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May 22, 2011

City of Paris Spends 8 million Euros to Revamp Museum Security One Year After the Theft at Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

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

The walls to the left held the stolen paintings  from the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris./Photo by CR Sezgin.
This morning the Museum Security Network sent an email alert about the 8 million euro revamping of the security for the 14 museums under the jurisdiction of the city of Paris.  The article in le Parisian is in French but with my new language crutch, Google Translate, I learned that since the theft from the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, when a thief, or thieves, cut the lock and opened a not so secure window to steal five paintings valued at about 100 million euros, that the city has undertaken to reexamine the security at its museums.  The three security guards on duty at the time of the break-in apparently hadn't heard any alarms because the warning system had been offline, waiting many weeks for an apparently crucial part.  On my three visits to the museum I never considered the building so vast that this explanation made sense to me and as now no one has published an account that explains clearly how someone entered the building without any guard on patrol seeing them.  I have a nice photo here showing that if you stand on the stairs you have a clear view of the access to the walls that had supported the stolen paintings.

Le Parisien reports that the city of Paris began a reorganization program this year to strengthen supervision of security staff and to continue improvements in securing the museums through next year, including better communication about malfunctioning alarm systems.  It appears that the museum theft did strengthen the will to fund better security at the museums.

Fixed barred windows at Petit Palais
This past March, before I revisited the 'scene of the crime,' I did visit the Petit Palais, another city museum, where I found beautiful paintings by Cézanne, Gustave Courbet, and even a lower floor of vases from antiquity.  On a Sunday morning the museum was quiet with few visible security guards.  However, I noted that the permanent barred windows likely discouraged theft.  The Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris has accordion wrought iron shutters securing its long windows.  In addition, the Petit Palais, instead of backing up against the Seine, is around the corner from a police station.

We'll follow this week with more information about the stolen paintings.  Meanwhile, you can read my fanciful guess about how the theft was committed here on the ARCA Blog.