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.
Art Dome Dinged
Edmonton’s “Talus Dome,” a mound-like public sculpture by the Ball-Nogues Studio, was attacked by one or more vandals who left about a dozen of the artwork’s almost 1,000 reflective balls dented. “There are different ways to make a point and free expression is one thing but damaging a public asset including a piece of public art is just disappointing behavior,” Mayor Don Iveson told the Edmonton Times. “I’d give that person a talking to if I found them.”
Verdict: Mayor Iveson’s threat to give the vandal(s) “a talking to” is the most comically Canadian thing I’ve heard in weeks.
Dealer in Deep Over Purloined Picassos
Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier is under investigation in Paris for allegedly having withheld the fact that he stole two Pablo Picasso works from the artist’s stepdaughter when he sold them to a Russian collector in 2013. The billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev paid €27 million (~$30.4 million) for the two gouache paintings, “Tête de femme. Profil” (“Woman’s head. Profile”) and “Espangole à l’éventail” (“Spanish woman with a fan”) — which is also the sum at which Bouvier’s bail has been set.
Verdict: Apparently stealing paintings is OK, but lying about it to a Russian oligarch is a step too far.
Franz West Archive Sues Gagosian
The Vienna-based Archiv Franz West has filed a copyright lawsuit against Gagosian over the gallery’s new exhibition of furniture designed by the late Austrian sculptor. In its lawsuit the nonprofit called the objects in the exhibition “unauthorized” and “essentially, an imitation,” alleging that their display and sale will damage the artist’s reputation.
Verdict: Here’s hoping the Archiv Franz West is holding out for a furniture licensing deal with Ikea.
Art Dealer Delt Indictment
Longtime Atlanta gallerist Bill Lowe has been indicted in Georgia’s Fulton County on charges of racketeering and criminal theft after he allegedly withheld more than $300,000 in proceeds of sales from the artists whose works he was selling. The Atlanta police’s Major Fraud Unit raided Lowe’s eponymous gallery in 2013.
Verdict: Further evidence in support of the old adage that “contemporary art is a racket.”
Gormley’s Guys Go Missing
Two life-size steel sculptures of stick-like figures created by Antony Gormley for Western Australia’s remote Lake Ballard have gone missing, and all that’s left of a third are its feet. Locals have suggested that the installation, titled “Inside Australia” and valued at £6 million (~$9.2 million) may have been damaged when a truck driver became stuck in the muddy salt lake and used one of the sculptures to winch his vehicle free.
Verdict: One of contemporary public sculpture’s most under-appreciated strengths is its ability to free vehicles from muddy swamps.
Medieval Moneys Burgled in Edinburgh
Three medieval coins dating from 1555, 1601, and 1604 were stolen from the Kingdom of the Scots gallery at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The theft may have happened during a recent strike, when the museum remained open with a skeleton staff, leading some to blame the institution’s management for putting its collection at risk.
Verdict: With inflation, those coins must be worth thousands!
Antiquities Thieves Make Off with Mosaic
Two men were arrested after allegedly dismantling and stealing a Byzantine-era mosaic from the floor of a 6th-century church in northern Israel. The two suspects face up to five years in prison.
Verdict: Stealing entire floors is ambitious, top-tier antiquities thief stuff. Next time start small.
Freiberg Sculpture Fried
A large public sculpture by artist Reiner Maria Matysik on the University of Freiburg’s campus was badly damaged by a fire, and police suspect it was arson. The artist is still deciding whether to repair the large polyester and resin sculpture, titled “Augenloss” (“Eyeless”), or leave it in its damaged state.