Erin L. Thompson Profile picture
Art crime prof 🏺💣🗿🗝️ @CUNY. Author: Smashing Statues @wwnorton https://t.co/CcswbHzdKO. Current projects: art forgery and art from Guantánamo. Queer, she/her.
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Aug 19 11 tweets 6 min read
[snaps on rubber glove] Let's dissect this museum press release!

Did the Met really determine antiquities in its collections were stolen from Nepal and offer to repatriate them all on its own, as they claim?!?

(Spoiler alert: 🙄) Screenshot of museum press release at https://www.metmuseum.Screenshot of section of museum press release reading " First up, a 10th c. stone relief of Shiva. The Met claims "recent Museum research" based on a book, Bangdel's Inventory of Stone Sculptures of Kathmandu Valley, "determined" it belonged in a specific temple in Nepal. This book? Published in 1995.
Aug 19 7 tweets 2 min read
The Met Museum is complaining that Cambodia won't give it all the info they have about the theft of the art they're claiming. Let's talk about why that's a massive act of solidarity with other countries seeking repatriation. 🧵 nytimes.com/2022/08/18/art… Background: thanks to the confessions of former looters, archeological investigation of sites to discover remaining fragments, and the files of a big former dealer, Cambodia can trace the route of many antiquities exactly: theft to dealer to buyer. But... nytimes.com/2021/11/21/art…
Jun 14 15 tweets 6 min read
The label on this stunning sculpture in London's Victoria and Albert Museum notes it was "collected by the Ex Younghusband Expedition to Tibet, 1904." A short 🧵 about the horrors this polite wording conceals. Golden statue of the Bodhis...Image In 1903, Sir Francis Edward Younghusband led a British force to invade Tibet on the flimsiest of pretexts. At Chumik Shenko, his troops used Maxim machine guns to kill c. 600 Tibetan soldiers armed with matchlock muskets. Image
Dec 18, 2021 19 tweets 9 min read
Last week, I saw a sculpture become a god.

Stolen in 1984, the deity Lakshmi-Narayan spent decades as a work of art at an American museum before it returned to its shrine in Nepal. My story is up now at hyperallergic.com/700760/returne… - here's a thread with more of my photos. The 10th c. Lakshmi-Narayan, a cojoined avatar of Vishnu and his consort, spent centuries in a small temple in the town of Patan (near Kathmandu), draped in garlands of marigolds and adorned with the vermilion powder dabbed onto its forehead by worshipers. Image
Sep 28, 2021 21 tweets 11 min read
Saddle up, fans of fake antiquities! It’s time for the Case of the Mysterious Multiplying Mold-Made Artifacts. How did these “Scythian” quadrupeds gallop from Russia to London to China, via eBay and Timeline Auctions? Let’s investigate! First:
- invaluable observations by others kicked off this research + aided it along the way. I won't tag anyone, since some auction houses send nasty (although legally… questionable) cease and desist letters to scholars
- I’ll put source links at the end of the thread
Sep 28, 2021 4 tweets 2 min read
I promised a thread on auction house shenanigans today... but I underestimated how much shenaniganery I would uncover. So much that I'm too tired to write the thread. So I'll just leave some of my visuals here, and you'll have to wait till tomorrow again... ;) You want some more hints? Here ya go...
Aug 25, 2021 9 tweets 3 min read
You know what's delicious? Seeing the behind-the-scenes photos of the bust of an antiquities faker you've been making fun of for years (and also, ya know, reporting to the authorities): nytimes.com/2021/08/25/art… The bust revealed thousands of fakes, produced by an "assembly-line process...to distress and otherwise alter mass-produced items of recent vintage.... Investigators... found varnish, spray paints, a belt sander and mudlike substances of different hues and consistencies"
Aug 25, 2021 7 tweets 2 min read
"Surely the most surreal celebration of Barack Obama’s election happened in the military prison camp known as Guantánamo Bay...." My review of Mansoor Adayfi's new Guantanamo memoir is now up at blog.lareviewofbooks.org/reviews/black-… @MansoorAdayfi's book (hachettebooks.com/titles/mansoor…) is a powerful record of the absurdities of the hell of Guantánamo. I only wish it came with sound buttons, like a children’s book, that readers could press to hear him laughing.
Aug 23, 2021 4 tweets 2 min read
Just finished re-reading @NicoleFleetwoo2's Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, and I cannot overemphasize how good and important it is: hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?is… Making art in prison is to resist dehumanization. It is to take control of what you do and what you see in an environment that tries its best to restrict those things. Image
Jun 14, 2021 68 tweets 26 min read
For the past year, I've been investigating an auction house that's make millions selling thousands of likely looted or forged undocumented antiquities. They're so shady it's hard to know where to start. The time they faked a shipwreck? The past fraud conviction of the owner? The way they get authentications from beyond the grave from a scholar famed for saying ridiculous fakes were genuine? The fabricated credentials of their experts? Well, I've got time today. I'll tell you about it all. Presenting: a monster thread on Timeline Auctions.
Jun 13, 2021 5 tweets 3 min read
May I introduce you to America's pettiest monument? Here's a short thread about a boot. In September 1777, a brave American officer led a charge against British troops, saving the day during the Battle of Freeman's Farm in what is now Saratoga National Park, New York. His leg was wounded severely and pinned under his fallen horse.
Jun 13, 2021 7 tweets 5 min read
In the last two months, four stolen sacred artworks from Nepal have been identified in the Alsdorf/@artinstitutechi collection. It’s time to look real hard at what remains there. @KnightLAT @hyperallergic @newcity @claire_voon I hope you’ll ask @artinstitutechi what they’re doing to find more stolen art hiding in their collections...
May 17, 2021 6 tweets 1 min read
Debates about Confederate monuments as arguments with your parents about them displaying a giant portrait of your shitty ex over their mantelpiece: a thread. Adding contextualizing signage to a monument = your parents sticking a post-it to the portrait frame that says “some people argue that Jerry was a jerk, but other people still believe he would have made our sweetie very happy in the long run.”
Apr 4, 2021 17 tweets 5 min read
Today, I'm thinking about the inmates of the Stone Mountain Correctional Institute, who dyed eggs for the world's largest Easter egg hunt in the shadow of the world's largest Confederate monument - one they were forced to help make. Here's the story. Stone Mountain is, in the words of the SPLX, “the largest shrine to white supremacy in the history of the world.” It was begun in 1916 and finished only in 1972, on the side of a mountain outside Atlanta famous as birthplace of the revived Klan: splcenter.org/fighting-hate/…
Apr 4, 2021 4 tweets 2 min read
Highly recommend this exhibition @metmuseum: metmuseum.org/exhibitions/li… One of many spectacular works: metmuseum.org/art/collection….
Feb 26, 2021 16 tweets 3 min read
Since the 2020 protests, thirteen state legislatures have considered bills that would make the removal of public monuments more difficult, ranging from adding a few bureaucratic hoops to flat-out prohibitions. Here's my list: Alabama: hyperallergic.com/623101/alabama…
Feb 26, 2021 21 tweets 3 min read
I've been tracking state legislatures that have seen the introduction of bills proposing increasing criminal penalties for vandalizing monuments since the 2020 protests. Here's my list: Alabama HB 133 (2021): would establish the crimes of damaging a public monument in the 1st and 2nd degrees, would provide criminal penalties, including a mandatory minimum sentence for a violation, and would provide for a mandatory holding period for an arrest.
Feb 25, 2021 4 tweets 1 min read
Super specific question time: can anyone remember an instance of someone praising an artwork they deliberately destroyed? I can only think of people saying what they destroyed or damaged was not really art, or not good art (with possible exception of Rauschenberg erasing that de Kooning).
Jan 7, 2021 23 tweets 7 min read
Want to know more about how white supremacy is baked in to the US Capitol Building? Let's think about the statue topping its dome. She symbolizes Freedom... and was made in part by Philip Reed, an enslaved man. (Thread) Thomas Crawford was commissioned to sculpt Freedom in 1854 - but he had to redo his original design (left) after Jefferson Davis threw a temper tantrum about... her hat.
Oct 29, 2020 31 tweets 9 min read
There've been many protests over monuments honoring people who did horrific things. But what does it mean that America's public art is filled with statues of generic white men? Read @intersectionist's brilliant essay on America's imagery of white heritage: intersectionist.medium.com/american-power… Her essay starts from the question of why no statues have fallen in NYC this year and broadens to explain the white suprematism underlying America’s heritage of public art and architecture, from her point of view as a POC in the white-dominated field of historic preservation.
Oct 28, 2020 4 tweets 2 min read
The reserve price for this fossilized heap of Weetabix hasn't been met - shocker! No one's willing to pay more than $12k for an object from a heavily looted conflict zone with absolutely no information about when it entered the US?!? ImageImageImage Also: "Bronze Age Limestone Votive Sculpture" described as standing "in awe before some god the world has now forgotten"? Look, if you can't plausibly fit your fake into a known culture, don't accuse the world of forgetfulness, buddy.