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.
Koons Sued for Taking Shot of Gin
Photographer Mitchel Gray is suing Jeff Koons for using an image he shot for a Gordon’s Dry Gin advertisement in 1986 in the painting “I Could Go For Something Gordon’s,” part of Koons’s series of appropriated ads, Luxury and Degradation. Gray, who only learned of the offending piece in July, is seeking unspecified and punitive damages, as well as any profits Koons derived from the work.
Verdict: Will Gray v. Koons be the next Cariou v. Prince?
ISIS Prisoners Forced to Smash Graves
Captives held by ISIS in Mosul are being made to vandalize the city’s cemeteries, smashing graves and tombstones. The bizarre form of punishment appears to be the latest front in the group’s campaign to eradicate any signs of any way of worshiping other than its own.
Verdict: What grave news.
Art Thief Tags Artist in Pic of Purloined Pieces
Daniel Arsham called out a fan who stole several of his small chalk sculptures from his recent show in Miami and then uploaded a photo of the loot to Instagram, tagging Arsham in the post.
Verdict: Chalk it up to yet another thing ruined by social media — art thievery.
Museum Membership Services Worker Does Some Self-Service
An employee at Chicago’s Field Museum stole $900,000 over the course of seven years while selling memberships at the institution’s entrance. The (now former) employee is being investigated by federal authorities.
Verdict: Upon discovering the theft in 2014, the Field Museum put the worker out to pasture.
Crooks Steal 30 Artworks in Markus Lüpertz Studio Break-in
Thieves broke into artist Markus Lüpertz‘s studio outside Berlin and made off with some 30 artworks — including paintings, prints, and drawings. Lüpertz estimated the combined value of the lost work to be over $1 million.
Verdict: Good luck unloading those lifted Lüpertzes — no auction house or secondary market gallery will dare touch them.
Nicolas Cage to Hand Over Stolen Tyrannosaurus Skull
Actor Nicolas Cage has agreed to turn over the fossilized skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar that he bought from a Beverly Hills gallery in 2007 for $276,000, after it was determined that it had been stolen from Mongolia. He will hand it over to the Department of Homeland Security, which will see to the skull’s safe return.
Verdict: Good thing Cage didn’t insist on hanging onto Mongolia’s national treasure, otherwise there might’ve been a face-off.
Antiquities Dealer Dealt House Arrest
Munich-based antiquities dealer Leonardo Patterson, who has been in trouble with the FBI, Interpol, and other agencies in the past for allegedly dealing in forged and looted artifacts, was sentenced to three years of home confinement and probation, along with a fine of about $40,000, and ordered to return two authentic Olmec carvings to Mexico.
Verdict: Patterson’s activities read like fiction (if only they were!) — this passage is particularly excellent:
In 1984, the F.B.I. charged him with trying to sell a fake Mayan fresco to a dealer in Boston. A year later, while on probation, he was arrested at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and later convicted of illegally importing a pre-Columbian ceramic figure dated between A.D. 650 and A.D. 850. He also had with him 36 sea turtle eggs in violation of an international endangered species convention — items he claimed were part of his health diet.
Antiquities Dealer Duo Dealt Probation
Former antiquities dealer Jonathan Markell was sentenced to 18 months in jail for making false declarations when importing artifacts from Southeast Asia. Both he and his wife, Cari, were sentenced to probation for a tax evasion ploy in which they donated looted objects to museums to obtain tax write-offs. (Their donations resulted in raids on 13 museums in January 2008, including LACMA, the Pacific Asia Museum, and the Bowers Museum.)
Verdict: Couples that evade taxes together stay together — that is, until one of them gets sent to jail for tax evasion.
Collector Sues Native American Artifacts Dealer
Collector Reuben Setliff is suing dealer Larry Belitz for allegedly swindling him out of $421,000 for artifacts that Belitz claimed had belonged to Sitting Bull, Lone Bull, Crazy Horse, and other Native American heroes. Setliff says they’re inauthentic.
Verdict: Sounds like Belitz’s stories about Lone Bull and Sitting Bull were a load of bull.
Artist’s Foundation Flipflops on Painting’s Authenticity
Collector Richard Fisher sued the Petr Konchalovsky Foundation for declaring in 2012 that a Konchalovsky painting he had bought from Sotheby’s in 1991 — when the foundation deemed it authentic — was actually inauthentic. Fisher, who had planned to consign the painting to Sotheby’s to resell it, says he was cheated out of $800,000 because of the foundation’s declaration.
Verdict: The Petr Konchalovsky Foundation is giving artist foundation authentication boards a bad name.
Memories So Fair and Bright
Kimetha Vanderveen’s paintings are about the interaction of materiality and light, the bond between the palpable and ephemeral world in which we live.
Artists Contemplate Sovereignty in Santa Fe
The Santa Fe Art Institute’s 2024 International Thematic Residency focuses on what sovereignty means for artists from across the world.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
How Did Early Modern European Craftspeople Pass On Their Knowledge?
A new book about object making critically examines a written history of working with materials.
Dual Portrait of Old Master Rachel Ruysch Holds a Trove of Secrets
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has just acquired the rare painting, which depicts the Dutch artist at work surrounded by her signature flora.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
Did Van Gogh’s Disdain for the Eiffel Tower Inspire “Starry Night”?
Art historian James Hall argues that van Gogh replaced the Eiffel Tower with a towering cypress tree and its inaugural light shows with the night sky.
Greek Museum Welcomes Dogs For World Stray Animal Day
Furry friends and their pawrents can visit Athens’s National Museum of Contemporary Art for free this weekend.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Ai Weiwei Recreates Monet’s “Water Lilies” Using 650,000 LEGOS
It’s the artist’s largest LEGO artwork to date.
Did a Simpsons Episode Predict the Florida “David” Outrage?
The episode, which aired 30 years ago, made a dark prediction about conservative politics in 2023.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
Coasting the Topography of South Asian Futurisms
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Sadaf Padder presents an exhibition to offer insight into her curatorial process.
I’m a Florida Drag Queen and I’m Scared
I’m truly at a loss for what to do for work and what kind of life I can expect to live.