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.
Bringing Sexy Alien Back
Among the 300 objects recovered when two suspected thieves were arrested at a home they were squatting in south Seattle last week was a small sculpture of a sexy alien posing alongside a crashed flying saucer. The sculpture, it turns out, was a fixture of the Maple Valley neighborhood, where it had become something of a local mascot — complete with its own Facebook page — until it was abducted in March.
Verdict: Between this and Independence Day: Resurgence, summer 2016 is proving to be a summer of alien comebacks.
Thomas Kinkade Jesus Resurrected
The man who stole a bronze bust of Jesus Christ by the late Thomas Kinkade from a gallery in Indiana in December 2014 has returned the prized artwork. The recovering methamphetamine addict called the gallery and arranged to meet its owner in the parking lot of a local Pizza King restaurant to hand over the stolen sculpture. The gallery will not press charges.
Verdict: This is far and away the best thing to have ever happened in a Pizza King parking lot.
Nobody Wins When Winnipeg Public Art’s Smashed
Artist Ewa Tarsia’s grassy public sculptures “Cool Dot” were smashed during Winnipeg’s Canada Day celebrations, with cantankerous Canucks cavorting atop the wood, compost, dirt, and sod installations. This is Tarsia’s fourth year participating in Winnipeg’s annual Cool Gardens outdoor exhibition, and every year her dots have either been destroyed or stolen.
Verdict: There’s nothing cool about petty vandalism.
Gallery Accused of Duping Collector
Oregon-based collector Nira Levine is suing the owners of the Lower East Side’s Woodward Gallery for allegedly duping her into overpaying for works by Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Keith Haring, and others. Levine accuses John and Kristine Woodward of overcharging her for the purchase or joint purchase (with the gallery as co-owner) of more than $1 million worth of art. The gallery “emphatically refutes” Levine’s claims, in the words of a statement sent to Hyperallergic, particularly the allegation that a set of Warhol prints sold to her are fake. “The Spacefruit prints which Levine, an art dealer herself, purchased through the Gallery, were authenticated with a rating of ‘A’ by the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board,” the statement says. “The Andy Warhol Foundation has just confirmed those findings. The original Certificates of Authenticity were transferred to Nira Levine when she took possession of the prints in 2014.”
Verdict: Yet another illustrative example — as if one were needed — of why the art world needs greater regulation and transparency.
Neigh’er-Do-Wells Nabbed with Sculpture Full of Coke
One US citizen and two Mexican nationals have been arrested for trying to smuggle $10 million worth of cocaine into New Zealand concealed inside a bedazzled sculpture of a horse’s head.
Verdict: Not exactly the most inconspicuous vessel for transporting contraband.
Sixty-Foot-Long Mural Vanishes
A seven-foot-tall, 60-foot-long banner created by Kenny Scharf and that cost the Friends of the East River Esplanade $2,000 to print was stolen just days after it was installed at 116th Street and FDR Drive in Harlem.
Verdict: It can’t be that hard to track down a 420-square-foot artwork.
Former Cop Stole Art from Governor’s Mansion
Travis Sackett, a former State Capitol Police officer, pleaded guilty to stealing the Aaron Bohrod painting “Gold Fantasy Box” (1968) from the Governor of Wisconsin’s mansion in 2011. Sackett reportedly took the painting from a storage space at the mansion and sold it to Connecticut-based dealer Don Barese for $1,800.
Verdict: To be fair, if my governor were Scott Walker, I’d think about stealing from him, too.
Lee Ufan Throws a Wrench in Forgery Investigation
Weighing in on the ongoing prosecution of an art dealer accused of selling forgeries (see Crimes of the Art #66), the artist Lee Ufan announced at a press conference that the 13 works believed to be fakes are in fact authentic. “I concluded that there is not anything strange with a single piece,” Lee said after a four-hour examination of the works. “The use of breath, rhythm, and color were all my techniques.”
Verdict: Prosecutors must not be big fans of Lee Ufan right now.
Blaze Lights Up Liverpool Biennial Venue
The city of Liverpool’s Saw Mill was badly damaged in a fire that is now being investigated as an arson attack. The building, a former nightclub, was to be the venue for Turner Prize-winner Mark Leckey’s video art installation “Dream English Kid 1964–1999 AD” as part of this year’s Liverpool Biennial (which opens July 9).
Verdict: I’m not sure how, but this must be Brexit’s fault.