Uri Geller's sculpture in Sonning, UK (photo by Neil Macdonald/Flickr)

Uri Geller’s disappeared sculpture in Sonning, UK (photo by Neil Macdonald/Flickr)

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.

Magician’s Sculpture Vanishes


A large red sculpture of a bent spoon created by television “illusionist” Uri Geller — famous for his spoon-bending — as a parting gift to Sonning, UK, his home of 35 years, has disappeared.

Verdict: Clearly the disappearing spoon sculpture trick was the crowning illusion of Geller’s career.

San Francisco Museums’ CEO in Trouble


The chief financial officer of Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF), Michele Gutierrez, has accused Dede Wilsey, the organization’s chief executive officer and board president, of unilaterally paying a sick staffer $450,000. Gutierrez’s complaint was delivered to both San Francisco City Hall and the office of State Attorney General Kamala Harris, and it could jeopardize FAMSF’s nonprofit status.

Verdict: Always check with the board before giving six-figure bonuses.

Florida Thieves Sign Gallery Guestbook


Megan Ohara and David Ziskoski stole $6,000 worth of jewelry created by artist Attila JK from his Palm Springs space, ICFA Gallery, but not before leaving a number of fake email addresses in the gallery guestbook — including “wedidnttakeit@gmail.com” — Ohara’s real phone number, and, as the Sun Sentinel reported, “a drawing of male genitalia and a woman’s face labeled as ‘Meg.’”

Verdict: Way to make Florida Man and Florida Woman proud.

Squatter Sold Stolen Art Out of Empty Mansion


A man named Jeremiah Kaylor was arrested after selling 11 artworks for a total haul of over $300,000 out of a vacant mansion where he had been squatting for at least two months in San Francisco’s swanky Presidio Heights neighborhood. Kaylor sold the works, which he found in crates inside the long-uninhabited mansion (currently on the market for $17.9 million), for fractions of their market value before being caught.

Verdict: Come on, Kaylor — flooding the market with steeply discounted works is a dead giveaway.

Korean Copycat Collects Comeupance


US artist Mike Womack recently learned via an email tip that his 2013 exhibition at ZieherSmith in New York City, Observer Effect, had been copied in its entirety by the South Korean artist Jeongwoo Hahn, who had won a $6,500 prize from the Seoul nonprofit Insa Art Space for the show. After being informed of the copy, Insa Art Space took down Jeongwoo’s show, demanded he pay back the $6,500 prize, and fined him.

Verdict: Geometric slabs of concrete aren’t that interesting to begin with, but having to steal someone else’s concrete slabs is even worse.

Basquiat Boosted and Brought Back


A Jean-Michel Basquiat painting valued at nearly €9 million (~$10.2 million) was stolen from and, within a few hours, returned to the Paris apartment of its owner. The short-lived theft was apparently spurred by the woman’s imminent divorce from her husband.

Verdict: When going through a divorce, always keep the Basquiats stashed away.

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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...