Stonehenge at the summer solstice in 2013 (photo by Lets Go Out Bournemouth and Poole/Flickr)

Stonehenge at the summer solstice in 2013 (photo by Lets Go Out Bournemouth and Poole/Flickr)

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.

Stonehenge Source Rocks Stolen in Spades


Unscrupulous stone stealers have descended on a quarry in Preseli Hills, West Whales, that was recently identified by scientists as the source of the rocks used to form Stonehenge. The rock robbers have been chipping off chunks of the Preseli bluestone and selling them on eBay for £8 (~$11.20).

Verdict: Nobody ever got rich selling rocks — these guys must be stoned.



Independent curator Stacy Engman — whom we’d never heard of until today — stands accused of biting a fellow passenger on a flight from Istanbul to New York City’s JFK airport last year in a recently filed federal summons. Engman claimed that she was returning from spending five days on a yacht before turning her teeth on row-mate, Christina Tyler.

Verdict: Reentering the real world after five days on a yacht via the exceptionally dehumanizing, sardine tin-like experience of flying coach is enough to make anyone bite-y — it’s a minor miracle that Engman didn’t eat Tyler up entirely.

Lee Ufan Painting’s Certificate of Authenticity Is Certifiably Inauthentic


Seoul’s Metropolitan Police Agency discovered that a certificate of authenticity for the Lee Ufan painting “From Point No. 780217” (1978), which was sold for $415,600 in December during an auction at K Auction, is a forgery. Though the painting itself may be authentic, knowledge of the fake certificate has rekindled fears that the market for Lee’s work is rife with forgeries.

Verdict: Forging a certificate is markedly less impressive than forging an artwork — even one of Lee’s ho-hum early point paintings.

Punk Photographer Says Peyton’s Gotta Pay


Music photographer Dennis Morris is threatening to sue artist Elizabeth Peyton over her painting “John Lydon, Destroyed” (1994), which was pulled from a Sotheby’s auction earlier this month, because he claims it infringes on his copyrighted photo of Lydon from 1977. Morris previously filed complaints against Peyton over her paintings based on his photos of Lydon and Sid Vicious in 2014 (that case was settled out of court).

Verdict: Morris has clearly lost his edge — lawsuits are the antithesis of punk.

Faux Monk Makes Off with Elephant Statues

Inside one of the temples in Mrauk-U (photo by Anne Dirkse/Flickr)

Inside one of the temples in Mrauk-U (photo by Anne Dirkse/Flickr)


A thief posing as a monk has been stealing relics and historic statues of elephants from temples in the town of Mrauk U in western Myanmar. Unfortunately, theft and looting in the archaeologically rich region are very common.

Verdict: As if stealing from temples weren’t already bad enough, posing as a monk to do it makes this crime all the more sacrilegious.

Prison Time for Portland Forger


Lawrence Ulvi, a 75-year-old artist in Portland who was accused of peddling forged paintings (see Crimes of the Art #4), has been convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison for selling fake works by Kenneth Callahan, Mark Tobey, and Morris Graves. He must also pay $66,234 to his victims.

Verdict: That should give Ulvi plenty of time to work on his own paintings.

Painting Drops Out of College Art Show


An untitled painting from 1980 by John Hernandez, and said to be worth $1,450, turned up missing from an exhibition of Hernandez’s work at The Gallery at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Verdict: Some campus frat clearly gave its pledges an exceptionally irresponsible hazing challenge.

Thief Has a Change of Art


A painting of Kansas City’s historic Waldo Water Tower by Patrick Saunders that was stolen from a local library in October has been returned. The painting was accompanied by an apologetic note from the remorseful thief that read: “I made a very immature and stupid mistake by taking this painting. I apologize for the time, effort and concern put into this matter. I am very embarrassed and wish nothing but the best for Kansas City and its library community.”

Verdict: What a thoughtful art thief — ISIS could learn a thing or two from him.

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...

One reply on “Crimes of the Art”

  1. “Verdict: What a thoughtful art thief — ISIS could learn a thing or two from him.”
    Well honestly it could’ve been a”her”…not a “him”…

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