(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘theft

“Stealing, of course, is a crime, and a very impolite thing to do”*…

US Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, lead investigator in finding looted treasures from the Baghdad Archeological Museum, directs a presentation to the press in Baghdad, 16 May 2003. Bogdanos now heads the New York District Attorney’s antiquities theft task force.

On the trail of looted antiquities…

The best photos to come out of the Met Gala every year are always the ones where you feel like a voyeur. It’s a weird combination of intimacy, celebrity, modernity, and antiquity that’s hard to replicate and harder, I think, to ignore. A shot of Kim Kardashian leaning against an Egyptian coffin at the 2018 Met Gala by Landon Nordeman exposes his subject in a flash of light—though perhaps not the subject anyone expected.

Out of the thousands upon thousands who saw the shot, one happened to be more interested in the gold coffin than Kim’s (heavenly) body in gold Versace. He had looted the coffin seven years earlier but was never paid for his spoils. And it was now sitting in the Met. Angry and in possession of receipts, he fired off an anonymous email to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to tip them off about the buxom gold figure in the photo next to the Kardashian. 

A year later, the DA’s Office proudly announced that after being stolen during the revolution in 2011, the coffin of Nedjemankh was finally returning home to Egypt. Scorned criminals, ancient art, and the social event of the season—you can’t make this shit up

But aside from that star-studded sabotage, the coffin of Nedjemankh isn’t actually an outlier. And neither is the other antiquities scandal still surrounding Kim K (she purchased an allegedly looted ancient Roman sculpture with Kanye back in 2016). 

Stolen antiquities end up in museums, galleries, and private collections surprisingly often. It happens like this: Looters dig up artifacts, smuggle them to dealers, who then bounce them from port to port. Eventually, someone higher up the chain sells these artifacts to museums like the Met and wealthy collectors like Kim who are all too willing to overlook those pesky legal details.

And usually, they stay there, because most jurisdictions just aren’t interested in going after antiquities theft. But most jurisdictions don’t have an ADA like Matthew Bogdanos.

Bogdanos has been working with antiquities since 2003, when he led a mission to recover the thousands of antiquities lost after the sacking of the National Museum of Iraq. On the heels of a National Humanities Medal for his work in Iraq, Bogdanos returned to Manhattan in order to head the city’s first antiquities theft task force. It would take another 12 years of Bogdanos tackling antiquities theft largely on his own before the city established an official unit. Since its official inception, under Cyrus Vance, and now under new DA Alvin Bragg, the team has helped return something like 2,000 antiquities to their countries of origin.

Besides Bogdanos, who’s still regularly staffed on homicide cases, the small, tenacious team relies on the wide-ranging skills of three other assistant DAs, five specialists in art and archeology, two detectives, and a handful of Homeland Security agents. If you can’t find them in their office downtown, you can probably assume they’re knocking on the ornate doors of the Upper East Side. To paraphrase the man behind the raids, underneath the genteel patina of the upper-class art world is a solid core of criminal activity. The seized art actually occupies so much space that the DA’s storage facilities have been dubbed Manhattan’s best antiquities museum

Read on as Bogdanos guides Hannah Barbosa Cesnik (@HBCesnik) through his murky milieu: “Inside the Mind-Boggling World of the Antiquities Theft Task Force,” in Anne Helen Petersen‘s (@annehelen) wonderful newsletter, Culture Study.

* Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), The Wide Window

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As we pursue provenance, we might recall that it was on this date in 1873 that Jesse James and his gang staged the first train robbery (the world’s first robbery of a moving train), a mile and a half west of Adair, Iowa… the site of which is now commemorated as a county park.

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“It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to”*…

 

Early in the morning on Sunday, 28 August, the German artist Anselm Kiefer’s 35,000sq. m studio and warehouse space in Croissy-Beaubourg, about 25km west of Paris, was burgled and robbed, as first reported by the French daily newspaper Le Parisien. The thieves are suspected of cutting through wire cages and making off with a ten-tonne lead sculpture of stacks of books—valued at €1.3m—and 12 tonnes of raw marble, worth around €1m…

More heaviness at “Anselm Kiefer’s studio robbed of 12 tonnes of raw marble and €1.3m lead sculpture.”

* Jean-Luc Godard

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As we recheck our locks, we might note that this is a big day in the history of crime…

On this date in 1935, Huey Long, Louisiana Senator and past-Governor (and inspiration for Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men), was shot in the Louisiana state capitol building; he died 30 hours later. Called a demagogue by critics, the populist leader was a larger-than-life figure who boasted that he bought legislators “like sacks of potatoes, shuffled them like a deck of cards.”

Long in the State house, flanked by the armed guards with whom he traveled

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And on this date in 1974, President Gerald Ford offered his disgraced predecessor, Richard Nixon, “a full, free, and absolute pardon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in” during Nixon’s Presidency.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 8, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Stealing, of course, is a crime, and a very impolite thing to do”*…

 

If you want to buy soap at the Walgreens on Market Street in San Francisco, you’ll need to find a store employee to unlock the display case for you. 

Fifty dollar earbuds and $100 bottles of Claritin simply sit on the shelves where customers can pick them up and go. But baby formula, shampoo, and soap are all protected by locked display cases. 

It’s well known that pharmacies need to protect their stores of cold medicine, which methamphetamine cooks can use to make illicit drugs. But why soap? Is a $6 bottle of Dove body wash really worth the squeeze?…

The key to understanding the appeal of soap to thieves is realizing that they care less about an item’s price tag and more about the ease of finding a buyer. In other words, thieves want a liquid asset.

The practical economics of larceny: “Why Thieves Steal Soap.”

* Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), The Wide Window

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As we call for a clerk, we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that a notorious crime boss met his end:

Mob boss Michael “Mickey” Spillane (not to be confused with the guy who created fictional P.I. Mike Hammer) had a run of very bad luck on Friday the 13th; he was shot and killed outside his apartment in Queens, NY. Spillane, who headed the Westies gang [see here], had moved to Queens from Hell’s Kitchen out of fear for his safety. The previous year, his three top lieutenants had been taken out on orders from Genovese crime family boss Fat Tony Salerno. Salerno coveted control of construction contracts for the Jacob Javits Civic Center, which was being built in Spillane’s territory. Spillane’s killing was rumored to have been carried out by Gambino crime family associates Roy DeMeo and Danny Grillo. After Spillane’s demise, mobster Jimmy Coonan took over as head of the Westies. Coonan had previously challenged Spillane for control of the group. After he took control, Coonan formed an alliance with the Gambino family, in a deal brokered by the newly-“made” Roy DeMeo. Coincidence? Um… probably not.   [source]

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 13, 2016 at 1:01 am

“In the old days, a con man would be good looking, suave, well dressed, well spoken and presented themselves real well”*…

 

Mug shot of “Count” Victor Lustig

“Count” Victor Lustig was America’s (and the world’s) most dangerous con man. In a lengthy criminal career, his sleight-of-hand tricks and get-rich-quick schemes rocked Jazz-Era America and the rest of the world. In Paris, he had sold the Eiffel Tower in an audacious confidence game—not once, but twice. Finally, in 1935, Lustig was captured after masterminding a counterfeit banknote operation so vast that it threatened to shake confidence in the American economy. A judge in New York sentenced him to 20 years on Alcatraz…

The story of the man who used 47 aliases and carried dozens of fake passports at “The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower. Twice.”

* Frank Abagnale (the subject of Catch Me If You Can)

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As we reconsider confidence, we might recall that it was on this date in 1990 that thieves disguised as police officers arrived at the door of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, claiming to have received a call about a disturbance.  They were in fact thieves, who subdued the guards and stole 13 paintings, including masterworks by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Degas, worth $500 million (then).  America’s largest private property theft, it remains unsolved, and the paintings, unrecovered.

After the robbery: the empty frame that had surrounded Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 18, 2016 at 1:01 am

Communities of Interest…

 

From the World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championships

Arthur Drooker goes to meetings…

From the annual meeting of the Association of Lincoln Presenters

From the 37th Vent Haven Convention, which bills itself as “the oldest and largest annual gathering of ventriloquists”

From BronyCon, the annual convention for fans of Hasbro’s animated television series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”

Conventional Wisdom
The U.S. meetings industry, according to a Convention Industry Council study, directly supports 1.7 million jobs, $263 billion in spending, and $14.3 billion in federal tax revenue.  As impressive as these figures are, they don’t interest me as a photographer. I see conventions not as revenue sources but as visual treasures. To me, they’re unique expressions of community, culture and connection. That’s why over the next year I plan to attend about twenty conventions—the more unusual and photogenic the better—and document them for a proposed book, Conventional Wisdom.  I will update this portfolio as the project progresses. At the same time, I will preview the work on coolhunting.com in a series of reports. To view these reports, please click on the list below.

So far, the wisdom I’ve gained from this project has shown me that regardless of what they’re about, where they’re held or who attends them, all conventions satisfy a basic human urge: a longing for belonging. At conventions, people who share similar interests, even obsessions, come together to bond and to be themselves. The outside world doesn’t matter. In fact, for the weekend duration of most conventions, the outside world doesn’t even exist. The conventioneers have each other and that’s all they need. An attendee I met at the taxidermist convention put it best. “This isn’t a convention,” he said. “It’s a family reunion.”

Coolhunting Report #1 (Lincolns)

Coolhunting Report #2 (Taxidermists)

Coolhunting Report #3 (Ventriloquists)

Coolhunting Report #4 (Bronies)

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As we expedite our registrations, we might recall that it was on this date in 1911 that poet, playwright, and novelist Guillaume Apollinaire was arrested and jailed for complicity in the theft of the Mona Lisa (and a number of Egyptian statuettes) from the Louvre.  Apollinaire had been working as an art critic, in which capacity he’d once called for the Louvre to be burned to the ground.  And he’d sheltered the actual thief, Vincenzo Peruggia, after the heist…  but he claimed ignorance of the crime and returned the few statuettes that Peruggia had left behind at his place.  He was ultimately exonerated, but not before he implicated his his friend Pablo Picasso (who was also brought in for questioning, then also released).

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 7, 2013 at 1:01 am

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