesy German Federal Archives, via 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.

Hitler’s Bronze Horses Reined In

crimes-of-the-art-scream-3Two massive bronze sculptures of horses by Josef Thorak, which stood outside the New Reich Chancellery in Berlin during Adolf Hitler’s rule, were recovered by German police, along with a number of other long-missing Nazi artworks — including a 16-by-33-foot granite relief sculpture by Arno Breker. Eight Germans in their 60s and 70s are being investigated for attempting to sell the works, which had last been seen in 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Verdict: The fact that it took German police 26 years to find two giant bronze horses and an even bigger carved stone sculpture of muscular and shirtless workers does not instill much confidence.

Oaf on a Grecian Urn

crimes-of-the-art-scream-2A vase from the Minoan Era (3,650–1,450 BCE) was smashed when a falling visitor at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum on the Greek island of Crete attempted to steady herself by grabbing the artifact. The Greek culture ministry said that the vase had already been smashed in antiquity and pieced together after it was excavated, and is expected to be back on display by Friday.

Verdict: At least the tourist wasn’t attempting to take a selfie.

Creationist Museum Field Trips Go the Way of the Dinosaurs

A display at the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum (photo by Vicki Tran/Instagram)
A display at the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum (photo by Vicki Tran/Instagram)

crimes-of-the-art-scream-2Third grade students in Glendive, Montana, will no longer be visiting the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum — a creationist institution that “presents the truth of God’s Word” and teaches an account of prehistory in which humans and dinosaurs coexisted. The local school district received a letter from a Washington, DC, advocacy group alleging that the annual field trip violates the separation of church and state.

Verdict: Now the children will have to wait until the June 12 opening of Jurassic World to learn entertainingly inaccurate “facts” about dinosaurs.

Grateful Dead, Ungrateful Art Thieves

crimes-of-the-art-scream-1Some $75,000 worth of Grateful Dead memorabilia was stolen from Donley Auction Services in Union, Illinois. The missing items include a silkscreen print, a pair of vintage posters, and a Grateful Dead serigraph. “Oh, it’s devastating,” Randy Donley, Donley Auction Services owner, told the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve never had anything like this happen before, so it’s a shock to the system.”

Verdict: Police will have a hard time tracking down those dastardly, die-hard Dead fans without a net.

Slighted Swiss Squatters Surreptitiously Brick Up Basel’s Museums

Atopie's intervention at the front entrance to the Kunstmuseum Basel (photo via Atopie/Facebook)
Atopie’s intervention at the front entrance to the Kunstmuseum Basel (photo via Atopie/Facebook)

crimes-of-the-art-scream-4Members of Atopie, a group of artists whose ambitious plans to put on a cultural festival in an abandoned building were squashed by Basel’s police, struck back with radical architectural interventions: erecting brick walls in front of the main entrances to the city’s museums. Visitors to the Swiss Architecture Museum and the Kunstmuseum Basel, among others, were impeded by imposing walls on Thursday morning.

Verdict: This is one situation in which the old adage “putting up walls never solved anything” does not apply.

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