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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.
Bardot Attacks Artist Behind Appropriative Merch
French screen star-turned-animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot is threatening to sue the artist Sasha de Saint Tropez for selling all manner of Bardot-branded baubles in her Saint Tropez shop. “Exploitation has its limits! We’re used to seeing depictions of BB everywhere but this is too much,” said Bardot’s husband Bernard d’Ormale. “In the shop, there are candles, watches, espadrilles, plates, loads of things.”
Verdict: Can we get those Brigitte Bardot espadrilles shipped to Brooklyn?
Trash Jesus Crucified
A 9.8-foot-tall statue of Jesus that artists Maria Shinkevich and Alyona Pozhilenko made from trash in the Siberian city of Omsk has been destroyed at the request of the Russian Orthodox Church’s anti-extremism center.
Verdict: Just wait until the Russians find out about “Piss Christ.”
Bankrupt, but for the Turner
Former banker and property developer Jonathan Weal is accused of hiding the fact that he owns a recently authenticated £20 million (~$31.3 million) JMW Turner painting when he went through bankruptcy proceedings. He was only caught because the receiver who assessed his assets at the time of his bankruptcy was watching TV when Weal appeared on a program boasting that the painting he’d bought for just £3,700 (~$5,800) would soon be authenticated.
Verdict: Give the Turner to the Tate and turn him loose.
Tourists Pose Naked on Sacred Mountain, Earthquake Ensues
Two Canadians, a Brit, and a Dutch person were given three-day jail terms and fined 5,000 Malaysian ringgit (~$1,330) for posing naked for a photo on Malaysia’s Mount Kinabalu, which is considered sacred. Some have blamed the tourists for the deadly, 5.9-magnitude earthquake that struck shortly after they snapped their pants-less pic.
Verdict: Five-year international travel bans all around.
$1,050 Chagall Too Good to Be True
Art collector Roy Berlin bought what he believed to be a signed Marc Chagall print for $1,050 from what was advertised as an “Urgent Divorce Auction” held by the New Jersey-based Estate Liquidators Inc., only to discover that it was little more than a poster. He claims the liquidators may be deliberately misleading buyers with promises of authentic works at bargain prices.
Verdict: Buyers beware, but estate liquidators be shady.
Art Forger Back on eBay
Though he was banned from the site last year, master forger David Henty is back on eBay selling his fake versions of artworks by Sir Winston Churchill, Noël Coward, Ronnie Kray, and others. He has sold some 130 paintings so far this year, netting at least £15,000 (~$23,500) from the sales. “Don’t tell eBay but it’s very simple to get back on,” Henty told the Telegraph. “You don’t even need to buy a new computer.”
Verdict: Good luck getting back on eBay again after the imminent second banishing.
Aussies Make Off with Meteorite
Have you seen these men? This is my cctv footage of two men breaking into the shop last night. They stole the METEORITE that had only just been donated by Stuart Foster. Sad day for The Crystal Caves….
Posted by The Crystal Caves on Sunday, June 7, 2015
A meteorite the size of a soccer ball and worth approximately 16,000 Australian dollars (~$12,400) was stolen from the Crystal Caves, a museum in the town of Atherton, Queensland. Police are looking for two men who, in security footage, can be seen smashing the front door of the museum the night the meteorite disappeared.
Verdict: Maybe the dingo stole your meteorite?
Artist’s Autovandalism in Belgium
After claiming in a Facebook post that two works featured in an exhibition at the Project in Brussels were not actually his own despite being listed as such, French artist Bernard Rancillac turned up at the opening marker in hand and wrote “Ceci est un faux, B. R.” (“This is a fake, B.R.”) on one of the paintings. The police were summoned, arrested Rancillac, and released him seven hours later. The exhibition’s organizer, Constantin Chariot, has since removed the tagged canvas and will press charges against its ostensible creator.
Verdict: Belgian police apparently mistook Rancillac’s obvious homage to René Magritte’s “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” for vandalism.
Bank-Robbing Artist Pleads Guilty
Joseph Gibbons, the former MIT professor, artist, and experimental filmmaker who filmed himself robbing a Capital One bank branch in New York City as part of an art project, has pleaded guilty to third-degree robbery.
Verdict: We already knew that crime doesn’t pay and that art doesn’t pay; thanks to Gibbons’s heroic work, we now also know that crime art doesn’t pay.
Outdoor Artworks Wrecked in Worcester
Vandals damaged or destroyed six outdoor sculptures featured in Art in the Park, a public art exhibition in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Verdict: Instead of fines or community service, the vandals should be sentenced to be unpaid studio assistants for the artists whose works they trashed.
Thieves Hook Fish Sculpture
A stainless steel sculpture of a fish was stolen from the Michigan Legacy Art Park. Administrators at the art park say that if those responsible return the fish unharmed, there will be no questions asked.
Verdict: Art theft is rarely a catch-and-release pursuit.
Human Remains from Children’s Museum Found in Backyard
Two human skeletons that are believed to be Native American remains and were thought to be in the collection of the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo were recently found in a steel bucket in a backyard in Atherton, California.
Verdict: While we applaud the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo for its very liberal loan policy, they have clearly gone too far.