Viv Albertine alongside her wall text revision at the British Library (screenshot by the author via Twitter)

Viv Albertine alongside her wall text revision at the British Library (screenshot by the author via @viv_albertine/Twitter)

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.

Punk Update to a Punk Exhibition


Viv Albertine, the British punk icon and guitarist for The Slits, became so frustrated with the erasure of women in Punk 1976–78 — a historical exhibition on punk’s early years at the British Library — that she made some edits to the show’s introductory wall text. Albertine crossed out the names of all-male bands including The Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks, replacing them with the names of bands led by women, including X-Ray Spex and Siouxsie and the Banshees. She signed her handiwork, and added: “What about the women!!”

Verdict: To be clear, the crime here is a venerable institution that should know better excluding women’s voices from its historical account of punk’s development.

Monets Bought with Stolen Moneys Seized


Two paintings by Claude Monet and a drawing by Vincent van Gogh, which billionaire Malaysian businessman Jho Low is accused of buying with money he stole from the country’s 1Malaysia Development Bhd. (1MDB) federal investment fund, have been seized by Swiss authorities. Local agents were complying with a request from the Federal Office of Justice in the US, where a civil lawsuit was filed against Low last week.

Verdict: If only 1MDB had bought those works itself — post-Impressionist masterpieces are usually sound investments.

French Court Orders Orlan to Pay Lady Gaga


A French court found in favor of Lady Gaga in a lawsuit brought against the pop star by conceptual artist Orlan, in which she accused Gaga of forgery. The dispute stemmed from imagery in the “Born This Way” music video that is strikingly similar to body modification pieces by Orlan. The court not only sided with Gaga, but ordered Orlan to pay her and her record label €20,000 (~$22,000). Orlan plans to appeal the decision.

Verdict: Now would be a good time for Orlan to heed Gaga’s words, rather than her images: “Don’t hide yourself in regret, just love yourself and you’re set.”

Gambling App Bets Big on Stolen Trump Image

Jason Seiler's 2010 Trump caricature (left) and the artwork for the "Trump Slots" app (screenshot by the author via @jasonseiler/Twitter)

Jason Seiler’s 2010 Trump caricature (left) and the artwork for the “Trump Slots” app (screenshot by the author via @jasonseiler/Twitter)


Artist Jason Seiler was recently alerted to the fact that the app “Trump Slots” features a blatant ripoff of a caricature of Donald Trump that he painted for the cover of Utne Reader in 2010. “They had a dumb idea for a game and wanted to get it out in time for the Republican Convention so they could make a few bucks,” Seiler wrote in the New York Observer, “while not having integrity enough to care about their image and what it might say about who they are.”

Verdict: The creators of “Trump Slots” must be graduates of Trump University.

Three Cops Investigated for Flipping Seized Loot


Three police officers in the Indian city of Noida are under investigation for allegedly failing to catalogue the artifacts they’d seized from a temple robber, and then turning around and selling them. After the 2013 robbery, locals caught the thief and he was jailed, but the goods worth 250,000 rupees (~$3,700) that he’d taken from Balaji Temple Sector 126 were never returned.

Verdict: Sadly, for every case like this that is brought to justice, many more likely go undetected and unpunished.

Who Let the Dog Paintings Out?


Thieves made off with nearly $1,500 worth of art — four paintings and about 30 small prints — in two successive robberies at artist Robert McCintock’s studio and gallery in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood. “Three dog pictures, which is a very specific niche of theft, I guess, and one of Fells Point,” McCintock told WMAR Baltimore.

Verdict: The police have no leads, but hope tips from the public can help them collar the thieves.

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...