Of the many crimes that are present in this day and age, one that not only vandalizes the property, but as well as historical background is that of art theft. A crime that has taken away the sanctity of churches as well as many other religious and historical sites. Thefts have ranged from WWII (World War II) to the times of the Holocaust. Of the items that were taken from the churches, relics were items of great priority. These items not only had great value to the churches they were stolen from, but a great value to relic collectors. Most of the items taking during these times were either sold or placed in underground storage. Most of these items that were place in these secret places were never to be seen again. From the times of these so called “relic hunters” to now, art theft has become something that has taken some extreme changes. It has evolved from crime that started with minor relic thefts to something that has become a worldwide crime in need of better prevention.
Art theft is a crime that has been on the rise for the last half of this century. “According to law enforcement officials, art theft now ranks second only to drugs as the world’s most lucrative illegal activity.” (Journal of Commerce) Whether bought, created, or stolen, art has become something that is of great demand. “Art theft has flourished as never before. Just keeping up with the number of stolen objects and their total value is a big-time guessing game.” (Dudar) This is a problem that not only faces us as art owners and collectors, but museums and auction houses as well. Everyone possessing a piece of artwork is at risk of art theft. This artwork doesn’t have to be anything out of the ordinary to be a target. Along with famous paintings, sculptures, and other types of artwork, many insignificant or unrecognized pieces of artwork are being stolen too. “Most thefts appear to be the work of thieves without serious art education. Along with the good stuff, they are apt to sweep up junk – those sappy gift-shop paintings of kids with enormous eyes, for example, which no serious collector would covet.” (Lowenthal) On the other hand some of these thefts are being done by some of the best in the business. “Some thieves have turned out to be professionals who, following fashion, switched from robbing video stores to burgling art. Some are actually specialists in vehicle t...
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... that has been reported either stolen or missing. This not only aids law enforcement, but museums, auction houses, and buyer/collectors. “The Art Loss Register database holds numerous is losses looted from public and private collections between 1933 and 1945 and additional missing artworks for free.” (Schillingford)
Art theft is a crime on the rise, but with the use of these foundations and the methods that are being used by museum security managers it is slowing declining. Art theft is something that because of system and human flaws will never be successfully prevented.
It can however, be something that is so hard to do that a lack of interest will remain. The only way to successfully prevent art theft is to not own any at all.
Attrino, Tony. “Insurers Get Help In Tracking Stolen Art.” National Underwriter
Property & Casualty-Risk & Benefits Management. Aug. 17, 1998. Vol. 102. N. 33. Pg. 45 (1).
Burrows, Robin. “Artful Protection from Down Under.” Museum Security. Feb. 1992.
Pg. 34, 37-8.
Dudar, Helen. “Making a dent in the trafficking of stolen art.” Smithsonian. Sept. 1995.
Vol. 26. N. 6. Pg. 34 (7).
Journal of Commerce. Dec. 11, 1990.
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