Showing posts with label museum security. Show all posts
Showing posts with label museum security. Show all posts

October 3, 2016

Conference: The International Arts & Antiquities Security Forum (IAASF)

The International Arts & Antiquities Security Forum (IAASF) will be hosted at the NewcastleGateshead Quayside in Newcastle upon Tyne, Friday, November 11, 2016 and will focus on various topics related to texisting or emerging threats and risks for those in the field interested in the protection of arts and antiquities.

Of benefit to security professionals and the wider heritage protection sector including, gallery owners, shippers, insurance companies and curators the event will include presentations on the importance of security in protecting culture and art, the scale of threat to UK arts and antiquities, the threat of terrorism as it relates to art and antiquities, operational best practices in crime prevention for museums and houses of worship, (both physical & technical) as well as how to protect art and antiquities during transit and the ever increasing roll of conservators in the field of heritage protection.

The content of the presentations has been specifically designed to enable everybody to take away a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the issues that exist, experiencing best practises and being exposed to great innovations; both technical and operational that will help reduce and manage risk.

The IAASF event will bring together an international range of presenters including

Director of Security, UK Christie’s London

National Security Adviser, Arts Council England

Owner and Managing Director of Trident Manor and Chair and IAASF Chair, IAASF

Founder and Director of AA&R -Art Analysis & Research Ltd.

Sr. Insurance Consultant, Former CEO, AXA Art

Security & Safety Manager, National Gallery of Ireland

Detective Superintendent - Major Crime, Organised Crime and Special Branch, Durham Constabulary

Archaeologist, Specialist in Conflict Antiquities

Executive Director, National Maritime Museum - Amsterdam and Advisor to the Dutch Government on Cultural Operations

Committee Chair, Cultural Properties – Houses of Worship, ASIS

Member of the Cultural Heritage Council, ASIS International

Paid registration to the International Arts & Antiquities Security Forum includes: 

  • Full day of presentations
  • Tea, coffee, snacks and lunch
  • Drinks reception served in the Riverside Terrace
For more information please see the Forum's website here. 

April 5, 2015

Report from Tunisia: After the Massacre at the Bardo Museum, Women and Families show up to Show Support

Women showing support (morning)
By Rita Sumano, ARCA Alumna Class of 2015

The Bardo Massacre

Tunisia’s democratic transition has been wounded by the atrocious attack at the Bardo Museum last 18th of March. Under the machinegun fire of Qatiba Okba Ibn Nafâa, a terrorist cell linked to Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, 22 people died and more than 40 were injured.

Despite the claim of responsibility from the so called Islamic State, Tunisian authorities identified 21 individuals of Okba Ibn Nafâa split into four operative groups that carefully planned the operation (1). The role of the first group was to choose the target and make the necessary reconnaissance of the museum. The second group was responsible for the logistics, the provision of weapons, and explosives. The third group perpetrated the attack, while the fourth group taped and disseminated the images through the internet. 

Families gathering in from of the museum (morning)
The timing and venue were not casually chosen.  The complex commonly called “the Bardo” bears a deep historic and symbolic value, as it was a palace of the Beys, the former rulers of the country.  After Tunisia’s Independence, one wing was converted into a museum and the other wing turned into the Parliament, now the Assembly of the People's Representatives. The unique mosaic collection of the Bardo Museum – the largest in the world - contains mainly Roman art. In this context, the attack could be interpreted as a violent message against both democracy and any other form of non-Islamic culture.

Geologist Jallouli holding a sign saying
"No to terrorism" "No fear, no panic,
Tunisia is protected by its people"
The attack was also timely as the National Terrorist Act was being discussed that same morning in the Parliament; children had school holidays and were present in the musuem in great numbers; and, as reported by a guide present at the scene (2), terrorists waited for the arrival of tourist buses coming from the cruise ships that dock every Wednesday at La Goulette.  Hiding machine guns in large backpacks, they had time to spread out through the Museum and wait for the visitors to arrive.  Tourists were selected as a suitable target to wreck the country’s shaken economy, highly dependent on tourism.  

As a result of this murderous attack, the lead suspect of the cell and 46 terrorists (3) have been eliminated or arrested.  Several heads of security in charge of the Bardo area, as well as six commanders of police and intelligence services have been dismissed.(4)

The Tuesday After
International media said the museum would open to the public on Tuesday 24th, but the few hundred people that showed up could only gather around the gate.  Inside, an official opening ceremony was taking place.  Security was tight, polite but tense.  Under steady rain, men, women, and children gathered to show support.  The feeling floating in the air was neither anger nor fear, but rather sadness.

I spoke to Geologist Kamal Jallouli, representative of the civil society at the National Parliament, who had been there a few hours before the attack.  Emotionally touched, he told me about his childhood when he would spend Sundays exploring the museum’s collection with his parents.  He praises the long, diverse history of the country and warns me that the investigation into the attack is still open. I knew that there would be many answers he could not provide, but I still asked the questions:

Q. Some international sources talk about the attack being initially directed at the Parliament but that ended up taking place in the museum. Nevertheless, it looked to me as if the venue was carefully selected.  Do you think the attack was initially directed to the parliament?
-“No”, he answered shortly.

Q. In that case, one might infer that the terrorists were familiar with the museum, and must have visited it many times.  Could they have been identified had the museum guards carried out effective surveillance? 
-“I guess so”

Q. Is it plausible to think of an insider providing assistance?
-“I cannot answer that question”

Q. Do you think this type of attack could escalate into plundering Tunisia’s heritage sites? 

Kamal Jallouli is confident that as we speak, security forces are being deployed to guard archeological sites, other museums and touristic spots.  He doesn’t think that this incident is part of a larger plot.

Q. A few days before the attack, downtown Tunis looked heavily guarded: police checkpoints, dogs sniffing cars, hand bags being checked and several forces being deployed. So why, in such a “hot spot” was security so lax?

–“Because we Tunisians are candid, we have no tradition of violence”, he replies with a shy smile.  

His answer is the most convincing one I have received so far.

Foreign demonstrators showing support (afternoon)
Hours passed by, and as steady rain was transformed into a downpour, a human river also flooded the streets around the Bardo Museum.  Nearly 50,000 people of all sorts and several nations participated in an inspirational, almost spontaneous, demonstration against terrorism. The museum’s gate was the final goal of the crowds taking part in the march.   The happy coincidence with the World Social Forum taking place in Tunis, engrossed the international presence and added to the feeling of solidarity.

In parallel, the deployment and weaponry of security forces was significantly heavier than in the early hours, but the ambiance was festive and police and army elements were friendly.  Participants would smile and take proud pictures with police and military… certainly not the typical interaction between security forces and demonstrators.

Under the rain, music, dance, chants and cameras show how cultural heritage could be an effective tool to build peace.  The feeling floating in the air was hope. 

Proud demonstrators
with friendly soldier
Museum Security

The Bardo attack had a triple target: it was an attack against democracy, against tourism and against culture. The Bardo Museum is not an exceptional example of how close, physically and symbolically, many museums are to power centers.  Many other cities in the world could have been victims of such an attack, and this should send a warning to all cultural institutions: to be fully prepared for this and other types of catastrophes.  

In recent years, we have witnessed how cultural heritage has been devastated due to political instability, religious fundamentalism, and armed conflicts; similar crimes, could be perpetrated in comparable places. 

Operators should engage in an active preventive role, carrying out proper selection and training of staff and making sure that the risk to visitors, personnel or the collection is minimized.  Museum security is a professional activity that should not be left to amateurs.

The accompanying photos were all taken by the author on March 24, 2015.

(1) Tunise - Attaque terroriste due Bardo: Le point sur l'enquête, in Tunisie Numérique, 25/03/2015, 11:44.

(2) Frida Dahmani. "Attentat du Bardo: l'musée de l'horreur", in Jeune Afrique, 24/03/2015, 8:28.

(4) "Attentat du Bardo: Le gouvernement Tunisien pass a l'offensive", in Jeune Afrique, 23/3/2015, 12: 35

March 18, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - ,, No comments

Tunis, Tunisia: Museum attack ends with death of 17 foreign tourists and 2 Tunisians at National Bardo Museum of Carthage artifacts and Roman mosaics

Image is from the BBC website
Update: CBC News: "Tunisian PM: 17 foreign tourists, 2 Tunisians killed in attack" at the National Bardo Museum. This is also confirmed by the International Business Times and other sources on Twitter (search #Bardoattack).

Italian tourists on cruise of Mediterranean were reportedly inside the museum at the time of the attack.

Radio Mosaique FM reported the death of 15 people: 13 tourists of various nationalities and two Tunisians.

Leila Fadel, Cairo Bureau Chief for NPR is on the scene and has tweeted: "Stand off at bardo museum over. Police killed two of the gunmen and captured one. #Bardoattack"

BBC reported earlier here:
At least seven foreign tourists and a Tunisian have been killed after gunmen targeted a museum in the the Tunisian capital, officials say. Tourists from several European countries were taken hostage, a local radio station reported. The shooting happened at the Bardo Museum, which is next to the parliament building in central Tunis.
The National Bardo Museum has artifacts from Carthage and a large collection of Roman mosaics. The museum's website describes its "101 masterpieces" in both French and English.

CBC has reported that "Tunisian officials say museum siege is over; 2 gunmen killed" (breaking news via CBC's mobile application for news).

The Associated Press (AP) reported the death of two gunmen, a security officer, and several tourists.

September 30, 2014

International Committee on Museum Security, Copenhagen, Denmark: Conference celebrates the ruby anniversary in a royal city

SMK (national gallery of Denmark)
by Penelope Abram, alumna of ARCA 2013

The Danish capitol of Copenhagen welcomed a lively crowd for the 40th Annual International Committee on Museum Security. Greeted with smiling faces and sunny weather, was the landmark National Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst). Security professionals from many countries and established institutions were represented as presenters and participants. The theme for this milestone year was “Implementing and maintaining security and safety at cultural institutions with fewer or limited financial resources today and in the future”. My ARCA thesis, written for the 2013 year, fit right into the theme of making security cost effective and highly capable. I presented on my thesis of museum security, which was a theoretical plan for the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York. I designed an organizational method for security while combining inventory and time management based on my previous retail experience and on the Everson’s methods currently in place.

The first speaker enlightened us with a “Year in Review”. He remarked on just a glimpse of the thefts, damages, and general misfortunes that struck cultural institutions in the past year. He commented and observed some trends and using graphs and statistics, he revealed how these change drastically, or minimally, within a year’s time. This led to a great conversation on how something as seemingly banal as flood damage could pose a tremendous risk to cultural heritage.

A Business Director of a Museum in the Netherlands gave a presentation that was as suspenseful as an action movie. In early 2014, a large bushfire was ablaze in the countryside, which threatened the museum if it continued to spread. While rapidly approaching, the plan of action was to protect everything in the museum, which led to a system that was currently in place to secure as many art pieces as possible in the vault before the fire reaches their doorstep. Not to keep anyone in suspense, everything was kept perfectly safe and the fire never burned through the museum’s immediate campus.

View from the lawn of the Louisiana museum
During the course of the conference, a panel discussed some of the ingenious ways to save an institution’s security team time, money and personnel. LJ Hartman of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City discussed the implications of being open one more day and how to calculate security personnel in a much more organized and balanced way. Vernon Rapley of the Victoria and Albert Museum discussed how his Museum uses gallery staff on a temporary or on-call basis. Although this is considered controversial in the UK, his use of “zero hour workers” to enhance the security team for certain events, exhibits and occasions, seems to be an inventive way to keep up with the ebb and flow of visitors.

A large part of the conference was exploring the security dilemmas of local Copenhagen museums. I was assigned the National Museum of Denmark and as a student of ARCA I was reminded instantly of our security audit we conducted. Although in Italy, we were students with basic knowledge, in Denmark, I was surrounded by professionals from all different fields examining and asking relevant questions, all using their well-honed skills and points-of-view. The expertise of our host Security Director, Rune Hernoe was impressive and admirable, and the group collaboration taught me further the hands-on world of museum security.

New security methods were on demonstration a couple times that week and to see ways to prevent thefts, damage and catastrophes, was sometimes a stimulating display. Watching a flame go from ablaze to absent with just a unique combination of gases was quite spectacular, while seeing technologically advanced cameras was informative.

A highlight of the conference was to get an insider’s tour of some of the best art museums and castles Denmark has to offer. Seeing the crown jewels in the Rosenborg Castle, touring a genuinely unmodified Victorian apartment owned by the National Museum, walking through the modern and contemporary art exhibits of the SMK and ARKEN, and taking in the view of the ocean while on the lawn of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art were my personal favorites.

From the first day to the last, the willingness to share ideas and strengths was motivating as a young professional like myself to witness. Just listening to some of the conversations over coffee breaks it is apparent that these security professionals value working together. Hearing how investigating problems and solving solutions while trading stories over dinner reminds me how much museum security is a team effort rather than a solo trial. Last summer, while in Dick Drent’s Museum Security course during the ARCA program, I changed my perception of the museum world, and attending this conference only added and enhanced that outlook. Having him there to watch me present, the thesis that he inspired, was another bonus of this event.

September 18, 2014

ARCA's Lauren Cattey Monroe ('09) Hiring Facilities Assistant at Burke Museum in Seattle

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

ARCA graduate Lauren Cattey Monroe has a job opening at the Burke Museum in Seattle. In 2009, Ms. Monroe completed ARCA's certificate program on the study of art crime and cultural property protection in Amelia, Umbria. She published "Revolutionizing Security in the Art World One Photograph at a Time: Photomacrography and its Application to Protecting Cultural Property" in The Journal of Art Crime in the Fall 2010 issue.

What is your current position and your responsibilities? What do you hope to accomplish?

Ms. Monroe: My current title is the Security and Facilities Manager at the University of Washington's Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, WA. I oversee the security and facility operations of the Burke Museum. I am responsible for opening/closing the museum, coordinating building maintenance while ensuring the safety and protection of staff, patrons and the museum's collection. I supervise the Facilities Assistant and Operations Assistant. I am first responder to off hour alarms and emergencies. I organize and control access to the building by maintaining current, organized inventories of badges, keys and off hours access cards.

I hope to accomplish well-established programs, such as security, access, disaster preparedness, safety and facility operations so that they will translate seamlessly into the new building that we are in the very early stages of planning.

How did you get this job? What did you do in the field while you were waiting for an opportunity?

Ms. Monroe: I was originally hired at the Burke Museum as the Operations Assistant. Shortly after arriving, the previous Facilities Manager vacated the position, and I was asked to fill in as the Interim Facilities Manager while also applying for the permanent position. I saw my opportunity as Interim Facilities Manager as my chance to prove that I would succeed in this role.

Before working for the Burke Museum, in my free time, I worked as a gallery monitor at the Seattle Art Museum in order to not lose focus on my career goals.

What is the position you're now hiring for?

Ms. Monroe: I am looking to hire a new Facilities Assistant. This position is my evening closer as well as my backup. We're looking for a person who will interlace the Facilities department with the Visitor Services and Facility Rentals departments by wearing many hats and acting as onsite manager in the evenings and on the weekends. A Jack or Jill of all trades who can do some physical labor (tool work, climb ladders, water plants), has excellent customer service (interacting with visitors and event rentals) and is computer savvy (data entry and creating manuals). Someone who has a can-do attitude, will anticipate the needs of others while fostering relationships with co-workers and contractors, and will be committed to the Burke and the direction we are heading. For more information or if interested in applying, you can find the job description and apply through the UW Jobs website by Friday, September 19th.

If you have any questions, please contact me at

June 9, 2014

Art or Crime: Performance artist Deborah De Robertis re-enacts Courbet's "L'origine du monde" in Musee d'Orsay

Performance artist Deborah De Robertis in Musée d'Orsay
(Luxemburger Wort, screenshot of YouTube video)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

As reported by Luxemburger Wort last week in "Luxembourg artist flashes Paris museum-goers", performance artist Deborah De Robertis exposed her female genitalia in front of Gustave Courbet's L'origine du monde (1866) in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris on May 29:
Dressed in a gold sequin dress, the artist walked into the museum on May 29, sat down below the painting and spread her legs to reveal her vagina in a reflection of the artwork, which shows a woman's genitals and abdomen under the title The Origin of the World. A museum guard alerted police who took De Robertis into custody for indecent exposure. However, the prosecution decided not to press charges and the Luxembourg artist was released. Speaking to, De Robertis explained that her performance was not simply an act of exhibitionism, but a reflected action, creating a new tableau in play with the original artwork. An invitation to the performance, distributed to a limited number of people, said that De Robertis aims to destabilise power relations, as well as reflecting on relationships between men and women, and artists and control over their work.
The video De Robertis posted on YouTube shows the performance artist somberly performing while two security guards engage with the artist and a supportive -- as evidenced by their clapping -- audience. Museum officials are shown to be clearing the room while the artist performs.

Here another video shows the new gallery at the Musée d'Orsay dedicated to the larger paintings by Gustave Courbet -- and a close up of the controversial L'origine du monde which entered the French national collection in 1995. It was originally in the collection of Khalil-Bey, an Ottoman diplomat and art collector. Last year, the foremost Courbet scholar claimed to have found the "face" of "L'Origine du Monde".

August 23, 2013

2013 ARCA Art & Cultural Heritage Conference: Saskia Hufnagel Presented “Shifting Responsibilities – The Intersection of Public and Private Policing in the Area of Art Crime”

Dr. Saskia Hufnagel
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Criminal lawyer Dr. Saskia Hufnagel spoke on public and private policing in the area of art crime in her presentation “Shifting Responsibilities – the Intersection of Public and Private Policing in the Area of Art Crime” at ARCA’s Art & Cultural Heritage Conference on June 22, 2013.

Art crime is not always a ‘special’ type of crime. Most common forms encompass theft, fraud and forgery offenses and are, or should be, policed by local police agencies. However, most art crime is not detected without special knowledge. Whether a stolen painting or statue qualifies as ‘art’, needs to be discovered either by the victim, or the investigator. In fraud cases, police need to be able to determine the actual author of a particular artwork. Many officers would not be able to make these distinctions, having no specialized training on these matters and –in the case of Australia – not even a special national unit to refer these cases to. Art crime is hence often referred to ‘experts’ with special knowledge and even their own ‘intelligence’ databases. A prominent example for the privatization of intelligence in this field is the Art Loss Register, which investigates predominately art theft cases, either commissioned by private institutions or working together with police all over the world. The present paper will examine historically the interaction between public and private policing in the area of art crime intelligence with a view to common law jurisdictions, such as Australia, North America, and the United Kingdom. It will be assessed whether a shift toward private intelligence has actually occurred, why a shift might have been necessary, and what dangers private intelligence brings for the art market.

Dr. Hufnagel, a Research Fellow at CEPS, Griffith University, Australia and a Leverhulme Fellow at the University of Leeds, is the author of Policing Cooperation Across Borders: Comparative Perspectives on Law Enforcement within the EU and Australia (Ashgate, 2013). Together with Duncan Chappell, she is currently editing Contemporary Perspectives on the Detection, Investigation and Prosecution of Art Crime (Ashgate, 2013).

In working on the book with Professor Chappell, Dr. Hufnagel found that a private policing component was involved in nearly every case in art crime – from the use of the private database of stolen art operated by the Art Loss Register to security in museums and the use of private investigators in theft and fraud cases. “Problems arise where interests between public and private policing of art crimes oppose one another,” Dr. Hufnagel said. “It can be an overlap of competences and different interests. For example, private companies may want to recover paintings to give them back to the owners while police officers are more interested in arresting the offenders than in recovering the art.”

Rising values of art in the 1970s created a need to secure it using private means. “We want a free market of and access to art all over the world, yet this needs to be policed and self-regulated,” Dr. Hufnagel said. “With art increasing in value, the need for protection and the fear of loss became more prominent.” Dr. Hufnagel continued:

In the area of art crime prevention it can be observed that museums have to develop security mechanisms to protect their collections -- some imposed by government regulation, other required by insurances -- but not all museums have the means to do so. With regard to detection and investigation of art crime, private policing became prominent as overburdened police forces have limited resources and the criminal justice system can be too bureaucratic. Art crime is low on the priority list of most national police forces, which is why private security providers could close a gap in the market. A major problem for public police in the field is that the art community does not trust their ability and expertise. Police are not part of the art market and quite distant from this very unique community. They are supposed to help, but the art community doesn’t even expect them to. Furthermore, many actors in the market want to remain anonymous and therefore prefer private investigators.

In forgery cases, victims often do not want to report cases as they might face losing their property. If a forged work of art is not reported, it always risks being sold as an authentic piece.

Private firms can fill the gap between the art market’s expectations and the police’s experience. Experts often assist police in determining forgeries. However, experts can be corrupted and if, as it happened in the Beltrachi case in Germany, experts get paid not for their time, but receive a percentage of what the painting is sold for the risk of unreliable certificates of authenticity is high.

A way of closing the gap between public and private policing aims is to rely on security providers with knowledge of both sides. Many experts in private investigation are former police officers and understand the economic interests of the art market and the public safety interests of the police.

July 20, 2013

Report from ARCA in Amelia: Dick Drent on Museum Security and Integrated Risk Management for Cultural Heritage

Le pont d'Argenteuil
by Claude Monet - damaged in 2007 by intruders
by Sophia Kisielewska, ARCA Intern

This past week, our course was taught by Dick Drent, the Corporate Security Manager and former Director of Security at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, who led us through the ins and outs of museum security and risk management for cultural heritage. Mr. Drent offered up his vast and unparalleled knowledge from the practical side of art crime detection and prevention -- knowledge he has gained through his eight years heading the security team at the Van Gogh Museum and 25 years working in the field of Law Enforcement in the Netherlands.  We learnt about how, during his time as Security Director at the Van Gogh Museum, he has changed and refined the security procedures of the museum to meet a standard that is truly fitting for the treasure trove that it holds.

Through the week we identified the many threats that face any art institution: theft, vandalism, violent acts, natural disasters, fire, and environmental hazards and learned the practical approaches for protecting against these.  Mr. Drent guided us through the museum security training methods he devised with some of his former colleagues from Dutch law enforcement. He has spent several years promoting this method in museums and galleries around the world and in doing so has become a leading figure in an international movement calling for greater security for cultural property.  The training focuses on the detection of risks upfront in order to minimize actual threats, his mantra being that a museum must have a proactive stance in the protection of its art works rather than a reactive one. This, he emphasizes, need not be reliant on fancy and expensive equipment, rather a shift of attitude from the management level to the floor level on the training of security personnel and museum staff.  This includes training in how to properly observe and recognize deviant behavior and the regular analysis and revaluation of risks to the museum on a daily basis, followed by assessments on the best ways to intervene if such an event were to occur.

The highlight of Dick Drent’s course was undoubtedly the field class that he led in Rome. We rose early on Monday to take a coach bus into the capital where we spent the day surveying some of Rome's greatest collections of Western European art not merely as tourists but through the eyes of a security director. Through a series of group exercises, we gained an understanding of the complexity of securing a museum while keeping the collection available to visitors.

As my classmates talked amongst themselves during the field class, walking among collections, and even on the bus ride back to Amelia, we began to realize the complex field in which a modern-day museum security director works.  His or her job requires them to not only know what is best for their particular museum and their particular collection but to also convey that information to a broad group of interested parties and decision-makers.  It is one thing to talk among colleagues from the security field about what is needed, but it is quite another thing to articulate those same concerns to a museum director, its Board of Trustees, a finance review board, or a museum's curators and conservators.

Having survived a two-week stretch of intensive studying without a pausa, we were treated to a six-day holiday. Most students decided to venture away from Amelia and the chosen destinations ranged from Rome, Sienna, Florence, and Venice to Serbia, Basel, Switzerland, Amsterdam, and Marrakesh.  During the break, many of Europe’s great galleries were visited and no doubt many of us looked vaguely suspicious as we unconsciously carried out security audits of the collections.  During my own trip to Castel S. Angelo in Rome, it became apparent to me that visits to cultural institutions will never be the same again thanks to Dick Drent’s full on and rigorous museum security training.

April 15, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam: Art Gallery Robbed Last October to Close for Six Months to go "green"

The Kunsthal Rotterdam robbed last October will close from June to October 2013 for planned reconstruction works, according to the email send out yesterday.
During these months, overdue maintenance will be realised, the main entrance relocated, technical installations renewed, and the sustainability of the entire building shall be improved. The reconstruction works are jointly initiated by the Kunsthal, de municipality of Rotterdam – owner of the building – and architecture firm OMA. The board of the Kunsthal as well as the Mayor and Executive Board of Rotterdam have given their consent for the reconstruction works. 
Seen the scope of the renovation, it has been decided to extend the management of the Kunsthal with a business director, Bas den Hollander. 
The Kunsthal will be closed for visitors during its five months reconstruction works. Therefore, Friends of the Kunsthal and members of the Kunsthal Business Club are compensated and will receive a forthcoming letter with additional information.
Behind the scenes, the Kunsthal-team will continue to work on an exciting exhibition programme.

As from November 2013, we will be happy to welcome you in a beautiful renovated and sustainable building.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: How has the institution faired more than two decades after the theft? Former Undersecretary for Homeland Security Juliette Kayyman wrote about this last year

Here's an article overlooked by the ARCA Blog last year: In the Boston Globe, a former Undersecretary for Home Security, Juliette Kayyem, wrote in March 2012 of the "Gardner's narrative of resiliency" on the new addition to the institution:

In 1990, two thieves dressed as Boston police officers told the museum night guards on duty that they were responding to a call. The thieves passed the sole security door. There was just one alarm button at the time; only motion detectors traced their movements. There were no cameras. A mere 81 minutes later, they were in possession of the masterpieces worth, today, half a billion dollars. The investigation is ongoing. 
The new building could have been a fortress. But that would have made the theft the focal point of how we would perceive the museum. Instead, the colorless glass entry, the brick walls, even the enclosed corridor that passes from the new building through a grove of trees into Gardner’s historic courtyard serve as practical access controls. There are no doors for the public to the original Gardner mansion. A thief would now have to walk through a transparent glass tunnel, into the new building, and out a security door for the easiest exit. Though counterintuitive, its openness makes it more secure. 
While the museum is watched by hundreds of cameras, the new structure is designed to relieve some of the stress from Gardner’s old home by shifting the burdens of exit and entry to the much more modern and secure building. “There is simply no place in the museum where a thief can just grab art and get outside,’’ Anthony Amore, the head of museum security and author of “Stealing Rembrandts,’’ said.

April 12, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013 - ,, No comments

Louvre's one-day protest to procure help against threat of pickpockets follows strikes in 2009 and 1999 against reduction in staff

The Louvre reopened on Thursday after a one-day strike by museum security protesting the problem of pickpockets by children entering the museum for free.

Police will now join security staff in combatting the problem of relieving tourists of cash, according to museum officials.

In December 2009, employees of France's Culture of Ministry closed monuments such as Louvre, Museé d'Orsay, and Versailles Palace in a strike protesting the government's plan 'to replace only one out of every two retiring civil servants, which they say will cripple French museums'.

In 1999, French museums closed due to strikes. Marlise Simons for The New York Times reported on the situation then:
The main demand of the strikers, all employees of the Culture Ministry, is that they want the Government to hire more people and create at least 1,000 new jobs. They particularly want more security guards, whose numbers, the strikers contend, have not swelled to match the ever-growing stream of visitors. Strikers also demand that the Government end the system of hiring people on temporary contracts and instead offer permanent jobs.
On Friday, hundreds of frustrated tourists milled around near I. M. Pei's glass pyramid that gives access to the Louvre. Instead of a ticket to the museum, visitors got pamphlets from striking workers, explaining their grievances. They did not get much sympathy. A family from Sydney, Australia, said that seeing the Louvre's great collections from ancient Egypt and Greece would have been the highlight of their trip to Paris.

April 10, 2013

Louvre closed due to "exceptional circumstances"

Paris' Louvre at night (Photo by CR Sezgin)
The Louvre's website pops up a message today:
Due to exceptional circumstances, the Louvre museum is currently closed. We apologize for the inconvenience and will keep you informed when the museum opens again.
The New York Times' Arts Beat blog reported:

PARIS –The Louvre museum was shut on Wednesday after 200 guards and surveillance agents went on strike to protest the growing number of often violent pickpockets who prey on them and tourists. 
“For more than a year, pickpockets have come here every day,” Thierry Choquet, a member of the main union at the Louvre, said. “They threaten guards by telling them that they know where they live.” 
The pickpockets are often minors from Eastern and Central Europe, Mr. Choquet said, who “buy entry tickets, threaten agents and attack tourists.” 
On Wednesday the museum’s management said that it would beef up security forces at the Louvre, which usually attracts between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors a day at this time of year.
BBC News quoted sources as saying that the pickpockets included children.

The Guardian reported that earlier efforts had failed:
The museum said in a statement that pickpocketing was a growing problem despite measures taken last year, including tighter co-operation with the police and temporary bans on people already identified as pickpockets from re-entering the museum. Late last year, the Louvre filed an official complaint to the state prosecutor over visitors falling victim to the thieves.
The Telegraph reported how it's done:
Many of the thieves are children who get into the museum for free and then start asking people for money. 
“Do you speak English?” is their usual opening gambit, and then they surround victims, helping themselves to money and possessions.
And the difficulty in resolving the problem of the 'children of Romanian immigrants (France's Interior Minister)':
“The children are tough and very well organised,” said one member of [Louvre] staff. “They stop at nothing to get what they want, and work in gangs.
“We can only do so much, but arrests are usually impossible because of their young age. If they are kicked out, they return the next day. They are very aggressive towards staff, putting people in danger of attack.”

March 23, 2013

Gardner Heist: Night watchmen Rick Abath Gives Exclusive Television Interview to Randi Kaye in "81 Minutes Inside: The Greatest Art Heist in History" which aired on Anderson Cooper 360 on March 22

Rick Abath, one of the nightwatch men on duty March 18 when two men stole 13 paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, gave his first television interview to Randi Kaye for her story "81 Minutes Inside: The Greatest Art Heist In History" which aired on Anderson Cooper 360 CNN on March 22.

Rick Abath, who had working at the museum for about a year, began his night shift at 11.30 p.m. He explained that guards took turns walking through the museum and manning the security desk next to the employee entrance. On the night of the theft, Abath's "usual partner had called in sick" "so they paired him with a daytime gallery guard".

Ms. Kaye narrates:

Abath takes the first round which takes longer than usual. The fire alarm goes off for no apparent reason -- so does another alarm on the fourth floor. Then the other gallery guard does the round. It is 1.24 a.m. and Rick is alone at the guard desk. Two men dressed as Boston police officers buzz the side entrance and tell Abath that they are there because there's been a disturbance on the property.
Anthony Amore, Director of Security for the Isabella Stewart Gardner, explains to Ms. Kaye that it was against museum policy for the nightwatchman to let anyone into the museum.

While Abath concedes that this may have been the written policy, Abath says that the "culture" was to let museum employees in at night "at least once a month", including the director of the museum. "So it wasn't unusual for Rick to hear that buzzer go off," Ms. Kaye narrates.

Rick Abath explains that he had no reason to believe the men were not police officers until it was too late to reach the panic button.

The panic button on the guard's desk was not easy to reach. "It was the same kind of panic button at a bank or something," Rick Abath said. "It was up on the underside of the desk. But it was a fairly long desk and the computer that you had to be at to do your job was all the way to your left and it was all the way to the right so it just wasn't within arms reach."

October 18, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Conferring with Charley Hill, former Scotland Yard art detective and undercover agent

By Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Charley Hill, former Scotland Yard art detective (who helped to recover "The Scream") and private investigator, shared his expertise and opinion with the ARCA Blog on the Rotterdam art heist at the Kunsthal art gallery on October 16, 2012.

ARCA Blog: The space at the 20-year-old Kunsthal Rotterdam shows temporary exhibitions and has no permanent collection. Rotterdam Police have said that the Kunsthal had a very good technological security system but no on-site guards. Did this make the Triton Foundation's collection vulnerable to theft? After all, the exhibit featured paintings by artists known to fetch high prices at highly publicized auctions.
Mr. Hill: If a museum is to show works of great art, it cannot be Fort Knox, nor a high security prison. So whatever the security at a museum, and the state of its alarm system, it will be vulnerable to attack. The best system is a combination of locks, bolts, strengthened glass, CCTV (seeing someone walking around with a balaclava on should be a clue that all is not well, if anyone is watching the monitor) and alarms with good human resources managing them 24 hours a day. That is expensive, and most museums cannot afford that combination, but they should always aspire to it and try to achieve it as best they can, particularly when they have other people's art treasures on loan for an exhibition.
ARCA Blog: This month in Santa Monica, California, a private collector, Jeffrey Gundlach, recovered stolen art valued around $2 million after offering a reward. However, other paintings from art heists -- Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1972, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990, and the Van Gogh Museum in 2002 have never been recovered. What are the chances of seeing these seven stolen works taken from the Triton Foundation while on display at the Kunsthal?
Mr. Hill: These stolen works of art are likely to turn up again because they were stolen in an intelligent way, probably little damaged. But overall, stealing masterpieces is the most stupid thing a thief or thieves can do. They are not readily realisable as cash assets. They are unsaleable on the open market. The values attributed to them, and I read in the Independent this morning here in London that a figure for all of the stolen pictures was put at £250 million. What nonsense.
I also read that they were for some secret collector and his secret collection. More stuff and nonsense. In my experience the only Captain Nemo or Dr. No character I have ever met who collected stolen works of art is George Ortiz of Geneva. He used to show anyone his superb collection of looted antiquities, and every one of his friends and enemies knows what he has got. His main friends are the city fathers of Geneva who are set to inherit it all, and his enemies begin with Lord Renfrew, the famous Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University. Jules Verne and Ian Fleming (actually, Cubby Broccoli) invented all of that secret collector nonsense. These pictures will turn up in drugs raids and other searches over time, unless the police in Rotterdam get a good tip off soon and hit the place where they are stashed now.
ARCA Blog: The Santa Monica Police and Pasadena police in California were able to recover the stolen paintings from the Jeffrey Gundlach collection at a car stereo business and at a nearby residence. One of the paintings was recovered in Glendale during what appeared to be a sale preview. In the Gundlach robbery, the thieves also stole a Porsche and watches. This robbery is more focused on the art.
Mr. Hill: My view is that this theft was particularly well organised, done quickly and in the almost certain knowledge that the thieves and what they stole would be long gone by the time the police arrived. Also, the thieves were apparently not opportunists such as the two with a ladder at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam some years ago who smashed a window and took the two pictures nearest the broken glass, nor were they Balkan bandits with machine pistols like the ones who hit the Munch Museum in 2004, or the Buhrle Collection in Zurich a few years ago.
The closest pattern I know is of Irish Traveller raids on art in the 1980s through 2010. The pattern in Rotterdam the night before last was closer to that. See the art crimes of The General as he called himself, Martin Cahill of Dublin. Interestingly, one of Cahill's gang, George Mitchell, known as The Penguin, lives close to Rotterdam where he works in commodities with his Colombian, Russian, Dutch, Brit, Irish and other friends. I wonder if he has a part to play in this? He could do something about getting those pictures back, I'm sure, if any good Dutch police officer not in his pay asked him for some help.
Readers may read about Charley Hill's undercover work to recovery Edvard Munch's Scream stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo in 1994 in Edward Dolnick's book The Rescue Artist. The exploits of Dublin criminal Martin Cahill are told in Mathew Hart's book The Irish Game.

We emailed a few questions to Mr. Hill that he thought we should address to our readers in the hopes of generating a thoughtful discussion:
What about the Serbian gangs who had been involved in the theft of the two Turners from the Tate Gallery which had been on loan to Frankfurt (as documented in Sandy Nairne's book Art Theft and The Case of the Stolen Turners)? Do you think the paintings, if taken by someone like that Irish gangs, would be shipped into Britain? If you were to steal these paintings from Rotterdam, what country would you ship them to?

June 4, 2012

Retired FBI Agent Virginia Curry Editorializes about Help Wanted Advertisement at the Guggenheim

by Virginia M. Curry, Guest Contributor and Editorial

It’s June, and the newly graduated crop  of art historians buoyant with their expectations and burdened with six digit tuition loans pour out of college nationwide seeking employment. However these students now confront a dilemma which was certainly never experienced by the original art historian, Giorgio Vasari.
Museums are no longer sanctuaries for art education and appreciation.  Museum directors are now much more likely to have a business degree than an art history or anthropology degree.  Exhibitions are now mounted as though they are infomercials for automobiles and lifestyle products such as cars and dresses.

One of the richest museums in the United States just recently fired their staff of art educators in favor of replacing them with a “robust” and free volunteer force of docents.  The prices paid by this institution for art at auction are ever record shattering while the value of the art educator is reduced to zero.  Could this possibly get worse for the art historian and educator?  Yes, it has.

This week I received a listing of positions presently available for art historians.  Frankly, most of these offer the opportunity to relocate to New York and work for free or at a salary which is less than the national poverty level.  It is absolutely appalling to think you could actually qualify to live on food stamps.

Please note below this original current job opening, posted on for an “art guide” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In this instance, the Guggenheim proposes that the art educator, who is "preferably bilingual" also perform the duties of a security guard!

This new commentary reduces the post graduate art history education to an expensive and frivolous indulgence which qualifies you to either work for free as a docent or "stand for long hours" as a sort of art informed  security guard at the Guggenheim.  Should security guards be insulted?  Will art historians be distracted?

As both an art historian and a licensed security consultant it is my opinion that this concept is wholly ridiculous and will create a new breeding ground for internal theft by employees who are both underpaid and angry and have access to exhibits.  It is my professional experience that when university and museum managers (who were far better compensated than these guards) felt that they were entitled to more compensation for their education and performance,  they exploited the weaknesses of their facilities and raped the collections.  Two examples easily come to mind: Dr. Patrick T. Houlihan former director of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in Los Angeles and Professor Jane Crawford, Director of Graduate Honors program at UCLA.  These individuals exploited their facilities and embezzled art and artifacts. Neither of these individuals was asked to be bilingual and stand guard for hours for menial pay in New York City. Both of these "professionals" were convicted at trial of their thefts. They explained to family and accomplices that they were motivated by anger and resentment of the poor compensation they received for their education and experience.

Current Job advertisement from
Gallery Guides

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
New York, New York
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is seeking Gallery Guides. Gallery Guides serve a dual role as both security guard and art educator.  They are responsible for the security and safety of the artwork and of visitors, and for actively encouraging visitors to discuss their questions and ideas about art.  They are trained and certified in compliance with New York State Certification regulations, and trained as a gallery educator to the standards of the museum's Education department.  They are required to attend and actively participate in all trainings (paid) in security guard procedures, education techniques and exhibition content.  As frontline staff, they are required to maintain a welcoming and professional attitude towards visitors and staff at all times.  Annual performance evaluations will be conducted jointly by the Director of Security and Senior Manager of Adult Interpretive Programs. 
* Provide security during public hours in accordance with established security procedures; keep visitors at prescribed distances from artwork; monitor the flow of visitors in the galleries and report any incident involving visitors touching or damaging art work. 
* Provide for the safety of staff and visitors on the museum's premises during public and non-public hours; assist with evacuation during emergencies; report problems, suspicious activity and safety hazards to a Supervisor and/or Assistant Supervisor.
* Thoroughly prepare for all exhibitions; actively encourage and discuss questions from visitors about current exhibitions, the collection, the Frank Lloyd Wright building, the museum and its history; respond to visitor queries about practical matters such as directions.  
* Overtime is offered but not required.
Qualifications and Requirements:
* A firm schedule of 4 or 5 days, must be available Friday and Saturday
* BA/BFA in art history, studio art, museum education or related field required; MA/MFA encouraged to apply.
* Ability to stand for multiple hours
* Ability to remain alert at all times
* Must qualify for the New York State Security Guard Certification.
* Experience with security issues preferred.
* Professional demeanor and commitment to museum policies, procedures and security/education philosophies.
* Strong interpersonal and communication skills; experience working with the public required, teaching experience preferred.
* Solid working knowledge of modern and contemporary art.
* Bilingual a plus.
* References required.
The Guggenheim offers a competitive salary and excellent medical, dental, life, disability and pension plan coverage.  Our staff also enjoys generous vacation, sick leave and personal days, access to a variety of cultural institutions, discounts to museum stores and a stimulating and collegial work environment.
Qualified applicants please send your resume, cover letter, including salary expectations, and three references to Indicate the job title "Gallery Guides" in the subject line.  Only those applicants who meet our requirements for this position will be contacted.
Sadly, it is now easier and far more lucrative to work at McDonald' s where the only educational requisite is the ability to make a hamburger from a photograph of a hamburger.  I understand that McDonald's also has great job security, health benefits,  and probably better opportunities for advancement.