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.

Would-Be Thieves of Banksy Copy Caught in the Act


Two men were arrested in Folkstone after police spotted them trying to steal a copy of Banksy’s famous “Art Buff” (2014) mural created by local street artist Robsci. The stencil, which features a potted cactus on the empty pedestal of Banksy’s original work, had been installed on a piece of construction site fencing and was signed “Robsci by Banksy.”

Verdict: If imitation is the highest form of flattery, is stealing an imitation the highest form of thievery?

Arsonist Takes a Torch to Trump Tribute Sculpture


A giant letter “T” that Staten Island resident Sam Pirozzolo had custom made and installed on his front lawn to broadcast his support of US Presidential candidate and artistic muse Donald Trump was partially destroyed following an apparent arson attack. “I jump out of bed, I come down here, and I come downstairs, and I can see this big orange glow,” Pirozzolo told CBS New York.

Verdict: To be clear, the “big orange glow” he saw was the burning T, not a Donald Trump apparition.

Baldwin and Boone in Brouhaha Over Bleckner Bouquet


Actor Alex Baldwin claims dealer Mary Boone sold him the wrong Ross Bleckner painting under false pretenses. Baldwin had been infatuated with Bleckner’s large floral painting “Sea and Mirror” (1996) for years and asked Boone (who represents Bleckner) if she could convince the collector who owned it to part with it. Boone claimed to have secured the sale, for $190,000, but Baldwin believes the work he received is a different, newer piece.

Verdict: Boone’s gallerinas better brace themselves for some really angry voicemails.

Skaters Steal Painting in San Pedro

Suspects in the San Pedro painting theft (courtesy LAPD)

Suspects in the San Pedro painting theft (courtesy LAPD) (click to enlarge)


Last month, five people — two of them toting skateboards — went into an art gallery near the intersection of 6th Street and Pacific Avenue in the San Pedro neighborhood of Los Angeles and walked out with “Escondido,” a three-by-six-foot painting by Neil Nagy valued at $10,000.

Verdict: The skateboard is an underused getaway vehicle.

Rick Ross, the Boss of Art Theft?


German artist Ivan Beslic has accused rapper Rick Ross of stealing two of his paintings from the VIP area of a festival in Germany where he was performing. One of the paintings was a portrait of the Teflon Don himself, the other depicted veteran MC Slick Rick. Representatives for Rozay denied any wrongdoing. Beslic has said that Ross can keep the works if he sends him $3,300.

Verdict: God forgives, Beslic don’t.

Tour Guide Misled Octogenarian Collector


Yang Yin, a former tour guide, took S$500,000 (~$373,000) in 2010 and, two years later, another S$600,000 (~$448,000) from 89-year-old Chung Khin Chun to buy a painting by the Chinese artist Xu Beihong. Instead he used the money to pay off his family’s medical debts and supplied Chung with a replica of the work.

Verdict: That replica might be worth something, if Xu’s sales record is anything to go by.

“Rope Trick” Sculpture No Match for Disappearing Minivan Trick


Chicago sculptor Victoria Fuller’s blue Chrysler minivan was recently stolen from her garage, but she’s more upset over the loss of the artwork that was parked inside it, “Rope Trick,” a hyperrealist resin, epoxy clay, and acrylic sculpture of a coiled cone of rope.

Verdict: Next time, secure that sculptural rope with a real rope.

Sinful Hipsters Swipe Jesus Sculpture

YouTube video


Security camera footage newly released by the NYPD shows the three prime suspects in the brazen theft of a sculpture of Jesus from the exterior of the Saints Peter and Paul Rectory on South 3rd Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The two young women and young man can be seen grinning and snickering as they run away with the sculpture.

Verdict: Set to the right music, this security footage could pass for a Spike Jonze music video.

Florida Man’s Art Seized En Route to His Tuscan Villacrimes-of-the-art-scream-4

Customs and finance authorities collaborating on “Operation Opulentia” seized three shipping containers holding more than 100 antiquities and artworks at the port of La Spezia in northern Italy. The haul, which includes oil paintings, two marble sculptures, and a funeral vase from the 4th century BCE, belongs to a Miami-based businessman who was shipping the valuable artifacts to his Tuscan villa. He now faces charges for breaking criminal, customs, and cultural heritage laws, including evading more than €23,000 (~$26,000) in customs fees.

Verdict: “Operation Opulentia” would be a great name for a band and/or an extreme home makeover reality TV show.

Thieves Get Local Woman’s Goat


Sheffield resident Annie Anthony-Mays is devastated by the loss of “Billy” — a life-size sculpture of a goat given to her by three artist friends for her wedding — which was recently stolen from her allotment. “I have been running around the area looking for him, in case it has been dumped somewhere, but I have had no joy,” she told the Star. “I hope he turns up.”

Verdict: Further proof that animal artworks are thieves’ favorites.

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...

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