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(screenshot by the author via @NewOrleansON/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.

Tagger Rebrands Confederate Monument


A vandal (or several) tagged a memorial to Confederate president Jefferson Davis — one of four New Orleans monuments to Confederate figures slated to be removed — by spray-painting “Angela Davis” across its base.

Verdict: If the tag was intended as a guerrilla proposal for a replacement monument, consider this our wholehearted endorsement — New Orleans deserves fewer Confederate monuments and more Angela Davis statues.

I.M. Pained


The 98-year-old architect I.M. Pei — he of the Louvre pyramids, the Kennedy Library, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — was attacked by Eter Nikolaishvili, one of his home care aides, at his Manhattan townhouse. He was rushed to a hospital, treated for injuries including “bleeding lacerations and bruising,” and released.

Verdict: Perhaps Nikolaishvili is mad about the master builder’s design for the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, and this attack was Pei-back.

Lincoln’s Hand on the Lam


A plaster study of Abraham Lincoln’s hand was stolen from the Kankakee County Museum in Illinois either on or before December 11. “We were devastated. It just brought us all to the floor,” Connie Licon, the museum’s executive director, told the New York Times. “We’re a small museum, and we just don’t acquire pieces like this.”

Verdict: Police have no leads, so it will be hard for them to finger the hand thief.

Jackie Chan’s Sculptures Chopped Down


Two zodiac statues donated by action movie star and martial artist Jackie Chan to Taiwan’s National Palace Museum, and installed last month outside the museum’s new outpost in the southern city of Chiayi, were vandalized with splashes of red paint and anti-China slogans.

Verdict: Those vandals should have known better than to cross Mr. Nice Guy.

Caricature Artist Cracks


The day after he was fired, Frederick Torres, a caricature artist who had been working at Universal Orlando Resort, stabbed one of his former colleagues, artist Glenn Ferguson, in the neck with a pair of scissors. Torres is being charged with attempted first-degree murder; prior to the attack he reportedly told the manager who’d fired him: “I’m going to kill your number one artist.”

Verdict: It used to be that imitation was the highest form of flattery, but perhaps, in Florida, attempted murder is the greater compliment.

Agency Aped Ad Student’s Gorilla Poster Design

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(screenshot by the author via @TomAnders_/Twitter)


Tom Anders Watkins, a 21-year-old creative advertising student at the UK’s University of Lincoln, accused Kuala Lumpur-based agency Dentsu Utama of ripping off his design to create a World Wildlife Fund poster. Dentsu Utama was recognized at last year’s Malaysian advertising awards for the allegedly stolen design, which features the silhouette of a Cross River gorilla.

Verdict: Easy fix — Dentsu Utama has to hire Watkins the second he graduates.

Roman Airport Workers Rerouted Art


An elaborate art theft ring at Rome’s Fiumicino airport was busted. Workers including cleaners, passenger assistants, and ground crew at Fiumicino would steal artworks from passengers transiting through the airport by pretending to bring the artworks to oversize luggage drop-off points, instead stashing them in hiding places and then selling them on the black market. Artworks rerouted by the scheme included paintings by the Italians Ugo Attardi and Renato Guttoso valued at €50,000 (~$54,000), each belonging to a Rome gallery.

Verdict: This is why we never check artworks — keep that Canaletto in the overhead compartment!

Nude Photo Show Provokes Prudish Police


An outdoor exhibition of photos from artist Mathilde Grafström‘s series Female Beauty in central Copenhagen has been cancelled by Danish police who claim that the images — all of nude women, often photographed in nature — are indecent.

Verdict: These neo-Victorian cops never said anything about the nude mermaid statue sitting on the rocks just a stone’s throw away.

Serial Vandal Strikes Public Art Boxes


A vigilante armed with gray primer has painted over at least seven of the small utility box murals that are part of the Art Box Project in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose.

Verdict: This is worse than vandalism, it’s vandalism to make the streets more bland — let’s call it “blandalism.”

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...

5 replies on “Crimes of the Art”

  1. I feel like poor IM Pei deserves more screamy emojis. Don’t we think beating up an old man is really awful? Or maybe I don’t understand the scale

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