Controversial noose art on the Austin Peay State University campus (photo by @naacp.apsu/Instagram)

Controversial noose art on the Austin Peay State University campus (photo by @naacp.apsu/Instagram)

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.

Noose Art Knot Popular


A set of colorful nooses hung from a tree branch at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, was removed by campus police following a complaint. The nooses were subsequently revealed to have been part of an art project.

Verdict: All things considered, a campus police intervention is the best outcome for a noose-based public art project.

Death Sentence for Tomb Raider


The leader of a tomb-raiding ring in China has been sentenced to death, while three of his cohorts were given life sentences for their role in a series of illegal excavations at historic sites and graves in the Hongshan cultural relics protection region. Eighteen more members of the gang received jail sentences of between three and 15 years. The court characterized the group’s crimes as “the largest example of cultural relics robbery since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.”

Verdict: In the long run, actually safeguarding heritage sites will be a much more effective deterrent against looting than the prospect of execution.

Thief Just Can’t Quill Porcupine Statue


A metal sculpture of a porcupine — part of a set of 10 animal statues by Wendy Klemperer — was stolen from the grounds of the Portland International Jetport in Portland, Maine. While the other animals are welded to concrete bases, the porcupine was merely grounded with stakes, making it very easy to steal.

Verdict: What’s the point of having all those extra TSA agents if things like this still happen?

FBI Raids Santa Fe Dealers


The home of Saher Saman and Marji Hoyle — the owners of the now-defunct Marji Gallery in Santa Fe — was raided earlier this month by FBI agents, who seized documents, a computer, and multiple paintings. Hoyle and Saman are the focus of several claims over artworks that buyers paid for but never received, or that were consigned to the duo to sell and have disappeared. The focus of the investigation is a set of 32 paintings by the Australian Aboriginal artist George Ward Tjungurrayi, said to be worth $300,000.

Verdict: Is anyone really surprised to find that New Mexico art dealers are running their business like it’s the Wild West?

Expelled from Studio, Artist Sues to Get Back In


Artist Gabriel J. Shuldiner is suing Manhattan’s Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts (EFA), claiming he was wrongly expelled from its subsidized studio program for alleged “inappropriate behavior.” Shuldiner, who has been an EFA member since 2012, was informed that he was being kicked out for violating a rule in the membership bylaws by inviting an intern to his home, even though no such rule exists.

Verdict: Shuldiner lacks creativity — the surest way to make a situation like this more uncomfortable is to turn it into an art project.

Vandal Grafs Glyph

Vandalism to Judaculla Rock in North Carolina (images courtesy the Jackson County Sheriff's Office)

Vandalism to Judaculla Rock in North Carolina (images courtesy the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office)


The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a man photographed walking shirtless from the Judaculla Rock Historic Site in North Carolina in connection with vandalism done to the site and to the largest of the petroglyph-covered rocks that give it its name. After allegedly tagging Judaculla Rock, the same man returned to the important Cherokee site and allegedly stole a sign providing information about it.

Verdict: This deplorable act is made all the more disquieting by the tag’s resemblance to the “Wolfsangel” symbol popular among certain neo-Nazi groups.

Huge Tapestry Escapes Hospital


A 33-foot-wide tapestry by the artist Camille Hilaire worth €10,000 (~$11,400) was stolen off the wall of a disused wing of the central hospital in the French city of Nancy. Made by the historic Aubusson tapestry manufacture, the enormous artwork was not equipped with any kind of security or alarm system and was scheduled to be deinstalled in anticipation of the building’s renovation.

Verdict: It’s now tying together the living room of some unscrupulous doctor.

Gallerist Sues Censorious City


Art dealer Laura Borghi of Borghi Fine Art Gallery is suing the city of Englewood, New Jersey, and local code enforcement officer Walter Deptuch for issuing her a code complaint in January for “Display of [a] Nude Painting.” The work in question, by artist Tom Dash, includes a partial view of a woman’s bare bottom. “The painting was not anything pornographic or offensive, even to children,” Borghi said. “You see more on a plumber when he bends down.”

Verdict: Poor plumbers, will they ever cease to be the butts of such jokes?

“Super” No Match for Coppers


Police in St. Louis have arrested 33-year-old David Cox, who is allegedly the prolific local graffiti writer known by his distinctive “Super” tag. Police had attempted to pull Cox over earlier this month, but he sped from the scene; when they found his vehicle abandoned, it contained a pistol and cans of spray paint. He was subsequently arrested and charged with property damage.

Verdict: For a “super” tagger, Cox was awfully easy to catch.

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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...