The 5,000-year-old carving of a skier on the Norwegian island of Tro, prior to its recent destruction (photo by Blåjens/Wikimedia Commons)

The 5,000-year-old carving of a skier on the Norwegian island of Tro, prior to its recent destruction (photo by Blåjens/Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Wipeout for 5,000-Year-Old Skier


An iconic, stone-age rock carving of a skier on the northern Norwegian island of Tro was destroyed by two children who scratched it in a misguided attempt to make the image clearer.

Verdict: These fame-hungry brats were probably hoping to create the Beast Jesus of 2016.

No Boons for Boone in Recent KAWS Sales


Mary Boone Gallery sued art adviser Vanessa Buia for allegedly falsely claiming to be working for an important collector in order to secure the sale of works by KAWS, which then passed through a series of intermediaries and eventually ended up on view in a Paris gallery. Buia filed a suit of her own against Mary Boone Gallery; her lawyer, Richard Luthmann, described the gallery’s complaint as “a crass attempt to avoid being legally out-maneuvered in her own game of Donald Trump-styled ‘bully lawsuits’ intended to money-whip her competition in the art world.”

Verdict: The greatest challenge for Boone’s lawyers may be establishing probable KAWS.

Salvador in Vandal-land


“Alice in Wonderland,” a Salvador Dalí sculpture installed outside Quebec City’s Château Frontenac hotel, was vandalized. Part of the figure’s staff was broken sometime during the month it has been on display as part of a Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Riopelle exhibition.

Verdict: Has anyone thought to question the Queen of Hearts?

Artist Beefs with McDonald’s Over Cow Commercial


The viral animation artist Cyriak Harris has accused Buenos Aires-based advertising agency Juan Solo of plagiarizing his video “Cows & Cows & Cows” for a McDonald’s commercial. “Plagiarism in the advertising industry is a problem for artists and it should be a problem for advertisers as well,” Harris said, “because each of them depend on the other to a certain extent.”

Verdict: The motive here is pretty clear — Cash Cows & Cash Cows & Cash Cows.

City Must Pay for Lost Klimt and Schieles


Austria’s Supreme Court, supporting the verdict that a regional court delivered last year, ordered the city of Linz to pay the heirs of artist and collector Olga Jäger some $9 million in compensation for three works by Egon Schiele and a drawing by Gustav Klimt. The works had been on long-term loan to Linz’s Lentos Kunstmuseum since 1951, but when the heirs asked for them back in 2006, they couldn’t be found.

Verdict: Maybe they were stolen by a Klimt-omaniac.

For Rochester Cops, State Properties Matter Most


Rochester resident Beth Wittenberg turned herself in after a warrant was issued for her arrest over a Black Lives Matter mural she painted on a wall that is state-owned property. She was charged with criminal mischief over the mural, which consisted of the words “Black Lives Matter” and a backwards US flag with broken hearts in place of stars. Both components of the mural were vandalized and then painted over.

Verdict: “We are supposed to learn from our history. We should all be equal under the law, but the sad truth is we are not,” Wittenberg told New Hampshire’s Union Leader. “My protest is about giving voice, standing in solidarity with my Black American friends and family to say, ‘Yes, all lives matter, but in this case where we are speaking of the inequity between whites and blacks, Black Lives Matter.’”

Urban Alpinists Attempt Illegal Ascent of Colosseum

YouTube video


A video posted to YouTube in May but that recently went viral shows German tourists clandestinely entering Rome’s Colosseum at night, climbing to the top of the ancient structure, and then using professional equipment to abseil down its walls.

Verdict: Further proof that attempting dangerous stunts in the name of YouTube views is today’s equivalent of ancient Rome’s gladiator games.

Gang of Italian Antiquities Thieves Busted


Police in the southern Italian state of Campania have seized more than 200 stolen artifacts dating from 800 BCE to 200 CE that had been amassed by four antiquities thieves. The men had robbed several museums and collectors’ homes over the past year, and would then sell their loot, using a fence as an intermediary.

Verdict: They were brazenly stealing artifacts that belong to others? Perhaps they were simply trying to do as the Romans did.

Somme-body Swiped Sculptures Commemorating WWI Battle


Two lead sculptures in the shape of small bombs that were part of artist Rob Miller’s installation “Ballistic Baby, Dead Bells, Petards” were stolen from the Honeywood Museum in Carshalton, UK. They were part of an exhibition reflecting on the Battle of the Somme on the occasion of its centennial.

Verdict: Clearly, the thief felt Miller’s sculptures were da bomb.

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...