Art Theft

Art Theft: The Commonality of Art Theft and How to Prevent Art Theft

It is a shame that the fondness and connection built around art can be obstructed by theft.  Art collectors, very naturally, grow attached to their art. Art represents not only the artist but the admirers and owners alike. Art portrays meaning and personal style to its owner, as well as holding importance to their collection. Whatever a collection obtains (artefacts, heirlooms, sculptures, paintings, drawings, photography, jewelry) or whatever styles and techniques it consists of (modern, impressionist, avant-garde, baroque, abstract, simplistic, cultural, tempera painting, coal drawing, canvas, mural) art upholds personal and monetary value. All types of art are subject to burglary attempt at any time.

Art theft appears to be a major defeat, but is not as uncommon as most art enthusiasts expect. Everywhere from major galleries, exhibitions, corporate offices to private residences, art burglary has occurred. For example, a private residence in Connecticut was one chosen scene of heist. A bronze sculpture, a bronze bust and a leather and wood chair were all stolen. The totalled value was $30,000. It is hard to perceive, but art owners of all types, even the more modest, are certainly subject to being victim of theft. More notable art theft, often buzzed about in the media, and incredibly hard to believe, is also quite possible. A more recent, very major theft occurred at a smaller museum in Zurich, Switzerland. Although it was a smaller museum, the theft consisted of four major paintings by four very famous artists that were surrounded by a great amount of security. The four pieces, by artists Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh, and Monet, were valued at more than $160 million. The heist grew major attention in the art world. These two very different cases of art theft exemplify the variety of heist. The crime is seen committed by small time thieves who often rid the work for quick money and also by professional art thieves with stronger connections in the business and more furtive operations. The potential whereabouts of the art are endless.

Therefore it is of high importance to be aware and protect your art. Protecting art can be done by insuring it, as well as registering it, even if not stolen. Art usually calls for insurance beyond regular homeowner, museum and gallery insurance.  When looking into insuring artwork make sure policies are not just for fire and water damage and specifically indicate theft insurance. Registering art is a newer service. Registering art can be done with Art Loss Register (, a small private company based in London, with a computer archive of 170,000 pieces of art. By registering your art with the company you are giving them y its information and picture. They hold safe all information about any piece of art and keep it in circulation, if you wish for it to be available under an open search for viewers to see on their website. Registering art while it is in rightful ownership helps prevent its theft, as well as keep its information prepared and handy if anything were to happen. Buyers, sellers, and owners of lost work benefit from this site for multiple reasons. It keeps people aware of what is missing, and may provide links or information to any other recent heists. Searching the site as a buyer or seller can be very important in order to prevent acquiring and potentially selling any stolen items. It is also important to be aware of any history or pertinent information about a piece of art that can affect its price and marketability.

Art Theft: The Recovery of Stolen Art

Tracing the whereabouts of any piece is possible. The recovery rate for stolen art is around 20%, which mostly regards larger more exceptional art. Smaller items including furniture, jewelry, and works by lesser known artists have much lower recovery rate. But, stolen art does circulate as it is often put up for sale after its original theft. Many owners of stolen art are unaware that it is a stolen piece therefore being involved in art communication (i.e. through Art Loss Register, various auctions, etc.) is strongly suggested. For example, the famous film director, Stephen Spielberg, owned a stolen Norman Rockwell in his private collection. His staff came across a bulletin for a very similar sounding painting. They contacted the FBI and sure enough it was the one. Russian Schoolroom, by Norman Rockwell, had been missing since 1973. It is important to note that Spielberg was most definitely not charged and the FBI was well aware that he was not linked to its original theft. Whereabouts of a stolen painting are ongoing and can be traced to many different places, another important reason to keep up with art communication. Russian Schoolroom originally went missing from St. Louis was traced to New Orleans and New York, and was found in Los Angeles.