While recently reflecting on the estimated $4B to $6B figure of art stolen annually I started thinking about the reasons for taking such a high risk, and I stumbled on an interesting article that lists four motives. Not all thieves are in it for the money, as opposed to, say, someone robbing a bank.
First Type: Show Me The Money.
The most obvious is one who steals for profit. They’re often sophisticated, but not always. It’s a common misconception that theft of valuable art is useless because of its high visibility in an ever shrinking world, but that fails to take into account a thief taking less money than imagined and increasing his potential buyer base, hiding it away for future opportunities, or worse, destroying it to avoid prosecution. A more recent phenomenon is selling to the Chinese market where it’s easier to find a flush buyer, with lower chances of a piece being identified than on the Western art market.
Second Type: Trophy-hunting Art Thieves
Then there are the trophy hunters. They don’t make much money at all and cause themselves endless aggravation, but they enjoy doing it either for the beauty of the art or the adrenaline kick. Remember the movie The Thomas Crown Affair with Pierce Brosnan stealing Monet’s painting of San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk?
Third Type: Thieves With Purpose.
A third category is best exemplified by the Mafia and their history of art theft for potentially long-term goals. In particular, art can be used as a bargaining chip with authorities for any type of negotiation. And for this reason art is often traded or sold among a circle of criminal groups.
Fourth Type: Crazed Art Fan.
And sometimes it’s just a crazed art fan. “An unemployed construction worker was jailed in 2010 for stealing Poland’s only Monet and stashing it in his parents’ wardrobe. The AFP reported: The 41-year-old man pleaded guilty to the charges, saying he stole the 1882 Monet canvas titled “Plage de Pourville” from a museum in Poznan, eastern Poland, in 2000 after spending hours admiring it.”
Art theft will always be a big business and some of the famous art theft stories will stay mysteries and become great movies. If you want to read more about real life art theft that just sounds like Hollywood movies, here is a good article.
Much of art theft can be stopped by a simple alert to someone close by that a painting has been grabbed. And for galleries and small museums it does not have to be a sophisticated system. The cost effective Safe Hook is a simple and very reliable means of stopping the most common method of theft. In the words of Jacquie Littlejohn, a NYC Gallery owner “Every museum and gallery should have a case of Art Guard Safe Hooks.”
If you are curious to see how Safe Hook works, click here to learn more about how it is a very reliable solution that brings peace of mind.