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Crimes of the Art

Shepard Fairey wheatpasting one of his distinctive Andre the Giant pieces in Detroit. (photo by Shepard Fairey/Instagram)
Shepard Fairey wheatpasting one of his distinctive Andre the Giant pieces in Detroit (photo by Shepard Fairey/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.

Shepard Fairey Obeys Detroit Police

crimes-of-the-art-scream-2On Monday street artist Shepard Fairey flew to Detroit, where he was wanted on felony charges related to some $9,000 in property damage resulting from nine unsanctioned street art pieces, to turn himself in. He is expected to be released by the end of the day today.

Verdict: Perhaps instead of jail time or fines, Fairey can be made to design a new graphic identity for Detroit pro bono.

Performance Artist Bank Robber to Play Performance Artist Inmate

crimes-of-the-art-scream-3Artist, filmmaker, and former MIT professor Joseph Gibbons has been sentenced to a year in prison for robbing a New York City bank as part of a performance art project.

Verdict: He’ll do fine in prison, so long as he practices the Abramović method.

Buckingham Palace Gunman Actually Just an Artist Holding a Cardboard Tube

crimes-of-the-art-scream-4Ray Fiasco, an artist who was walking outside Buckingham Palace on July 8 with a cardboard tube full of his photographs, feared for his life when a group of police officers wielding machine guns surrounded him after mistaking his tube for a rifle.

Verdict: Make art, not completely misguided use of tactical force.

Douglas Gordon Takes Hatchet to Manchester Theater

crimes-of-the-art-scream-3The Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon will be paying for repairs to Manchester’s brand new HOME performance space after he damaged one of its backstage walls by hitting it with a prop axe during a performance of Neck of the Woods, a reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood that he directed and which has received several negative reviews. After striking the wall Gordon drew a doodle around the axe marks and signed his name.

Verdict: It’s not vandalism, it’s a site-specific activation inspired by the violence of theatrical performance, which is not unlike forcibly extracting a little girl from the belly of a wolf.

Thief Lifts London “Birdman” Sculpture

crimes-of-the-art-scream-2A sticky-fingered art lover walked out of the Beaux Arts London gallery in Mayfair with “Horizontal Birdman 1,” a sculpture by Elisabeth Frink valued at £40,000 (~$62,500), tucked into his newspaper.

Verdict: The newspaper should have been a dead giveaway — nobody reads those anymore.

Bad Fella Wants Goodfellas Poster Taken Down

crimes-of-the-art-scream-1An attorney for Vincent Asaro, an alleged member of the Bonanno mob family who is currently on trial for his role in the 1978 Lufthansa heist at JFK Airport, has demanded that a poster for the Martin Scorsese classic Goodfellas — in which a fictionalized version of the robbery is a major plot point — be removed from an exhibition currently on view at the courthouse where his case is being decided. The exhibition, The Eastern District in the Headlines, chronicles famous cases won by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Verdict: A mobster who dislikes a Martin Scorsese movie?! Now we’ve heard everything.

Raiders of the Ground-floor Apartment

crimes-of-the-art-scream-3Greco-Roman artifacts including clay lamps, clay pots, and glass bottles — 35 objects in total — were seized during a raid on a ground-floor apartment in Alexandria. The artifacts had apparently been illegally excavated by diggers via a 50-foot hole beneath the apartment.

Verdict: Next time just put some lights and accent rugs in the hole and list it on Airbnb as a “cozy and uniquely decorated basement studio.”

Vehicular Vandal Mounts Mound

crimes-of-the-art-scream-4Over July 4th weekend a vandal drove a car over the Serpent Mound, a National Historic Landmark in Adams County, Ohio, leaving tire marks on the ancient, snake-shaped burial mound. “It looks like someone was ‘joy-riding’ Saturday night,” said park manager Tim Goodwin. “There’s no permanent damage. It will take some work to restore everything.”

Verdict: This may be the most unpatriotic way one could possibly celebrate the US’s national holiday.

Shake it, Shake it, Shake it, Shake it, Shake it, Shake it, Shake it Like a Public Sculpture!

crimes-of-the-art-scream-3James Lee Hansen’s 600-pound, $70,000 public sculpture “Talos #2” (1977) was torn from its pedestal in Portland, Oregon. A suspect, Trevor Lee Van, has been arrested after he reportedly climbed atop the sculpture and then shook it until it broke off its base.

Verdict: How ironic that Talos, the bronze giant who protected Crete from pirates, was not able to protect himself from a petty vandal.

Artist Arrested for “Abstracting Electricity”

crimes-of-the-art-scream-1Artist Robin Lee was arrested by London’s transit police for using a plug aboard one of the city’s overground trains to charge his iPhone. An officer confronted and handcuffed him as he was getting off the train. “She said I’m abstracting electricity,” Lee said.

Verdict: Hiroshi Sugimoto has been abstracting electricity for years.

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