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Sam Larson’s design at left and Forever 21’s T-shirt at right (image via @samlarson/Twitter)

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.

Artist Teed Off at Forever 21

Illustrator Sam Larson claims that clothing brand Forever 21 used an illustration of his — a stylized rendering of the word “wild” — in one of its T-shirt designs without asking permission or giving him any credit or compensation.

Verdict: If only such wanton theft were actually “wild” and not, as is increasingly the case, standard operating procedure.

Goya, Goya, Gone

Two small works by Francisco de Goya — the painting “Dream of St. Joseph” and the drawing “Sketches of Heads” — were stolen from a home in Madrid the night of September 1. The combined valued of the two missing works is €5 million (~$5.6 million).

Verdict: Assuming the Goyas are eventually recovered, the collectors can look forward to the works appreciating in value — the market loves a good heist story.

Destroyer of Malian Mausoleums Goes on Trial

Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi became the first person charged with war crimes, under the terms of the Rome Statute, for his role in the destruction of cultural heritage. Mahdi went on trial on September 30 for his role in attacks on 10 historic and religious monuments in Timbuktu in 2012.

Verdict: It’s surprising it’s taken this long — the Rome Statute was adopted in 2002 — for someone to stand trial for acts of cultural destruction.

Churlish Visitor Snaps a Chihuly

A 43-year-old visitor to the Tacoma Art Museum has been charged with first-degree malicious mischief for allegedly snapping off part of “Gilded Lavender Ikebana with Lapis Stem and Two Leaves,” a sculpture by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly valued at $120,000.

Verdict: Get that man a medal — or, at the very least, start crowdfunding his legal defense.

Houston Criminal  Cameras

The “We Love Houston” sign (photo by @dn0rth85/Instagram)

A thief brandishing a handgun (which turned out to be fake) stole $10,000 worth of equipment — including two Canon 5D cameras and a GoPro — from a film crew while they were shooting a promotional video for a local realtor in front of the public sculpture “We Love Houston,” by artist David Adickes.

Verdict: Are we sure this isn’t all part of the realtor’s elaborate promotional scheme?

Drunks Take Museum Wheelchairs for a Spin

Two men in Maine have been charged with burglary and theft by unauthorized taking for breaking into the Wreaths Across America National Office and Museum in Columbia Falls, stealing a number of items including two wheelchairs, and then using the wheelchairs to drunkenly race each other in the streets until the wee hours of the morning. The men, 20-year-old Edward Cotton and 18-year-old Jacob Lane, also sent photos of themselves drinking in the wheelchairs to the museum’s manager.

Verdict: Friends don’t let friends wheel drunk.

No Solidarity for Solidarity Mural

A mural by Faith47 in Red Hook, Brooklyn (photo by @dustyrebel/Instagram)

After several acts of vandalism, a mural by the South African street artist Faith47 was painted over in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The work was part of an international solidarity campaign calling for the release of Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani, but locals deemed the enormous portrait of a woman wearing a head scarf disrespectful to victims of terrorism.

Verdict: When we can’t denounce terrorism for fear of offending terror victims, the terrorists win.

Nocturnal Thief Nabs Paintings

Eight of artist Lydia Cash’s paintings were stolen from Chicago’s Edgewater Fall Art Fair. Like most of the participating artists, she left her art in a fair tent overnight, confident that the four security guards could keep it safe, but returned the next day to find most of her works missing.

Verdict: This sort of thing happens much too often — artists, never leave your work unattended overnight when participating in outdoor art festivals.

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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...

3 replies on “Crimes of the Art”

  1. Sounds like the man who damaged the Chihuly has a mental illness and the damage was unintentional.

  2. Why is Hyperallergic coming out in favor of destroying Chihuly’s work? If this was satire, it wasn’t very good. If it was serious, I won’t be reading this site anymore.

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