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Michael Grab with some of his stone stacks (photo by GravityGlue/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.

Colorado Cops Come Down Hard on Stone Stacker

Boulder-based artist Michael Grab (aka Gravity Glue), who has spent the last seven years making site-specific public art installations by carefully stacking and balancing rocks, was recently informed that in order to prevent him from practicing his art, Boulder police will treat his future stone stacks as crimes for which he can be fined or even jailed. The Boulder City Attorney subsequently stepped in to reassure Grab and other stone-stacking enthusiasts that their art is not illegal.

Verdict: Sounds like Boulder police need some zen rock stacking sensitivity training.

Gallerist and Part-Time Rabbi a Full-Time Molester

Steve Karro, a Miami Beach art dealer and part-time rabbi, was arrested for fondling an 11-year-old girl at his gallery.

Verdict: That’s just despicable.

Bookworms Boost Ceramic Busts

Seven ceramic bust sculptures worth between $750 and $1,100 each by Jean Cherie were stolen in a smash-and-grab art heist at the John F. Kennedy Library in Vallejo, California. “I must have a kooky fan out there,” Cherie said.

Verdict: To break a window and steal armfuls of ceramic sculptures without arousing the suspicions of shushing librarians must have required Thomas Crown-caliber stealth.

Forbidden Nude Photo Shoot in Forbidden City

In an official statement Beijing’s Palace Museum at the Forbidden City denounced a recent nude photo shoot at the former imperial palace as “improper” and said that photographer Wang Dong’s actions had “profaned the dignity of the cultural relics.”

Verdict: It’s hard to believe there isn’t a full-scale replica of the Forbidden City somewhere in China built specifically for nude photo shoots.

Florida Art Thieves Arrested

Alleged art thieves Raluxi Raul Erbiti and Dania Rojas (screenshot via NBC 6 South Florida)

Husband-and-wife art thieves Raluxi Raul Erbiti and Dania Rojas were arrested for allegedly taking paintings worth a total of between $200,000 to $350,000 from the Miami home of Edouardo Goudie last month. The couple were apprehended in a sting operation as they tried to offload the paintings for $150,000.

Verdict: Rookie mistake — always wait for the heat to die down before flipping valuable art.

Prison Museum Director Going to Jail

Julia Kaye Brewer, the longtime director of operations at the Old Prison Museums in Deer Lodge, Montana, will serve 106 days in jail and have to pay $136,000 back to the museum from which she embezzled funds. Brewer was originally given concurrent 10- and 20-year jail sentences for embezzling the funds and forging her boss’s signature to obtain a company credit card that she used for personal purchases.

Verdict: Apparently Brewer learned nothing from her visits to the Old Prison Museums.

Weapon in Murder Case Turns Up at Museum

A weapon that was used in seven unsolved murders in Northern Ireland was found on display at the Imperial War Museum in London. In the 1990s, families of those who had been killed in attacks in which the VZ58 rifle was used were told that it had been “disposed of.” It has been sent back to Northern Ireland for testing.

Verdict: We expect this sort of sensational display from the Newseum, but never from the Imperial War Museum.

German Vandals Attack Memorial Sculpture

Artist Nezaket Ekici‘s public sculpture “Post It” (2015) was vandalized with anti-Islmamic graffiti and targeted by thieves in Dresden. The large outdoor work, which consists of 34 carpets hanging from a scaffolding outside the State Courthouse, was intended as an homage to an Egyptian woman who was murdered there in 2009.

Verdict: Dresden sounds like a charming town.

Ahoy There, Museum!

A South California seaman was a little overexcited when sailing up to the USS Midway Museum in San Diego Bay and got his mast caught in the aircraft carrier-turned-floating museum’s netting. Museum president Mac McLaughlin said they wouldn’t press charges against the frisky captain so long as he makes a donation and buys a membership to the institution.

Verdict: We thought it would take several more decades of global warming before the world’s first boat-on-museum collision.

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 Sherman, and other divisive issues have...

6 replies on “Crimes of the Art”

  1. So, basically the Boulder police decided they would just make up a new law to stop something that annoyed them (for some reason). That is patently illegal.

    1. The Boulder police are often insane, narrow-minded and have a long reputation for things like this. For instance, when a well-known underground noise artist was putting up fliers legally for an upcoming performance, he was put in jail and the cop told him “I’m locking you up and throwing away the key to keep creeps like you off the streets of Boulder,” and the reason he was given: the flier for this noise artist (who goes out of his way to be controversial) had a star of satan printed in the corner.

      I also know a non-violent peace-activist who was tracked down and interrogated as a terrorist suspect because he called in to complain about a broken parking machine that took his money but failed to issue a ticket, and he was also forced to call the parking department supervisor to apologize personally for the assertive message he left to prevent official terrorist charges from being filed.

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