Art dealer Eric Spoutz, who stands accused of selling forged artworks, gives a lecture at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland, in 2013. (photo by Natasha M. Spoutz, via Wikimedia Commons)

Art dealer Eric Spoutz, who stands accused of selling forged artworks, gives a lecture at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland, in 2013. (photo by Natasha M. Spoutz/Wikimedia Commons)

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 Duped Museums


Michigan art dealer Eric Spoutz was arrested for allegedly selling forged works of art. According to a federal complaint, he sold fake works purportedly by Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Franz Kline, and others, and claims to have placed such works in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Library of Congress, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and others.

Verdict: Deceiving the Smithsonian is one thing, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?! Spoutz has gone too far and must be stopped.

Ancient Currency Converted to Fakes


A French archaeologist returning to Amman to show his students a collection of ancient gold and silver coins he’d found years earlier discovered that the artifacts, now on display in the Jordan Archaeological Museum, had been stolen and replaced with fake copies. “There were 401 ancient coins in the Citadel Museum and someone replaced 400 of these priceless pieces with fake ones,” said MP Amjad Al Khattab.

Verdict: Technically speaking, it could have been worse — there’s still one real coin.

Airbnb Guests Boost Banksy


London friends and flatmates Jack Clarke and Dominic Jones returned to their Islington apartment after a recent Airbnb rental to find the place trashed. Their floor was littered with food scraps, condoms, and laughing gas canisters, cigarettes butts had been crushed into their furniture, and Jones’s prized Banksy print was missing.

Verdict: This is terrible, but come on, people are awful — Airbnb hosts should strip their spaces of valuables before turning over the keys.

Former Cop Stole Wisconsin’s “Gold Fantasy Box”


A former Wisconsin Capitol Police officer who worked night shifts at the governor’s mansion has been accused of stealing and selling a state-owned artwork. The painting in question, “Gold Fantasy Box” by Aaron Bohrod, recently turned up missing from storage at the governor’s mansion and was tracked to an art dealer in Connecticut.

Verdict: We don’t know how, but we’re pretty sure Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is behind this — arrest him!

Egypt Arrests Pyramid Peddlers

YouTube video

Three men have been arrested after undercover journalists caught them on camera selling stones stolen from the Giza pyramids to tourists. In the video they claim to have successfully sold chunks of pyramid for as little as $32 and as much as $558.

Verdict: Tourists will buy anything.

Art Thieves Plague Painter


Vancouver artist David Wilson had his studio broken into for the second time in three months. Thieves forced the lock on the door and made off with three paintings (worth a total of $12,500) and another $3,000 worth of art supplies.

Verdict: If Wilson’s work is that hot, it’s time for a solo show.

Groupon Gets Sued-on


A woman named Christine Dancel has filed a lawsuit against the online deals company Groupon, alleging that it takes thousands of users’ Instagram photos without their permission and uses them to advertise its deals.

Verdict: Can other jilted ‘grammers get a discount on legal representation if enough of them join this lawsuit?

Just Do It — the Exact Same Way Others Did


Filmmakers Selina Miles and Rob Whitworth claim that Nike ripped off their respective short films “Limitless” and “Barcelona GO!” in its new commercial featuring Brazilian soccer star Neymar Jr and street artist Bruno Big.

Verdict: Free sneakers for life seems like a reasonable compensation for Miles’s and Whitworth’s troubles.

Maybe a Dingo Stole Your Baby Portrait?


Police in Heidelberg, Australia, are trying to track down the owners of a portrait painting of a young, blond boy that was found in the trunk of a stolen car recovered late last year. Almost all the other items found in the car have been returned to their owners, but the artwork remains unclaimed.

Verdict: It’s a pretty cute painting; surely some young couple will adopt it if nobody claims it.

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...

3 replies on “Crimes of the Art”

  1. Here’s my question, would I be in more trouble if I sold stolen pieces of the Pyramids, or if I lied about them being pieces of the pyramids?

  2. Someone posted that they can do without the verdicts. Oh, how I agree. They cheapen the journalism.

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