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This flying saucer sculpture on the exterior of the International UFO Museum and Research Center was recently stolen and smashed. (photo by Tiffany LeMaistre/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.

UFO Museum’s Flying Saucer Takes Flight, Crashes

A sculpture of an alien spacecraft that long adorned the exterior of the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, New Mexico, was stolen and eventually found, smashed to pieces. The steel and fiberglass spacecraft had recently undergone repairs after it was damaged in a storm; it was being stored behind the museum in anticipation of a reinstallation on the façade. There are no suspects, and security footage of the out-of-this-world heist has been released.

Verdict: Like the moon landing video, the supposed “security footage” was obviously staged — this saucer heist was clearly the work of Martian looters.

Feds Follow Looted “Footprints”

Japanese antiquities dealer Tatsuzo Kaku was arrested at Manhattan’s Mark Hotel for smuggling a 2nd-century sculpture and attempting to sell it for $1.1 million. The artifact, a 440-pound Buddhapada sculpture dubbed “Footprints of Buddha,” was stolen from an archaeological site in Pakistan in 1982. A federal investigation of Kaku’s activities began last year, when a rival dealer outed him to authorities. Kaku was released after paying a $5,000 fine and cooperating with investigators.

Verdict: Antiquities dealers will tell the feds anything to cut a deal.

Cliffhanger in Cambridge Cranium Cover-up

A model of a skull used by medical students at the University of Cambridge’s King’s College was stolen from the school’s library, prompting the library to send out an all-student email that read: “Unfortunately a skull has gone missing from the library’s collection.” After a student posted part of the email on Twitter, the library attempted to cover up the incident, sending the student a message that concluded: “This has, as a result, attracted some unwarranted press attention. Please can you remove the Twitter post immediately.” The skull’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Verdict: Cambridge gets an F in Skull Theft Cover-ups.

Fabulous Flatware Found

Two suspects were arrested in Turkey’s Bandırma district and a trove of 105 historical artifacts seized, including what may be the world’s most valuable plate. The 2,000-year-old metal dish features scenes of the Persian king’s spring festivities rendered in bas relief around its edge. The suspects were trying to sell it for 2 million Turkish Liras (~$705,000).

Verdict: Sounds like the thieves will be missing this year’s spring festivities.

Amateur Archaeologist Arrested

A man who uncovered an ancient tomb in his backyard in Tongchuan, in China’s Shaanxi province, has been arrested for allegedly plotting to sell the 12 pieces of pottery and one sword he’d found in the tomb.

Verdict: Apparently the old rule of “finders keepers” doesn’t apply to ancient tombs — who knew?

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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...

One reply on “Crimes of the Art”

  1. Your snarky reporting of the brainless vandalism of part of the UFO Museum’s collection rings pretty hollow in view of some of the conceptual and performance art you apparently revere.

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