Detail of one of the ancient Etruscan sarcophagi recovered from Geneva Freeport (photo © Ministère public genevois)

Detail of one of the ancient Etruscan sarcophagi recovered from Geneva Freeport (photo © Ministère public genevois)

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.

Dealer’s Loot Stash Discovered


Forty-five crates full of looted artifacts were found in Geneva Freeport and are believed to have belonged to the disgraced British antiquities dealer Robin Symes. The objects include two life-size Etruscan sarcophagi believed to date from the 2nd century BCE.

Verdict: This is exactly why rich people love freeports — and why everyone else views them with suspicion.

Once Upon a Crime in Shaolin …


Artist Jason Koza claims that his drawings of various members of the Wu-Tang Clan were copied and incorporated into the book that accompanies the rap supergroup’s $2-million album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin… without his knowledge or permission. He recently learned of the unauthorized use of his works when images of the unique album were posted following the arrest of its owner, Martin Shkreli.

Verdict: If he wants a cut of that $2 million, Koza should call up Inspectah Drawing.

Turkish Police Fall for Phony Picasso


A painting seized in an elaborate sting operation in Istanbul that was originally believed to be an authentic (and stolen) work by Pablo Picasso was revealed to be a fake copy of “Woman Dressing Her Hair” (1940), which is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

Verdict: How does the old mantra go? Seize first, authenticate later.

Steep Fine Could Sink Vagina Kayak Artist


Megumi Igarashi, who is currently on trial in Tokyo for using 3D scans of her vagina to create a whole series of artworks including a kayak, will face a fine of ¥800,000 (~$6,650) if the prosecutors get their way.

Verdict: If Igarashi had been a man who had turned a 3D scan of his penis into a canoe, nobody would have taken him to court — just saying.

Woman Sues AP Over Unauthorized Stock Photo


Fifi Youssef is suing the Associated Press and photographer Mark Lennihan for taking and selling a photo of her sitting in a Starbucks looking at her iPhone without her permission.

Verdict: Come on, photographers, it’s not that hard to ask for permission.

Darth Vader Returns R2-D2 Portrait

A plea for the return of the stolen R2-D2 painting (screenshot via Facebook)

A plea for the return of the stolen R2-D2 painting (screenshot via Facebook)


A man anonymously returned a painting of the beloved Star Wars character R2-D2 to the Mikey’s Late Night Slice pizza restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, a day after is disappeared. It was accompanied by a note signed by Darth Vader and explaining that the work “is close to worthless” in the estimation of “the pizza shop black market.”

Verdict: Just as Darth’s son told him a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, “I know there is good in you. The Emperor hasn’t driven it from you fully.”

Pittsburgh Tagger Bagged


Max Emiliano Gonzales, a 22-year-old art student at Carnegie Mellon University, has been charged with 58 counts of criminal mischief for scrawl his distinctive “GEM,” “312,” and “BTK” tags all over the streets of Pittsburgh. “It was determined the 312 tag was the area code from Gonzales’ hometown in [Willowbrook] Illinois and the extension for his cell phone,” Pittsburg Police Officer Alphonso Sloan wrote in the complaint. “The BTK tag stands for Gonzales’ graffiti crew, ‘Born to Krush,’ also known as ‘Born to Kill’ and ‘Blood, Terror, and Karate.’ ”

Verdict: The acronym police will be coming after Gonzales next over “Blood, Terror, and Karate.”

Council Rejects “Blessings” of Brisbane’s Banksy


Aussie street artist Anthony Lister, whom some have called “Brisbane’s Banksy,” was sentenced to five hours of service with the city’s graffiti removal unit for unauthorized works he installed throughout the city between 2009 and 2014. Lister said he never intended to cause property damage and had simply made “the educated decision that a beautification blessing needs to take place.”

Verdict: Only those who’ve already been converted to street art can appreciate such blessings.

Dead Man’s Glass Art Gone


When going through the belongings in the home of her recently deceased father, Sunnie Kent realized that glass artworks worth a total of $100,000 were missing. Other items taken by the suspected thief include a gold bracelet and kitchen appliances.

Verdict: The thief may have lots of glass, but he has no class.

Idaho Museum Manager Skimmed Cash


Amanda Gunderson, the former manager of business affairs at the Museum of Idaho, is accused of tampering with accounting software, disappearing months of financial records, and stealing between $46,835 and $107,378 in cash from the museum.

Verdict: As if state museums weren’t sufficiently underfunded without having to worry about shady employees.

Book Thief Booked


Andrew Shannon is on trial in Dublin for allegedly stealing 67 antique books from the historic Carton House while the 18th-century mansion was being renovated. The boosted books include an edition of the King James Bible from 1660, one of only six in the world.

Verdict: If convicted, Shanon will be a bookmarked man.

Relic Looters Publicly Shamed


Five men who are suspected of having stolen relics from a local temple were paraded through the streets of Guizhou, China. The relics have all been recovered and returned to the temple in the town of Yelang.

Verdict: Throwing parades for suspected art thieves might send the wrong message.

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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...