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Real life arts heists are not like Hollywood movies

Art heists says international security experts, like this week’s £237,500 theft in Toronto of 11 works, are never like they are depicted in the movies. More often than not the reality is they are very non-dramatic and end pointing to internal staff or the curators instead of Pierce Brosnan or other cinematic thieves.

Tom Cremers is a security consultant to some of the world’s libraries, galleries and museums and he says that illicit trading of art is worth annually about £4.8 billion just third behind the trade of drugs and arms which are worth about £62 billion.

Cremers says it is never like in the movies saying he has never seen a case where thieves get commissioned by art collectors to steal artwork. The vast majority of cases involve long serving staff that work internally such as librarians or curators who have great knowledge of the work that has been commissioned for their museums and galleries.

And he also pointed out that besides what many believe, the security guards never do it. The majority of what is stolen is from private collections with only about 10% being stolen from museums because of heightened internal security measures making it much more difficult to steal.

More than 50% of the art stolen crosses over international borders with the thief’s motivation being the arts value since they may have no idea about it and do not even have a buyer in mind. Cremers consultants for many of the 1,200 galleries in museums in the Netherlands. Often thieves, after stealing the artwork cannot find a buyer and end up destroying what they cannot sell.


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