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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.
Parisian Police Stop Performance Artist’s Nude Selfie Stunt
Swiss performance artist Miro Moiré was arrested in Paris for posing for nude selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower. Though publicly displaying one’s genitals is punishable by up to a year in jail and a €15,000 (~$16,500) fine in France, Moiré was released with a written warning.
Verdict: Why even bother visiting Paris anymore if you can’t have your photo taken in front of the Eiffel Tower with a nude performance artist?!
Titillating Painting Ticks Off Tiptonites
The mayor and chief of police in Tipton, Iowa, demanded that local artist Hugh Stumbo remove one of his paintings — which includes the figure of a topless woman and a gun — from the front window of his Stumbo Art Gallery. Locals were concerned that the artwork would send the wrong message to the hundreds expected to descend on Tipton for the town’s 175th anniversary celebrations.
Verdict: What’s the problem? Nudity and guns are as American as apple pie.
Jewish History Exhibition Defaced with Nazi Imagery
A history exhibition outside the Jewish center in Munich’s Jakobsplatz was defaced when “Hitler mustaches” were burned onto portrait photos of rabbis and local politicians. The vandalism is being investigated by the department for politically motivated crimes.
Verdict: Hitler mustaches are only funny in a few, very specific contexts, and this is most certainly not one of them.
Jaume Plensa Sculpture Steps Out for Poutine
“Timekeeper,” a stone and stainless steel sculpture by Jaume Plensa valued at $130,000, was stolen from a gallery in Montreal’s Westmount neighborhood. A man used a crowbar to force open the gallery’s rear door, making off with the two-foot-tall stone artwork.
Verdict: It’s surprising that Plensa’s work caught the thief’s eye, given how utterly uninteresting it is.
That’s a Lotta Money for a Phonet Monet
The family of late art collector David Arakie is suing Brooklyn businessman Shaya Gordon and his sisters for allegedly refusing to return a Claude Monet painting valued at $100 million that they say belongs to them. Gordon claims the painting, “Women in Arles,” is a fake, but refuses to return it.
Verdict: It’s hard to part with a Monet, even if it’s fake.
British Dealer’s Blue-Chip Fraud
London art dealer Timothy Sammons, a former Sotheby’s specialist, is being sued by former clients for failing to remit them the proceeds from sales of £8 million (~$12.4 million) in art — including works by Canaletto, Marc Chagall, Amedeo Modigliani, and René Magritte— that he brokered.
Verdict: This is why I buy all my art on eBay — no middle-men, no monkey business.
Friends Don’t Sell Friends Fake Paintings
A Manhattan judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by art and antiques dealer Alexander Komolov claiming his former business partners, David Segal and Mohamed Serry, sold him what they claimed were authentic Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Edouard Manet paintings, all of which turned out to be fake. Komolov also alleged that his former colleagues had stolen works by Pablo Picasso and Maurice de Vlaminck from him.
Verdict: In light of all this talk of fake Monets, this hilarious warning — once posted on an Amazon Art listing for a $1.45-million Monet painting — seems worth reprinting:
I’ve been a fan of Monet since the early days and this is a serviceable example of his mid-period stuff, not too fancy but gets the job done and gives an idea of what he’s like for people who aren’t ready to make up their minds about Waterlilies or Impression, Sunrise. But I really wrote this review to warn casual searchers that some bunch of opportunists are trying to rip off the unwary or inexperienced browser by flooding Amazon with their cheap replicas, under the confusingly similar name “Manet.” Remember, it’s “Monet”, with the “o” that is the real thing. Apparently it’s permitted by the Terms of Conditions for people to sell “Manet” product, as long as (when pushed!) they admit somewhere in the fine print that their “Manet” paintings aren’t genuine Monets. Seems as unethical as hell to me, but I guess all we fans can do is warn the gullible.