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.
Stolen Cow Art Corralled
A sculpture of a painted cow that was stationed outside the Children’s Museum of Houston disappeared overnight and was discovered five miles away by a local news crew. Houston police have no suspects in the theft of the $50,000 artwork, titled “Border Bovine.”
Verdict: Sounds like someone’s got beef with the Children’s Museum.
Soon-To-Be Ex Swipes Art Collection
Swiss businessman Maurice Alain Amon surreptitiously deinstalled and sent to storage the art collection — including works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Takashi Murakami, Cy Twombly, and others — that he and his wife Tracey Hejailan-Amon amassed during their seven years together before filing for divorce. Now Hejailan-Amon is suing her ex-husband-to-be to block him from selling any of the art; one of the pieces, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Saxaphone” (1986) is due to hit the auction block at Christie’s tonight — where it has a $4–6 million pre-sale estimate.
Verdict: Further proof that Swiss businessmen are not to be trusted — not to mention married.
Lil Wayne Has a Lil Less Art
Miami-Dade police raided the Miami Beach home of rap star Lil Wayne in order to settle a $2-million outstanding bill he owes to private jet company Signature Group. They only needed to take a fraction of the art off Wayne’s walls to pay back his debts — the rapper’s collection is reportedly worth $30 million.
Verdict: Who would’ve pegged Weezy for such a proficient collector? I expected his collection to be worth more like a milli.
Korine Canvas Kaput
A painting by artist and filmmaker Harmony Korine titled “Blue Checker” and valued at $120,000 was stolen from the lobby of the Puck Building in Manhattan.
Verdict: Too easy — it was Spring Breakers star James Franco for sure.
Vandals Strike Sites Tied to New Saint
Four sites on California’s central coast that are associated with the newly canonized Saint Junipero Serra (1713–1784) have been vandalized, most recently the historic Mission Santa Cruz — which was founded by Serra’s successor Father Fermín Francisco de Lasuén — where red paint was splashed on the mission door and graffiti accused Serra of genocide. Though recently canonized by Pope Francis, many have denounced Serra for his harsh treatment of Native Californians.
Verdict: Neither Serra nor the paint-splashers have behaved in an especially saintly manner.
Thief Demands Cash for Long-Lost Klimt
An Italian man claiming to be a retired art thief has demanded a ransom of €150,000 (~$160,000) in exchange for the safe return of a Gustav Klimt painting that was stolen from the Galleria d’Arte Moderna Piacenza in 1997.
Verdict: Only $160,000 for a Klimt? That really is a steal!
Former Looters Assist in Korean Crackdown
Police in Korea seized 779 artifacts and made about 90 arrests — even cuffing the director of a private museum — during a three-month operation to crack down on the trafficking of looted antiquities. The police were assisted in their investigation by retired looters who could no longer be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations.
Verdict: Further proof of looters’ loose morals — they have no problem snitching.
Scuffed Warhol Spurs $9M Suit
Art collector Peter Brant, by way of his Brant Foundation, is suing insurance giant Lloyd’s of London for $9 million over damage suffered by the multi-canvas Andy Warhol silkscreen “12 Electric Chairs” while it was on loan to an Italian museum last year. Court papers say that the red and purple canvases required repairs that resulted in a 15% devaluation of the $60-million artwork.
Verdict: The fact that damage to one sixth of an artwork can be so easily quantified, attributed a seven-figure value, and then used as the basis of a lawsuit, epitomizes capitalism’s stronghold on art.
Coldhearted Thief Absconds with Alaskan Prints
In what is almost certainly the most devastating art heist to strike the state of Alaska since it became a state, some 30 prints made and signed by Juneau-born, Berlin-based artist Bill C. Ray to mark the 25th anniversary of the Alaska Marine Highway System were swiped from the AMHS offices in Ketchikan. The stolen prints are estimated to be cumulatively worth over $3,000.
Verdict: Juneau anything about this crime? State troopers are standing by.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.