Manuel Paul's defaced mural in San Francisco (photo by Galería de la Raza/Instagram)

Manuel Paul’s defaced mural in San Francisco (photo by @Galería de la Raza/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.

Mural of Same-Sex Couples Vandalized in San Francisco

A mural that Manuel Paul painted on the exterior of San Francisco’s Galería de la Raza, which depicts two same-sex couples and a transgender man, has been repeatedly attacked by vandals since its completion earlier this month. “We’ve had endless emails and phone calls from as far away as Arizona and Texas telling us not to give up,” said Galería de la Raza director Ani Rivera. “We know there’s a community in need of this, the visibility of LGBT Latinos.”

Verdict: If such a mural isn’t even safe in San Francisco, we’re in trouble.

Crooked Banker’s Basquiat Brazil-Bound

The Jean-Michel Basquiat painting “Hannibal” (1981) and a Roman Togatus statue that once belonged to Banco Santos founder Edemar Cid Ferreira — currently serving a 21-year sentence in Brazil for committing crimes against the national financial system and money laundering — were repatriated from the US to Brazil. The artworks are the latest items returned to Brazil as part of an ongoing effort to seize any goods Ferreira, his family, friends, or business associates may have bought with funds illegally obtained through Banco Santos.

Verdict: Using Basquiats to launder money is so 1990s.

Painting That Failed to Sell at Auction Successfully Stolen by Supposed Super

A man posing as a building superintendent signed for and stole Harold Wong’s “Calming Freshness,” a painting valued at $40,000 that failed to sell at Bonhams last year (where it had an estimate of $19,000–32,000). The work was in the process of being returned, via FedEx, to Manhattan real estate developer Bill Brodsky.

Verdict: Those who can’t buy at auction dupe the FedEx guy.

Shots Fired, Sans Permits

Last month the Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar fired 21 shots at paint cans placed alongside blank canvases in Geneva’s Bärtschi & Cie gallery as part of a performance. While the the gallery’s neighbors had been warned, the dealers failed to procure the necessary permits, and now gallery partner Barthélémy Pralong has been summoned by Switzerland’s Arms, Explosives, and Authorizations Service.

Verdict: Let this be a cautionary tale for all firearm-inclined artists — do your gunshot art in the US, where it’s been an accepted art form since 1971.

Sculptural Bench Smashed

Jim Osman’s “Corbu Bench” during Bushwick Open Studios 2014 (photo by @Art Observed/Instagram)

A maintenance worker in Connecticut used a hammer to destroy “Corbu Bench,” a sculpture by Jim Osman that was installed along the coastline as part of the annual public art exhibition The Sculpture Mile, and then tossed the remnants of the piece in a dumpster. The worker responsible for the destruction told his supervisor he mistook the sculpture for something that some skateboarders had left behind.

Verdict: Even a newbie skater knows you can’t grind on a sculpture covered in grass.

Auschwitz Thieves Fined

Two 17-year-old British boys who stole objects from the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz in Poland have been fined and sentenced to a year of probation after being arrested and spending the night in a youth jail.

Verdict: At least they didn’t further desecrate Auschwitz by posing for naked photos.

Belarus Blocks Culture Blog

Belarus’s Information Ministry has blocked access to the website KYKY — an art and culture blog — from within the country for allegedly “distributing information that can damage national interests.”

Verdict: Overzealous censorship of the media remains the most effective way to damage national interests.

Sacred Art Swiped from Swedish Churches Seized

Eleven wooden engravings and one wooden chest have been recovered from the home of a 63-year-old man in Spain’s Canary Islands. The objects are among 46 total artifacts that went missing from churches in Sweden earlier this year, and the man was arrested in May.

Verdict: They say the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain, but the stolen Swedish engravings fall mainly on the Canary Islands.

Windy City Art Thieves Blow Through Festival

Thieves struck some 30 booths at Chicago’s recent Gold Coast Art Fest in an overnight heist — though all the cash and most expensive artworks had been preemptively removed from the site, so the most valuable piece of loot lost may have been a mountain bike.

Verdict: When art thieves try so hard and still come up empty-handed…

This one’s for you, dm10003! (via Giphy)

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This week, the Getty Museum is returning ancient terracottas to Italy, parsing an antisemitic mural at Documenta, an ancient gold find in Denmark, a new puritanism, slavery in early Christianity, and much more.

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. shooting paint into a canvas has been done to death. Maybe next he can “live in the gallery” or find some other hackneyed, over used premise to make art with.

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