An usually high-tech form of pseudo-theft, executed by a pair of artists, has resulted in a high-resolution scan of the famous Queen Nefertiti statue at the heart of a dispute between Germany and Egypt. Avoiding the watchful gaze of four guards at the Neues Museum in Berlin, Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles painstakingly scanned the 3,500-year-old bust over the course of three hours using a Kinect.
Technically, nothing was taken, but the exact contours of the bust are now publicly available, open-sourced by the artists in question.
Their work, itself a sort of art project, is in part a commentary on the question of art ownership and accessibility. The statue in question has been in Germany for over 100 years, but the Egyptian government has been lobbying to get it back.
Since the release of their data dump, thousands of people have downloaded a virtual copy of the statue either to examine or 3D-print a copy. While this is not the same as preservation, it does add layers of redundancy for future researchers should something ever happen to the original figure. Many galleries are already making high-resolution images of famous paintings and drawings available on the web, and there is no reason a similar tactic could not be taken with three-dimensional works as well.