Some of the taxidermy animals stolen in London earlier this month (photo © Metropolitan Police)

Some of the taxidermy animals stolen in London earlier this month (photo © Metropolitan Police) (click to enlarge)

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.

Taxidermy Animals Abducted


Eighteen taxidermy animals — including a sloth, a penguin, and a monkey wearing a top hat and tie — were stolen from a warehouse in south London. The animals and other antiques taken in the heist are worth a total of £100,000 (~$141,500).

Verdict: This is a surefire sign that the taxidermy craze has gotten out of hand — look for those stolen animals to turn up on London gastropub walls within the next six months.

Bacon Thieves Pig Out in Spain


Five works by Francis Bacon estimated to be worth a total of €30 million (~$33.3 million) were stolen from a collector’s home in Madrid in June of last year, though the heist was only made public recently. The thieves struck while the works’ owner was away, disabling the house’s alarm system to remain undetected.

Verdict: Let this be a lesson to all Bacon hoarders — always keep your Bacon close at hand.

Auction House Porters Took Their Work Home


Forty-four porters at the French auction house Drouot are on trial for systematically stealing some 6,000 artworks, historical artifacts, and furniture consigned for sale between 2006 and 2008.

Verdict: How quintessentially French — liberty, equality, and fraternal thievery rings.

Russia’s Deputy Culture Minister Arrested


Grigory Pirumov, Russia’s deputy minister of culture, has been arrested and charged with embezzlement as part of a crackdown on officials suspected of embezzling funds from state-financed restoration projects at cultural heritage sites.

Verdict: This type of systemic corruption is enough to make you want to nail your genitals to the cobblestones of Red Square.

Serial Church Robbers Desecrate Stolen Crucifixes


A woman in her 60s and a man in his 80s were arrested in France after a tip from a cleric revealed that they had stolen more than 3,000 religious objects including statues, rosary beads, and candles. “At the home of the octogenarian the toilets were absolutely full of crucifixes,” a priest in a parish targeted by the thieves said, “there wasn’t so much as a square centimetre of space.”

Verdict: “The toilets were absolutely full of crucifixes” may be the funniest thing a priest has said or will say, ever.

Feds Clean Up at New York’s Asia Week Sales

A buff sandstone stele of Rishabhanata, from Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, India, 10th century CE, recently seized from Christie's by ICE (photo courtesy US Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

A buff sandstone stele of Rishabhanata, from Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, India, 10th century CE, recently seized from Christie’s by ICE (photo courtesy US Immigration and Customs Enforcement)


Officers of the US’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized two Indian sculptures dating from the 8th and 10 centuries CE (and valued at around $300,000 and $150,000, respectively) that were slated to be auctioned during an Asia Week sale at Christie’s. Both objects have been traced to former Manhattan dealer Subhash Kapoor, who is currently awaiting trial in India on multiple charges of looting antiquities.

Verdict: Kapoor’s illegal enterprise will be an Asia Week fixture for years to come.

Checkmate for Queens Elks Lodge?


Sculptural reliefs on the façade of the former Elks Lodge building on 44th Drive in Long Island City, Queens, were illegally removed despite calls for the building’s preservation. A construction supervisor claimed the work being done to the building’s exterior was part of a test for asbestos.

Verdict: Where are the Elks when we need them?

Master and Commander Coat Goes AWOL


The prop British Royal Navy Captain Dress Coat worn by Kiwi actor and musician Russell Crowe in the 2003 blockbuster naval drama Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World was stolen from San Diego’s Maritime Museum.

Vertigo: Perhaps the thief took the coat and gave it to the local Planet Hollywood franchise, where it belongs.

Schools’ Public Artworks Drop Out


Sixty-eight works of art that were commissioned through Baltimore’s 1%-For-Art Ordinance have gone missing from the city’s schools, including 12 large-scale works worth a total of $250,000. While the whereabouts of 22 works remain uncertain and they could simply be sitting in storage and unaccounted for, 46 are known to be missing.

Verdict: Bmore should be more vigilant about its public art.

Man Arrested for Selling Ivory Carvings


Shahram “Ron” Roohparvar of Saratoga, California, has been arrested for selling ivory artifacts online on three occasions, spanning 2012 to 2015, a violation of federal regulations that has been in place since 1976. He has been charged with three counts of wildlife trafficking, each of which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.

Verdict: Please, just stop buying and selling art made from elephant tusks.

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...