November 6, 2014

International Conference: Art meets Security December 4 & 5 in Bruges, Belgium

Conference ART meets SECURITY 4/5 Dec @ Bruges, BE | L. Albertson, ARCA | J. Bechmann, LACMA | H. De Witte, Musea Brugge | D. Drent, Van Gogh Museum
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International Conference


4/5 Dec @ Bruges

International Conference ART meets SECURITY

Top 5 reasons to attend

  1. Leading professionals will share their experiences and present their best practices for art related security risks
  2. Broaden your expertise with innovative security techniques and become aware of risk management solutions
  3. Discover new technologies and trends for 2015
  4. Network and uncover valuable partnerships
  5. Explore Bruges for yourself

Register here and share knowledge, discover trends and meet your peers at ART meets SECURITY taking place from the 4th until the 5th of December 2014 in Bruges, Belgium.

Visit the conference website

Top speakers

Top speakers

Lynda Albertson

Chief Executive Officer, Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA)

Hubert De Witte

Deputy Director, Musea Brugge

Dick Drent

Business Owner/Director, OMNIRISK
The Van Gogh Museum

Jens Bechmann

Director, Pinkerton
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)


Conference ART meets SECURITY on 4 Dec.
  • 08:30 Registration and breakfast
  • 09:15 Opening the conference - Francis Van der Staey, Optimit
  • 09:30 Drawing the canvas - Hubert De Witte, Musea Brugge
  • 10:00 Could the biggest art crimes have been prevented? - Inge Vandijck, Optimit
  • 10:30 Art crime in war and armed conflict - Lynda Albertson, ARCA
  • 11:00 Morning break
  • 11:30 The art of museum security: what everyone needs to understand to do art security right - Jens Bechmann, Pinkerton
  • 12:00 Art crime, policing and investigation - TBA
  • 14:30 Government indemnity vs. private insurance: the BOZAR case - Hans Feys, Flemish Agency for Art and Heritage
  • 13:00 Lunch
  • 14:00 Predictive profiling of the art's adversary - Leen van der Plas, ArtSecure & Dick Drent, OMNIRISK
  • 14:30 It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see: the art in video analytics - Dominique Debusschere, Avigilon
  • 15:00 Trends and technologies in security: the voice of the customer - Megan Miller, Siemens
  • 15:30 Afternoon break
  • 16:00 Your chances to interrupt the adversary: a delicate balance in deterrence, delay, detection and response - Paul van Lerberghe, Optimit
  • 16:30 Software to support art security risk management - TBA
  • 17:00 Panel and conclusions - Ibrahim Bulut, Optimit
  • 17:30 Cocktail reception
Optional art-historical and cultural program ART in BRUGES on 5 to 7 Dec with complementary 3-days Museum Pass.


Copyright © 2014 Optimit, All rights reserved.

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November 3, 2014

Blue Shield Netherlands and ICOM Netherlands Invite You to "Heritage under Attack Symposium" at the Van Braam Houckgeest Barracks in Doorn on Nov. 14

Amsterdam, 3 November 2014

About: Invitation to the symposium on endangered cultural heritage on November 14th
Title: Heritage under Attack (voertaal Engels)

Dear all,

Blue Shield Netherlands and ICOM Netherlands cordially invite you to the Heritage under Attack Symposium on November 14th, 2014 at the Van Braam Houckgeest Barracks in Doorn, from 11:30 to 17:30.

The symposium will focus on the protection of cultural heritage during times of war or disasters. In dangerous situations like these, the protection of humans is the first need and priority. However, the destruction or looting of cultural heritage as part of the human identity, is also a loss for human kind. “There is no culture without people and no society without culture.”(UNESCO)

The occasion of the symposium is the 60th anniversary of UNESCO’s 1954 The Hague Convention on the protection of cultural heritage in the event of an armed conflict. The Blue Shields attached on buildings, are a result of the Hague Convention.

Moderator Louk de la Rive Box guides us through the day. Louk de la Rive Box has a long-term interest in international cultural cooperation, which resulted in being a founding member of the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development and of its Cultural Emergency Response Program. Two international key note speakers will share there experiences: Samuel Sidibé, director of the Musée National du Mali and Kateryna Chuyeva, Secretary General of the recently established Blue Shield Ukraine.  A series of pecha kuchas are given by Dutch experts addressing rescue missions, disaster preparation, illicit traffic of cultural heritage and the army’s role.

Symposium Heritage under Attack – endangered cultural heritage in times of armed conflicts and disasters 
For whom: 
Heritage professionals (archives, libraries, built heritage, museums) members of the Dutch Blue Shield network ICOM members, NGOs, Military, Defence specialists, students and individuals interested in the protection of cultural heritage
November 14th, 11.30- 17.30, including lunch 
Van Braam Houckgeestkazerne, Oude Arnhemse Bovenweg 1d, 3941 XM in Doorn. Drinks and Canapé reception at Huis Doorn, Langbroekerweg 10. 3941 MT in Doorn.

Registration and detailed program via:

Follow the Heritage under Attack Symposium on Facebook:

We hope to welcome you on November 14th, on behalf of the organizing team,
With kind regards,  
Janrense Boonstra
President of ICOM Netherlands 
Jeroen Vervliet
President of Blue Shield Netherlands

For more information please contact

October 30, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014 - ,, No comments

Caracas, Venezuela: Recovered stolen painting displayed next to forgery that masked theft

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor

In "Quirky Matisse exhibit rekindles art mystery in Venezuela" (Reuters, Oct. 28, 2014) Alexandra Ulmer reports on the exhibition of the Henri Matisse painting "Odalisque in Red Pants" next to the "sloppy copy that was put in it's place when the original was stolen" from the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art sometime between 1999 and 2001:
The theft went unnoticed for months or even years because the robbers replaced it with a forgery. To this day, no one has been charged with the crime nor have its exact circumstances been established.
The Matisse painting was returned to Venezuela in July.  The FBI recovered it in 2012 and kept it for two years according to the Miami New Times.

October 24, 2014

The John Rylands Seminar in Papyrology: "To Publish or Not to Publish" in Manchester on October 25, 2014

Dr. Roberta Mazza -- who spoke at ARCA's Art Crime Conference this year -- has organized a conference at the University of Manchester for tomorrow, October 25: "The John Rylands Seminar in Papyrology: To Publish or not to Publish".

To Publish or not to Publish?

A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Politics, Ethics and Economics of Ancient Artifacts
10:45-11:00 Welcome/Introduction: Roberta Mazza (University of Manchester)

11:00 -11:30 David Gill (University of Suffolk): What does ‘provenance’ mean?

11:30-12:00 Neil Brodie (University of Glasgow): The role of academics

12:00-12:30 Stuart Campbell (University of Manchester): Mesopotamian objects in a conflicted world

12:30-13:30 Lunch break

Chair: Roslynne Bell (University of Manchester)

13:30-14:00 Roberta Mazza (University of Manchester): Who owns the past? Private and public papyrus collections

14:00-14:30 Chris Naunton (Egypt Exploration Society, London): Association policies: the case of the Egypt Exploration Society

14:30-15:00 Coffee Break

15:00-15:30 Vernon Rapley (V&A Museum, National Museum Security Group, London): ‘Working together.’ Law enforcement and cultural sector, intelligence sharing and cooperation

15:30-16:00 James Ede (Charles Ede Gallery, London): Dealers: trade, traffic and the consequences of demonization

16:00-16:45 The way forward: round table

Discussants include Marcel Marée (The British Museum), David Trobisch (Director of the Museum of the Bible/Green Collection, Washington DC), Nikolaos Gonis (UCL), Campbell Price (Manchester Museum), Nicole Vitellone (University of Liverpool), William Webber (Art Loss Register, London), Donna Yates (University of Glasgow)


For information e-mail the organizer: Dr. Mazza is a Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History, University of Manchester; Academic honorary curator, Graeco-Roman Egypt antiquities, Manchester Museum; and Research Fellow, John Rylands Research Institute - John Rylands Library. Further information may be found on Dr. Mazza's blog, Faces & Voices.

October 17, 2014

Film Review: Mark Landis in the documentary "Art and Craft" explains art forgery

by Camille Knop, ARCA Alumna '14

“We all like to feel useful. Whatever ability we happen to have, we like to make use of it,” explains Mark Landis in the newly-released documentary, “Art and Craft,” which traces his career in art forgery. “And copying pictures is my gift.”

Landis has been in the news since 2010, when it was discovered that he had donated over one hundred forgeries over a period of thirty years, spanning forty-six museums across twenty states. Although Landis’ actions could be considered fraudulent, the fact that he never sold his forgeries makes them legal. “Art and Craft” paints a portrait of Landis’ character that satisfies this contradiction and exposes a motive that is unexpected yet relatable.

Directed by Sam Cullman, Jennifer Grausman, and Mark Becker, “Art and Craft” often feels more like a documentary of a performance artist than that of an art forger. During its New York City release at the Angelika Film Center last month, the audience scoffed, giggled, and outright laughed in disbelief as they watched Landis at work. He forged countless images with undeniable talent, skillfully portrayed generous donors under various aliases, and teased museums into taking the bait. The genius of Mark Landis lies in the process of deception as much as in the forged work itself.

Most discovered art forgers are found to be motivated by a desire for financial gain and for revenge on an unforgiving and fickle art market. Artists themselves, they use their talents to benefit from the over-dependence of artistic value on authenticity. Ironically, their soft spots are similar to those of the museum directors interviewed in the film: art and money.

Landis, on the other hand, is interested in a different kind of profit. Unlike other art forgers, he claims he does not identify himself as an artist. Although he enjoys creating copies and duping experts, Landis is unique in that he gets the most pleasure out of impersonating art collectors. The friendly attention he receives from museum staff, although likely as insincere as his act, is what he craves and, ultimately, why he forges. “Art and Craft” traces this desire to emulate collectors he had seen in 'James Bond' films. In fact, his performances are inspired by the films and TV shows he watched as a child. He quotes them verbatim, almost as though they were original thoughts. “Necessity is the mother of invention, but sometimes the step-mother of deception,” is one such quote taken from "Charlie Chan’s Secret" (1936).  

Questions surrounding the future of Mark Landis’ work were brought up during the Q&A that followed the New York screening of “Art and Craft”. After having been featured in both a solo exhibition at the University of Cincinnati and in the film itself, it is clear that Mark Landis will have to put an end to his “philanthropic” career. Although he is unsure as to what his next step will be, when asked by an audience member if he would now be interested in selling his copies, Landis replied, "I may be eccentric, but I'm not crazy."

Ms. Knop studied art history and visual arts at Columbia University (Class of 2014).

October 9, 2014

Parthenon Galleries, British Museum: A selection of friezes and sculptures from the Temple to Athena

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
 ARCA Blog Editor

London, October 8 - I had a transcendental experience with art yesterday. I spent more than 2 1/2 hours looking at friezes and sculptures from the Temple of Athena -- those pieces that remain after more than 2,400 years, that once adorned the Parthenon (447 and 432 BC) in Greece. It was my first visit to the British Museum, the first time I'd seen the "Elgin Marbles" and the experience was powerful. I visited the three Greek temples of Paestum in 2009 and felt awed by their grandeur so my first reaction was that I would have liked to have seen these pieces as they were installed in Athens until severely damaged (by a Venetian commander) in the 17th century.  My second reaction was as a feminist -- for the profound loss for two sculptures crucial to worshipping the goddess of war and wisdom (as described in the British Museum's excellent audio guide) -- the sculpture of Athena's birth from the head of Zeus and the "colossal statue" of Athena Parthenos constructed in gold and ivory by Phidias, the most famous sculptor of all antiquity. I would have liked my 14-year-old daughter and her best friend to have seen this now lost statue of Athena by Phidias -- for them to witness the power and beauty of a woman as portrayed even in ancient times.

The British Museum provides information about the controversy about the Parthenon sculptures or the "Elgin Marbles" on its website here. I'll just share with you photos of some of the pieces in the exhibit which humbled me with their beauty and perseverance.

Even the back side of these attached sculptures were finished.

These sculptures were reacting to the birth of Athena
from the head of Zeus which would have been to the right.

Each reaction is carefully shown in the position of body.

My favorite -- Aphrodite's reaction to the birth of Athena.

British Museum, South Metope XXVII: "This is composition-
ally one of the most impressive metopes. A centaur pressing
a wound in his back tries to escape, while the Lapith restrains
him and prepares to deliver a final blow. The Lapith's cloak
fans out to provide a dramatic backdrop."

British Museum, South Metope IV: "The heads of these
figures were taken by Capt. Hartmann, a member
of the Venetian army that occupied Athens in 1688.
 They are now in Copenhagen." 

British Museum, South Metope V: "The centaur's head is in

At the end of my visit I noticed two signs of gratitude to Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman for their financial support in 1998 for the Parthenon Galleries. Mr. Fleischman, an art dealer, also donated a large portion of his antiquities collection (collected over 40 years) to the J. Paul Getty Villa in Malibu (see his obituary in The New York Times). The plaques read:
The trustees record their thanks to Lawrence A. Fleischman for a generous grant to renew this gallery in 1998. 
The trustees record their thanks to Barbara G. Fleischman for a generous grant to this gallery in 1998.

Sign thanking L. Fleischman above door.

Sign thanking B. Fleischman above another door.

October 8, 2014

Essay: Thoughts on De Paul University's Arts Law Colloquium "Protecting Cultural Heritage from Disaster"

    Chicago's former St. Boniface Catholic Church
closed in 1990.  Recently slated to become senior
housing, the building's latest development
has been stalled yet again.
by Hal Johnson, 2014 ARCA Student and DNA Consultant

Last month, the architectural marvels of Chicago’s Loop served as the setting for a colloquium on protecting urban cultural heritage.  TheCenter for Art, Museum, and Cultural Heritage Law at DePaul University’s lawschool hosted "Protecting Cultural Heritage from Disaster" on September 22, featuring guest lecturer Ryan Rowberry, Assistant Professor of Law at Georgia State University.  His background in cultural heritage law is certainly influenced by his Rhodes Scholarship in medieval history at Oxford.  Both fields of study shaped his lecture topic – the preservation of cultural heritage in urban landscapes.   
Professor Rowberry began his talk with a question that often crosses our minds here at ARCA – why does cultural heritage matter?  I found it ironic that he posed such a question having traveled from Atlanta, a city that has largely forsaken its connection with the past in the name of downtown economic development.  Yet there are those in the Atlanta area like him who are researching this issue from all sides.  In particular he mentioned a study at Emory University which found that connections to the past help people frame their own life experience within a much bigger picture.  They thus feel stronger for having that connection.  Who knew that cultural heritage can have a positive effect on community health?  

Professor Rowberry’s main focus was the effect that disasters and population growth are having on cities.  Barcelona, Istanbul, LA, and London are a few examples he used to illustrate the challenges of historic preservation in the face of explosive population surges.  An ancient city with a proud past, Istanbul’s population has ballooned to approximately 18 million people in under two centuries.  How are these cities, and others like them, dealing with ever expanding boundaries AND preserving their cultural property at the same time? 

The first step is to know what you have.  Many city and local governments are starting to develop databases to inventory cultural property.  While it sounds like a daunting task, the exciting thing about such massive data gathering projects is that you can engage the public by getting them to help!  I loved this part of the lecture the most because it ties in strongly to the question of HOW to get people to care about cultural heritage.  Not everyone will be interested in what’s happening to a monument half a world away, but they may care about what happens to that old storefront down the street!  I urge you to go online and check out projects like SurveyLA in Los Angeles or The Arches Project in the UK.  There are many others that might be closer to you.  Make contact and let them know about an interesting building or local historical spot they might not have registered yet.  Donate your knowledge, time, or even some funds!

Reuse of historic structures is another strategy that is starting to gain support in many cities.  In my old Chicago neighborhood there was one church that had been rebuilt into condominiums and another is currently slated to be converted into senior housing.  Professor Rowberry cited the defunct bullfighting stadium in Barcelona (the Plaza Monumental) and the efforts of the Emir of Qatar to fund its conversion into a mosque. 

The importance of being prepared at the government level was also emphasized.  Our speaker stressed how crucial it is to streamline lengthy environmental and historical procedures before the next disaster occurs.  I was most skeptical of this third strategy, and not for lack of thought or detail put into it.  I spent several years as a state employee and I know how hard it is to get governments to practice foresight.  However, it is important to keep in mind that this was a lecture at a law school.  What I flinched at, the dozen or so law students in attendance were probably eager to sink their teeth into.

The Art Law Colloquium at DePaul University College of Law was a lunch hour well spent.  A handful of scholars from Chicago’s museums and universities attended in addition to the legal minds that were present.  Having recently returned from the ARCA summer program in Amelia I was heartened to know that there are organizations like the Center for Art, Museum, and Cultural Heritage Law in cities other than the great art market centers of the world.  And in my own hometown, no less!  Thanks to Center director Patty Gerstenblith and her students for hosting this colloquium and to Professor Rowberry for sharing his time and experience.

October 7, 2014

ARCA’s network assists in getting two fake de Hory forgeries withdrawn from sale

By Arthur Tompkins, ARCA Trustee and Lecturer

On Saturday 4 October 2015 an article appeared in the online edition of The New Zealand Herald, a national newspaper in New Zealand, about two forgeries by the well-known forger Elmyr de Hory, coming up for public auction. 

The article ran under images of one of the forgeries alongside a genuine Monet:

The article said:

Two "Monet" paintings by a legendary art forger have surfaced at an Auckland auction. ... While Monet originals fetch millions, the two fakes will have reserves of only $1000 each when they go under the hammer at Cordy's auction house on Tuesday.
"They are colourful and nice paintings, but you don't look at them and think, 'Boy, that's an amazing masterpiece'," said auctioneer Andrew Grigg.
"They don't look like a real Monet - the detail, the quality of the originals would be just absolutely amazing."

The article described how the two paintings were said to have been purchased from de Hory by one Ken Talbot:

Retired London bookmaker Ken Talbot, ... owned more than 400 de Hory works that adorned every wall of his plush Regents Park townhouse.
Now, an Auckland descendent who inherited two items from him is selling two "Claude Monet" paintings.

A member of the ARCA family, Penny Jackson, Director of the Tauranga Art Gallery here in New Zealand, first spotted the article.  The link to the article then went to curator and art fraud specialist Colette Loll who attended courses at the inaugural ARCA Postgraduate program in 2009, and is the founder and director of Art Fraud Insights (

Mark Forgy is de Hory’s heir and author of 'TheForger’s Apprentice: Life with the World’s Most Notorious Artist’ (2012), a memoir of his life with de Hory up until de Hory’s untimely death in 1976. Colette Loll and Mark Forgy have collaborated significantly on several projects including a book, documentary film and Colette’s exhibition, ‘Intent to Deceive’ (, for which Mark was a major lender.

Ms. Loll immediately sent the article on to Mr. Forgy.

Closing the circle, Mark Forgy then emailed the auctioneers, Cordy’s in Auckland, New Zealand.  He said to them:

“Please be aware that Talbot himself was a con man who established a robust cottage industry of fabricating phony works by de Hory. I write about Talbot in my book ‘The Forger's Apprentice : Life with the World's Most Notorious Artist’. I was de Hory's friend, personal assistant and am his sole legal heir. I authenticate his works. I assure you that the painting you intend to auction in the manner of Claude Monet is NOT by de Hory.  I have added this bogus de Hory to scores of others I've harvested from online auction sites.

Mark later commented:

When I said that Talbot started a cottage industry of fabricating phony works by Elmyr, he wasn't the painter of them. Talbot had others do the fake Elmyrs. I suspect they came from some Asian source, but I can't be certain.

The next day, on the morning of the auction, Tuesday 7 October, news came through that Cordy’s had commendably and immediately withdrawn the two paintings from sale.  Under the headline ‘Auction House Pulls Paintings When Told Forgeries Faked’, Mark Forgy is quoted in the follow-up article in the New Zealand Herald:

"Talbot fabricated an oft-told story that he acquired hundreds of works by Elmyr in exchange for unpaid loans. All this is just nonsense," Forgy said yesterday. Forgy now monitors online auction sites for fake de Hory works and has added the latest pair to the collection.
He said the irony of the famous faker himself being copied "is never lost on me".
"The subject of others forging his works came up only one time. We both contemplated that for a moment and then laughed at the far-fetched notion," he said.
Auctioneer Andrew Grigg confirmed their withdrawal from today's antique and art sale.
"Of course it is never our intention to deceive and we were not aware that the faker's works were faked," he said.

So, within a few short days of the initial article being published online, ARCA's network was instrumental in helping to ensure that these forgeries of de Hory’s forgeries of two "Monets" were not wrongly sold to an unsuspecting buyer who might have purchased them because they were, as it initially seemed, ‘genuine’ forgeries. 

Mark Forgy, reflecting on how this all unfolded, comments:

I think the issue of "fake fakes" merits attention in that it speaks to the deeply flawed art market. It brings art fraud to another level of criminal inventiveness. More alarmingly, we see a marketplace that incentivizes such activity for the lack of regulation of the art trade. The loopholes in the safety net (if one exists) are welcoming portals for anyone intent on committing larceny. One inescapable irony is that art never seems to gather as much attention as when its authenticity is questioned, and through this examination process these fraudsters hold up a mirror, showing us who we are as a society, our values, and how we view art. So, in an unintended way, they become our social conscience. No, there's no lack of irony here.

Ironies all round indeed ...

October 3, 2014

Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis provides three images from Becchina archive of Roman marble head of Hermes Propylaios recently pulled from Bonhams auction in London

Hermes Image #1
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

As pointed out in David Gill’s blog “LootingMatters”, journalist Euthimis Tsiliopoulos reported that a Roman marble head of Hermes Propylaios listed on an electronic Bonhams London auction catalogue was withdrawn from the sale at the request of Greece’s Directorate of Documentation and Protection of Cultural Property of the Ministry of Culture and Sport (“Hermes head withdrawn from auction”, Times of Change, October 1, 2014):

"Since the head is displayed in seized photographs, which show a possible origin and illegal export from Greece, the Directorate of Documentation and Protection of Cultural Property immediately proceeded in contacting the auction house asking for more details on the origin of object. After further investigation and documentation, the Directorate called for the immediate withdrawal of the object subject to any statutory right of the Greek government. Finally, the auction house had to remove the head from the auction for the first time and referred the Greek government to get in direct contact with the alleged owner."

Hermes Image #2
Bonham’s published in its catalogue that the marble Hermes had been in the "Nicolas Koutoulakis Collection, Geneva” five years prior to the 1970 UNESCOConvention designed to stop the profitable trade of recently looted antiquities. As documented in the 2007 book “The Medici Conspiracy” by Watson andTodeschini, Nikola Koutoulakis was an illicit antiquities dealer who has been involved in the trade of several antiquities looted from Greece, Italy and Egypt after the 1970 Convention, some of which were recently repatriated to the countries of their origin.

Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis, a Research Assistant with Trafficking Culture Project,University of Glasgow, provided three images of this object to the ARCA blog as it appeared in the “Becchina archives”, the set of Polaroids and business documents confiscated by Italian and Swiss authorities in 2002 and 2005 from the Basel premises of Italian antiquities dealer Gianfranco Becchina (convicted in Italy in 2011 of illegally dealing in antiquities, For more information, here's an interview Dr. Tsirogiannis gave last summer.

As Tsirogiannis wrote to Gill:

I also identified the object in the Becchina archive. The origin of the head is Greece, because it is a Greek looter named Costas Gaitanis (from Herakleion, Krete) who sent to Becchina on May 29th, 1987 the Polaroids depicting the head. The envelope containing the Polaroids arrived in Switzerland (Basel, at Becchina's gallery) on June 1st, 1987. The envelope is included in a larger file that Becchina kept regarding dealings he had with a Greek middleman named Zenebisis. The same file includes the image of the gold wreath that the Greek state repatriated from the Getty Museum.

Hermes Image #3
Dr. Tsirogiannis identified the images published here as:

Hermes #1: Five Polaroid images depicting the marble head (photographed from different angles) on a brown blanket and on a cement floor with a cigarette butt nearby. The page, where the Polaroids are attached, is bearing the name of the Greek middleman ‘Zene[bisis]’. An image of a vase, not related to the marble head, is attached (upper right corner of the page).

Hermes #2: Two more Polaroid images of the marble head and the back of the envelope that contained them. The stamp reads: ‘BASEL 1-6-87’.

Hermes #3:  The same two Polaroid images of the marble head and the front of the envelope that contained them. The stamp reads: ‘ATHENS 29-V-87’.

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.