Thursday, May 04, 2006

Art Crimes: In Short

Where there's money (and there's certainly money in art, as the sales at Christie's Sotheby's demonstrated strongly again [yes, a certain part of you does want such stories to change, just for variety's sake, if nothing else, I know]) ... where there's money, there's crime. But we are talking art here, so we'll use the term "crime" poetically, as well as literally, in this short round-up.

1. Oslo: Scream
theives convicted:

Three of six men charged in the 2004 theft of Edvard Munch's paintings "The Scream" and "Madonna" were declared guilty on Tuesday in Oslo District Court and sentenced to prison terms of four to eight years.

Two of the men were also ordered to repay the city $121 million, the combined insured value of the paintings, which remain missing.

Prosecutors said they were satisfied by the trial's outcome and suggested that the financial penalties might persuade one of the convicted men to reveal the whereabouts of the stolen art.

Only if they have $121 million to give, no? Anyone attempting to force me to cough up that kind of money would get little more than a guffaw in response. Wouldn't a penalty that would really cost them something they already have make more sense? Not sure I get how that's supposed to work.

2. Boca Raton, Florida: Driver disappears with millions in Milton's and other goodies:

A convicted felon who worked as a driver transporting artwork to New York City for a Florida company has disappeared with a truckload of pieces valued at several million dollars, investigators said yesterday.

AXA Art Insurance Corporation has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of seven Milton Avery paintings that were part of the shipment, according to Detective Michael A. Mauro of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

He said the driver, Patrick Joseph McIntosh, 36, who was employed by David Jones Fine Art Services of Boca Raton, Fla., left the city on April 18 with the artwork.

Need $100,000? McIntosh is 6'9". Anyone that tall come into your gallery, trying to flog you some Avery's, sit them down, give 'em some coffee, and sneak out to call the cops.

3. Waltham, MA: Censors close exhibition at Brandeis University (via

A bulldozer menaces a girl with ebony pigtails, who lies in a pool of blood. A boy with an amputated leg balances on a crutch, in a tent city with a Palestinian flag. A dove, dripping blood, perches against blue barbed wire.

Palestinian teenagers painted those images at the request of an Israeli Jewish student at Brandeis University, who said she wanted to use the art to bring the Palestinian viewpoint to campus. But university officials removed the paintings four days into a two-week exhibition in the Brandeis library.

University officials said the paintings depicted only one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Lior Halperin, the student who organized the exhibit, said the university censored an alternative view.
Now, I'm all in favor of "purple" (i.e., more two-sided) art, as noted here, but I think that's the artist's responsibility, not the sponsoring institution's. As Halperin noted: "Let's talk about what it is: 12-year-olds from a Palestinian refugee camp. Obviously it's not going to be about flowers and balloons." The university says they might exhibit the work later next fall, alongside images that show the Israeli point of view. I guess that means images of carnage after a sucidie bombing drawn by teenagers who survived one. So long as the horror is balanced and neither side has to feel morally challenged to change its course of action, eh? Grrr...

4. New York:
Bottomfeeders succeed in breaking up Blakes:

A rare set of 19 original watercolors by English artist and poet William Blake were sold at auction today at Sotheby's in New York.

The auction, which Sotheby's had estimated would fetch between $12-17.5 million, was somewhat controversial, as each original was sold separately—with the potential for possibly scattering the works amongst far-flung private collecitons.


Blake scholars in Britain were outraged when it was announced in February that the group would be sold as separate lots, the Daily Telegraph reports. The British Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art failed in a bid to keep the watercolors within the U.K.


Blogger Mark said...

Apparently the Scream nappers stuffed the painting into a trash bag during the get away. I hope it was a Hefty Cinch Sack, why trust the lesser brands for the big jobs!

5/04/2006 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous edna said...

Who hasn't thought about stealing art? I mean, it seems so easy.

The guy who took the stuff from David Jones is apparently in jail now.

5/04/2006 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

The art crimes I always find the most interesting are the forgeries.

I remember seeing a report on tv years ago where they interviewed a forger who'd been caught, w/ several undiscovered masterpieces still in progress in his studio. He was pretty old, and had only been given a token punishment of some sort (I don't remember what), but his career as a forger was over. The interviewer asked him how he felt about the whole thing, and he said something to the effect that he didn't mind, he had paintings in some of the best museums in the world, and he wasn't saying which ones they were.

5/04/2006 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

The best art is the art you want to steal.

I agree with Edna - I routinely want to steal but my mother potty trained me very early so I know restraint....

5/04/2006 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Ed, you forgot the theft of Brian Jungen's work from Casey Kaplan.

Of course, I figure it'll turn out like Ransom of Red Chief, with the thieves returning the sculpture with some extra money thrown in once they really get a good look at it.

5/04/2006 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...



5/04/2006 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Art crimes? You are forgetting the unauthorized use of a certain photograph by un-named commenters herein. A particularly effective misdemeanor considering the silence that followed . . .

5/04/2006 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

I routinely want to steal Brian Jungen's work. And he's about to have a major museum exhibit in my neighborhood. It'll be a test of how adapted I am to the Social Contract -- the trucks will probably park right by my house...

5/04/2006 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger highlowbetween said...

I had a neighbor once who 'claimed' that her stoned and strung out lover walked into the local museum during a renovation and promptly lifted a Fragonard. She came home and found it in their bathtub next to the pot plant.
I don't know if its true (this museum did have a Fragonard stolen) - but I WANT it to be because the image of two wasted rednecks with a Fragonard and Pot Plant in a claw foot bathtub floors me!

5/04/2006 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger aurix said...

Nice post--thanks!

One thing though, the sales you linked to (where a Picasso sold for $95 million) were actually at Sotheby's.

5/05/2006 02:44:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

actually at Sotheby's

Hah! That's what I get for changing my link at the last minute for more variety of sources. Thanks for pointing that our aurix. I've edited the post.

5/05/2006 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Nancy Baker, aka Rebel Belle said...

I've had my work stolen. It really sucked and it felt like a huge violation. It seems that this "collector" was going around in the neighborhood checking out work that he liked, and helped himself to about 20 pieces of art. Eventually the guy was busted by a friend who ratted him out, and I got my work back. But really, there are all kinds of "art crimes" that living artists are subjected to. Remember Robert Indiana and how he was totally ripped off by the folks that reproduced his LOVE painting? Millions were made on that, and he didn't get a dime.

5/05/2006 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous bambino said...

hi nancy :)

oh yeahhh about stealing art work

never had, never would, never will

5/05/2006 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Nancy Baker, aka Rebel Belle said...

Hi Bambino!
Kiss kiss!

5/05/2006 08:16:00 PM  
Blogger canadian artist said...

get a job. don't you have artists to represent instead of being a poor man's pundit?

5/06/2006 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger canadianartist said...

that's mean.
brian jungen. with apologies to paintersNYC

5/06/2006 07:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

speaking of art crimes...

5/07/2006 02:06:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

get a job. don't you have artists to represent instead of being a poor man's pundit?

interesting...a call for the sort of all-consuming specialization that makes people too uninteresting to appreciate, let alone participate in, the promotion of the you use a paradox producing software program or do such gems come naturally?

5/07/2006 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger Nancy Baker, aka Rebel Belle said...

Ed, you crack me up! That was sheer poetry!


5/07/2006 07:34:00 PM  

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