Art Theft *Not* Funded or In Demand Because of “Rich Collectors”
Karl Heinz Kind, who heads Interpol’s Stolen Works of Art unit, scoffed at the romantic, cinematic notions nurtured by “The Thomas Crown Affair,” which featured a stolen Monet, that rich collectors are behind art thefts.
“Pure fiction,” he said.
Full article here at the NY Times
You are full of shit as are all your friends who say the same thing. Sure, on average you cannot say that there have been a plethora of rich tycoons setting up heists. However, what you can extrapolate and you fail to do so for this article, is that it takes a wealthy individual with a desire to acquire such art, to PAY for it. Thus, the thieves always know that there will be at least three ways to fence the object;
1) They will make a ransom demand or a play for the reward for return of the art
2) They fence it and the fence hopes to find a fat cat buyer who “wants” it or knows someone else who does
3) They will try and turn it in for a reward
Really Karl, think outside the box a bit huh?
Now that I have that rant out of the way… Let me talk a little bit about this articles contention as well as a nice business that I think should be started up. As I mentioned in my rant, there has to be a “MARKET” in order to perform the crime and expect to be remunerated! Do you really think that Joe blow on the street is going to have the money to buy these illicit art pieces from the fence? I mean, am I just not seeing the big picture here or something? The illegal economy has its wealthy clients no matter what Karl has to say. Sometimes I will admit though, the client may not know the provenance of the piece.. As well as some may not “want” to know that provenance either right?
On the flip side, this article has some interesting things to say that are kind of contradictory again to the whole picture of the gentleman thieves and “daring do” of the classic cat burglar in film and story. Life IS imitating art here no matter how much the cops want to deny it. You see, the thieves are becoming more sophisticated in their intelligence gathering, their skill sets, and their heists in some cases. The recent heists involving stole art works have been mostly interesting crimes where there is very little evidence to follow on just who did the deed because they have been doing their homework, much like what you have seen in the movies (Oceans 12, Heist, Thomas Crown, etc)
In real life the heists like that of the Antwerp Diamond heist have very strong elements of planning that mirror the best of the heist movies out there. What’s more, as the article mentions, it has become a game or a puzzle that the thieves are proud of pulling off, it’s something to be proud of in their minds. Think about it though, why are all those heist movies so popular huh? We all want to be that smart and that daring right? It’s a part of our genetic makeup…
Simple fact is this.. If you could get away with it… You’d try... And that is the appeal of daydreaming about it.
Meanwhile, the museums today have been hit hard by recession and the lack of arts spending, so is it any wonder (as the article alludes to) that the systems that protect the art are sub par or broken? They don’t have the money to really protect it properly so they rely on security through obscurity. The other side of this is that most of the art is accessible to the public in close quarters. The Mona Lisa is behind bulletproof glass and vaulted, but that is only after the attacks on the Uffizzi that this really happened. All too often today, you can go up to a famous piece of art and see that there aren’t any real security systems around them or, as in the case of the Paris museum, the system had been in need of repair and known to at least 100 people.
You see, unlike all those films that we have seen with lasers protecting the art, the real stuff sometimes has absolutely NO SECURITY. In the case of the Picasso’s they were in the home of family and not wired. These guys had the audacity to go in while she was there and cut them from their frames! I personally saw a large collection of known works in a corporate building that I was there to do a security assessment of. None of the artwork was wired and in fact one of the pieces I liked best was right next to an fire exit door that was not alarmed either! I could have made off with a nice little Monet.
I put that in my report and the response wasn’t favorable. They in fact said it had nothing to do with their computer security.. I came back with:
“Well, if you aren’t going to protect your art masterpieces with alarms, how secure do you think you have protected your server room and your AS400?”
They shut up after that…
What it all comes down to is you have to take the due care to protect your valuables just like your data. If you can’t be bothered to do so, then you will lose it eventually.
The Mindset Change that has taken place in the criminal set too is also quite important. The article mentions that there are no groups that have specialized skills that work together. Well, wrong again. The “School of Turin” was an interesting group of men who had specific skill sets that worked together and honed their skills to pull off the Antwerp diamond heist. So that particular statement came right out of that Interpol officers ass… Which really makes me wonder what the fuck they are thinking…
Anyway, the criminals have been evolving with the hackers. That’s it right there. The hackers have adopted the methods not only of technical hacking but also elements of espionage tradecraft and surveillance. All of these techniques, when used together can coalesce into a heist planned out and implemented with precision. It is only natural then that teams of thieves going after targets would get individual players with specific skill sets to carry out their plans huh? The net net here is that if you want to steal that object of desire today, usually you have to have some technical know how and a plan.
Now, about that business idea… I have always liked the idea of being the art theft investigator. They play a role in most of the heist films, and they are usually the folks who are the recovery specialists for the insurance companies. I think though, that I would like to put a twist on that and be the penetration tester for museums to test their security. Now that would be a fun gig. A red team for the art world that is hired to break into museums and steal.. Well steal as much as you can huh?
This would be a great challenge I think… Of course given the state of things lately, perhaps not huh?
It would be an interesting job to have being technically inclined as well as having the interest and practice in physical security… I will have to ponder this some more…
Take a read through the article.. Then take your copy of “The Italian Job” and have a sit down….