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.
University Disarms MFA Student’s Gun Art
A sculpture by first-year University of Houston (UH) MFA student Alton DuLaney has been censored, he claims, because it includes a revolver. Intended as a statement about campus concealed gun laws — which will allow students at Texan universities to bring concealed handguns to class beginning August 1 — the sculpture consisted of a revolver, framed and behind glass, with a small flag reading “Art” protruding from its barrel. It is now on view at UH’s Blaffer Art Museum, without the gun.
Verdict: DuLaney’s piece seems exponentially more powerful for having been censored.
Megacollector Gets Megabill for Back Taxes
Art collector Aby Rosen will pay $7 million in back taxes on some $80 million worth of art he has either bought or commissioned since 2002, according to an agreement with the New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman. Gagosian gallery director Victoria Gelfand also agreed to pay a settlement of $210,000 over unpaid taxes stemming from 31 art purchases spanning 2005 to 2013.
Verdict: If only the US had an art-in-lieu system in place, Rosen could use art to pay his overdue art taxes.
Getty Goes After Google
Stock photo giant Getty Images has filed a complaint to the antitrust commission of the European Union, alleging that Google’s new slideshow image search function displays copyrighted high-resolution images, discouraging users from visiting the content-creators’ sites and facilitating image piracy.
Verdict: I admire Getty Images’s tenacity, but have they never heard of Tumblr?
Trump Supporter Punches Painter of The Donald’s Micropenis
Artist Illma Gore, whose unflattering nude portrait of aspiring Republican US Presidential candidate Donald Trump earned her legal threats from the reality TV star, claims she was punched by one of his supporters. “Today I was punched in the face by a man who got out of his car and yelled, ‘Trump 2016!’ in Los Angeles,” Gore wrote on Instagram.
Verdict: This sad incident is a terrifying glimpse of what could become of freedom of expression under a Trump presidency.
Museum Director Fudged the Numbers
The former director of Valencia’s Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Consuelo Císcar, and four of her staff are under investigation for allegedly overpaying for art and other financial irregularities during her 10-year tenure (2004–14). The museum has also been accused of inflating its attendance figures — though it reported 1.3 million visitors in 2012, the government audit found it only had 98,000.
Verdict: We all inflate traffic numbers sometimes, but a 13-fold exaggeration is a bit much.
Historic Skulls Stolen
Three human skulls were stolen from Tucson Mineral and Gem World, where they had been on display for a half-century, according to owner Ron Ratkevich. The hot heads were of exceptional provenance, according to Tucson News Now:
Ratkevich said the oldest came from a gladiator who died in the Coliseum in Rome 2,500 years ago. The second skull, which still had a metal ax embedded in it, came from a Spanish Conquistador who was killed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1541. The third was from a Mexican soldier who was shot in the head during Santa Anna’s battle for the Alamo.
Verdict: To crack this cranium theft case, officers of the Tucson Police Department had better put their heads together.
Partying Teens Spray Paint on Historic Citadel
During the recent Passover holiday, Israeli high school students threw a “paint party” inside a 1,300-year-old citadel in Ashdod and squirted colorful paint all over the historic structure. Luckily, they also posted photos on social media of the damage they’d caused, allowing the Israeli Antiquities Authority to identify them.
Verdict: Good thing these students won’t be getting a pass over the damage they’ve caused.
Prince Portrait a Royal Pain for Portrait Gallery
Photographer Lynn Goldsmith’s studio claims the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) is infringing on her copyright to a 1993 photo she took of the recently deceased pop legend Prince. The NPG installed the portrait photo on its first floor following the musician’s death and distributed digital reproductions to press for publication, allegedly violating the terms of Goldsmith’s agreement with record producer and collection Jimmy Iovine, to whom she originally sold the photo, and who donated it to the museum.
Verdict: There’s no better way to pay tribute to Prince than to fiercely assert control of one’s art.
Vandals’ Arch Etchings Exasperate
Visitors to Utah’s Arches National Park have taken tagging to new heights (and lows), deeply carving their names — sometimes as big as six feet across and three feet high — into the sandstone walls of the iconic Frame Arch rock formation. The carvings, which according to the park’s superintendent may be irreparable, are punishable by fines of up to $5,000 and as many as six months in jail.
Verdict: Whatever happened to simply snapping a selfie in front of Double Arch?!
Purrrrloined Lion Sculpture Collared
A large sculpture of a golden lion with reflector eyes, part of a public art installation titled “Night Eyes” by Chris Bauder in Las Vegas, was stolen and promptly recovered after the thief or thieves dumped it in the desert. However, four small, pink alligators that were also part of the installation are still missing.
Verdict: The cat burglar responsible for this heist must be a real croc.