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.
Cossacks Destroy “Satanic” Bas Relief in Saint Petersburg
The Russians are having a hell of a time with the issue of tolerance, and in the latest incident, some obscure group with a historically scary name, “Cossacks of Saint Petersburg,” has torn down a century-old statue of Mephistopheles (a Faustian demon featured in German folklore) from a building in Russia’s second city. The odd thing is that the Russian Orthodox Church says it understands the vandals’ motivation. “Mephistopheles embodies evil in this world and this person decided to act, most likely, to kill Evil,” spokesman Roman Bagdasarov told pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia.
Verdict: When Jean-Paul Sartre wrote “Hell is other people,” he got it right; Mephistopheles is probably a lot more fun than these religious zealots.
Ancient Tomb Removed and Replaced with Picnic Table
A 6,000-year-old cemetery was destroyed and replaced with a picnic table in the Spanish town of Cristovo de Cea. Believe it or not, the mayor says no one told him it was a prehistoric site. D’oh!
Verdict: Townspeople should be forced to eat all their meals at this tacky table and reflect on the value of doing your homework before you dig.
San Francisco Sues Graffiti Artist for $88,000
Cities are trying anything to clean their streets, but now one is even going to court. In a lawsuit filed last week, the city of San Francisco charges graffiti artist Cozy Terry with 58 cases of vandalism and asks her to pay $88,000 for damage to public property — but it doesn’t stop there. The lawsuit also seeks to prohibit her from possessing graffiti instruments and even limit her ability to take public transportation, where she has done much of her tagging.
Verdict: If SF keeps this up, soon the only people who’ll be able to afford to do graffiti, like everything else in the SF, will be the rich.
Five Cambodians Jailed for Stealing Buddhist Relics
A Cambodian court sentenced five men to seven years in jail for stealing a golden urn — believed to contain the hair, teeth, and bones of Buddha — from a mountain shrine.
Verdict: May these bandits be reincarnated into shrine guards and spend their days guarding treasures from thieves like them.
Police Discover “Looting” Tunnel Near Jerusalem Museum
Israeli police announced that they discovered a 100-foot-deep hole in a residential yard in East Jerusalem that was probably used to conduct illegal excavations of ancient artifacts and possibly going to be used for an attempt to tunnel into the nearby Rockefeller Archaeological Museum — though a senior official from the Israel Antiquities Authority dismissed the police’s theory.
Verdict: It’s great that the police got to the bottom of this, but the whole thing in this holy city seems suspect, as there are clearly holes in this story.
Director at Uzbekistan Museum Is Sacked
Marinika M. Babanazarova, the director of the Savitsky Collection in Nukus, Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic within the Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan, was fired this week after running the museum since 1984. Babanazarova’s former employees are coming to her defense and calling the accusations of forgery and theft “impossible to imagine.”
Verdict: Post-Soviet sinecures aren’t what they used to be, but there’s something strange in the fact that no evidence of her crimes has been presented publicly.