Protecting Art is Like Building a Jigsaw

Many galleries, museums and stately homes will start the process of protection their artwork and antiquities but not all will complete the process – hence my likening art protection to building jigsaws which also get started but not all are correctly completed.

Why is this important? Well ACPO (the Association of Chief Police Officers - UK) in 2013 identified that the estimated annual value of artwork thefts in the UK was £300 million ($480 million). The majority of the thefts were carried out by organised crime groups in many cases to order for black market customers and collectors. This is no small figure unless it is compared with the global annual cost of art thefts which is estimated to be in the region of £6.25 billion ($10 billion) and of which 40% take place in the UK.

Whilst the criminals are primarily to blame there is a degree of fault that lies with those responsible for the protection of the galleries, museums and stately homes. The reason I say this is because at times the concept of protection goes against the natural instinct to exhibit and to allow public access. I agree that it is a fine balancing act but I do recall a gallery that had an expensive painting displayed on the wall next to the door; which was not controlled and through which members of the public could pass and repass. Yes, the picture was taken away by unidentified persons and never recovered.

Protecting artwork is not just about fitting an alarm, CCTV system or deploying guards it is about understanding the real risks that exist and knowing how to provide solutions that increase protection whilst enabling the location to correctly function for the benefit of the owners and their customers. It is about understanding how the use of technical, physical and procedural measures creates a greater depth to the layers of protection that have been applied.

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