Reports put the theft from the Green Vault museum in Dresden on Nov. 25 at $1.1B. That’s Billion! That makes it by far the largest art theft in modern times. The Gardner heist in 1990 of 14 yet-to-be-recovered masterworks is estimated at a paltry $.5B and, until Green Vault, the largest.
Apparently the collection was not insured, which makes any lapses in security even more egregious. From the various reports, I could surmise numerous failings with the security operation and offer several obvious solutions. But that may be speculation at this early date. The fact that it may have been an inside job makes the efficiency of the theft understandable, and oddly may offer the best chance that the assets will be recovered. However, every day that goes by without progress diminishes that possibility. The objects were not easily recognizable paintings. They were extravagant pieces made up of diamonds and precious stones and metals and which can be dismantled, sold off in pieces and melted down.
The Dresden theft was followed a week later by a break in and theft of historical artifacts from the Stasi Museum in Berlin. It was very much the same MO. The reaction from the director? “But we are a history museum and don’t expect people to break in”.
I can’t imagine any institution or collector that would not care if their art were stolen, even if fully insured. Assuming then that it would certainly cause pain – emotional or financial – why do museums, galleries, collectors and other facilities feel as though their means of preventing theft is “good enough”, or worse, that their home or institution could not conceivably be a target.
Affordable technology exists that would make any theft extremely hard to execute, even if help came from high up inside the organization.
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