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.
Art Analysis Assignment Gets an F
Elizabeth Clausen, a teacher at Dayton High School in Nevada, is serving a temporary suspension after asking her students to articulate their opinions of the Michael D’Antuono painting “A Tale of Two Hoodies (Racism).” The work in question, rendered in a Norman Rockwell–like aesthetic, shows a police officer wearing a KKK hood and pointing a gun at a young black boy, who’s wearing a white hoodie and offering the cop candy. Behind them, a US flag is torn open to reveal a Confederate flag underneath it.
Verdict: The real problem with this exercise is that the artwork is just awful — there’s nothing else to say about it.
Bummed Bieber Moons Mayan Monument
Canadian pop star Justin Bieber was ejected from the Mayan site in the Mexican resort town of Tulum after allegedly showing up drunk, attempting to climb an ancient building, insulting National Institute of Anthropology and History workers, and pulling down his pants in protest of demands that he behave himself.
Verdict: Justin Bieber is the worst.
Stepmom Made Off with the Monet, Dealer’s Sons Say
Marc and Andre Salz, the sons of late art dealer Sam Salz, claim their stepmother, Janet Traeger-Salz, stole three paintings worth millions that were due to them as heirs — pieces by Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir — from their father’s estate.
Verdict: Let the Renoir go, guys; don’t you know nobody likes his work anymore?
Ka-Nefer-Nefer Never Going Home
The US Department of Justice has abandoned attempts to restitute the 3,200-year-old mummy mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, an object that disappeared from Egypt decades ago and wound up in the collection of the St. Louis Art Museum. The museum bought the mask — which disappeared from a storage facility in Egypt between 1966 and 1973 — from a New York antiquities dealer for $499,000 in 1998.
Verdict: Big mistake — the Midwest is not immune to the curse of the mummy.
Reality TV Glorifies Grave Robbers
Archaeologists are accusing Britain’s Channel 5 of encouraging “grave-robbing” with the planned reality television program Battlefield Recovery, which follows amateur diggers excavating war graves and battle sites in eastern Europe. The series is believed to be a rebranded version of a show the National Geographic Channel scrapped two years ago following a similar uproar — that show was titled Nazi War Diggers.
Verdict: Whoever though rehabilitating a show called Nazi War Diggers was a good idea has dug his own professional grave.
Van Dyck Smugglers Snared
Two men were arrested in Istanbul and charged with smuggling a painting believed to be by Anthony van Dyck after attempting to sell it to undercover Turkish police officers. The work had allegedly hung on the walls of a family home in Georgia for 15 years, and the family that owned it, not knowing who it was by, agreed to sell it for $37,000 (though the two men only ended up paying them $7,000).
Verdict: The smugglers were wasting their time — van Dyck’s non-portrait works aren’t worth the canvas they’re painted on.
Ad to Blame for Street Art Vandalism
Australian street artist Ash Keating claims that the recent defacement of his mural in Christchurch, New Zealand, by a large tag was the result of a “snowball effect” set in motion when an insurance company put a vinyl advertisement banner over a portion of the mural.
Verdict: Right on — advertising is an infinitely more insidious sort of vandalism than tagging.
Mohammad’s Footprint on Walkabout
Thieves stole a precious stone engraved with a 1,400-year-old footprint left by the Prophet Mohammad, the founder of Islam, from a mosque in the city of Patna in the Indian state of Bihar.
Verdict: It doesn’t get much lower than footprint theft.
Ad Agency Quits Industry Group in Plagiarism Row
The Kuala Lumpur advertising agency Dentsu Utama, which is embroiled in a very public plagiarism scandal over an award-winning poster design, resigned from the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia in protest of having two of its designs disqualified from the group’s Kancil Awards.
Verdict: Better to resign before being ejected.