Today Art Guard has the honor of chatting with Anthony Amore, Director of Security at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and best-selling author of “Stealing Rembrandts” and “The Art of the Con”. Anthony’s first book, “Stealing Rembrandts”, was an examination into who really steals masterpieces, why they do it, and what becomes of the art. He continues to write regularly on what’s needed to effectively prevent theft of art and other valuable assets.
AG: Tell us about your role at the Gardner and your current projects as an author.
AA: I serve as the Director of Security at the Gardner Museum, where I am also responsible for the museum’s investigation into the infamous 1990 heist in which 13 of our precious works were stolen.
After writing two non-fiction works about art crime, I’ve recently completed a project that was a bit more fun: I teamed with an award-winning artist, Karl Stevens, to create adult coloring books featuring stolen art and art looted by the Nazis during World War II. Our goal is to publicize images of missing works. They’ll be out in 2017.
AG: What are some of most valuable insights you’ve learned since the Gardner heist in 1990?
AA: I’ve gained a great deal of insight into art theft while in pursuit of our missing works that has helped strengthen security at our institution. For instance, museum heists are slightly more likely to happen when the institution is open. I’ve also learned the importance of setting up multiple layers of security, rather than relying on just one or two strong layers.
AG: Worldwide more than 100,000 works of art are stolen each year and that’s a very conservative estimate – with many more not reported. Are you surprised to see art heists increasing despite the technology now available to prevent it?
AA: I’m not surprised. My research has shown me that thieves don’t examine the latest advances in security. Rather, they’re incredibly short-sighted, pulling off what are essentially crimes of apparent opportunity to steal things that are remarkably hard to fence.
AG: Many museums have been slow to invest in updating their security measures due to budget constraints. What advice would you give to other museums, galleries and private collectors looking to bolster their security?
AA: All too often, institutions wait until something tragic occurs before ensuring that they have invested the appropriate amount of resources towards a robust security posture. I’ve been fortunate at the Gardner Museum, where our leadership is incredibly supportive of constant upgrades to our systems and technologies. But I’d add that there are a number of extremely cost-effective solutions on the market that add important layers of security to a museum environment.
AG: How do you see the protection of art and other valuable assets evolving?
AA: Museums continue to inch towards more access to priceless art. So, the challenge to security directors is greater than ever. My colleagues and I will have an increased responsibility to find simple, seamless solutions to protecting pricelessness.
AG: What role will object-specific security, sensors and other technologies play?
AA: These sorts of technologies must be invisible, not only because of the obvious security needs, but because museums are moving away from obvious and obstructive technology. Smaller technology that is mobile and simple to install is increasing imperative.
AG: Where is the intersection between perimeter security, video surveillance and object-specific security? Why is a layered security approach needed?
AA: The intersection for perimeter security, video surveillance and object specific security is with the human factor. In other words, these systems still require an effective human response. And with human beings come errors. Therefore, setting up multiple layers of security safeguards against the perfect storm scenario, where a guard or officer makes a few key errors under stress. Further, one cannot ignore the fact that a high percentage of museum thefts involve inside information. With this in mind, multiple layers deter the insider from believing that they can get away with what seems like a perfect crime.
AG: Thank you Anthony and best of luck with the investigation.