19 Mar 2015
Bruges, BE

Thank you to all our speakers, participants and especially our partners!
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Share knowledge, discover trends and meet your peers


Learning about art related security risks, opportunities and challenges. Enjoying Bruges.


Keynotes and workshops by leading international experts in the field of art security.


Bringing together industry professionals.


Introducing new products and technologies.

Full schedule

Conference ART meets SECURITY on 19 Mar 2015
Optional ART in BRUGES with complementary 3-days Museum Pass

Top speakers

The Best international art security conference hold in Belgium

Lynda Albertson
Chief Executive Officer, Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA)
Hubert De Witte
Managing Director, Musea Brugge
Dick Drent
Business Owner/Director, OMNIRISK

The Van Gogh Museum

Jens Bechmann
Director, Pinkerton

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Biggest Art Crimes Countdown

Every week for the next 5 weeks we will be sharing some of the biggest art crimes in history and ask, "Could these crimes have been prevented?"

Boston's Gardner Museum 1990
Boston's Gardner Museum

The 18th of March 1990 at 01:24. Two policemen demand to be buzzed in by the guard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. At least, they look like policemen. Once inside the Venetian-palazzo-style building, the men ordered the guard to step away from the emergency buzzer, his only link to the outside world. They handcuff him and another guard and tie them up in the basement. For the next 81 minutes, the thieves raid the museum's treasure-filled galleries. They load up a vehicle waiting outside and disappear.

The value of the stolen paintings was estimated to be between $ 200 and $ 300 Million. "Could this crime have been prevented?"

There is no such thing as water-tight security, but effective security measures can prevent a great deal of crimes and certainly a great deal of loss. Security must have a Plan A and a Plan B. Plan A must be focusing on deterring and delaying a crime. Plan B must focus on detection, further delaying, alarming, assessing the alarm and adequate response. An adequate response is interrupting the adversary before loss or damage to the art property.

Boston's Gardner Museum Suspects
  • Two men pretending to be policemen; a commonly used social engineering technique called 'impersonation'. There is no mitigating technology for this Modus Operandi; guards and all staff need to be aware of this threat. The right control is to always ask for verification of identity.
  • The emergency buzzer is the guards only link to the outside world. Most probably, the adversary will have been well prepared and aware of the existence of this emergency buzzer. Controls can be taken that emergency signals are not or difficulty visible for adversaries in their preparation phase. Additionally, a one and only link to the outside world should be avoided (redundancy).
  • If the security system fails to alarm, then there will be no response providing the adversary a sea of time: 81 minutes in this heist. Assurance of early detection and alarming should have priority in any security system.

Could this crime have been prevented within reasonable limits of security investments? Yes, it could.

Theft of "The Scream" 1994
Theft of The Scream

On the 12th of February 1994, and on the same day as the opening ceremony of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, two men broke into the National Gallery, Oslo, and stole its version of The Scream. The thieves left a note reading "Thanks for the poor security". The painting had been moved down to a second-story gallery as part of the Olympic festivities. The unscrupulous thieves demanded a hefty ransom of $ 1 million.

On the 22th of August 2004, the 1910 tempera on board version of The Scream, and Munch's Madonna are stolen in broad daylight, when masked gunmen enter the Munch Museum again in Oslo. The robbers forced the museum guards to lie down on the floor while they snapped the cable securing the paintings to the wall. A bystander photographed the robbers as they escaped to their car with the artwork. The Munch Museum was closed for ten months to overhaul its security measures. One theory is that the entire caper was planned to distract police resources from the investigation of a bank robbery and fatal shooting of a guard.

Adversary Profile

In 1994, the adversary consisted of two men. They were clearly well prepared since they left a "thank you note" for the poor security. The motive was ransom. The adversary used simple equipment. In 2004, the adversary consisted of masked gunmen. Was the motive the theft of the painting or to distract police form a bank robbery? The adversary used arms, simple equipment to snap the securing cable of the painting and a car to escape.

"Could this crime have been prevented?"

Art is intrinsically at risk of theft; consequently any museum, gallery or any building holding pieces of art is therefore a possible target for thieves. It is important to note that almost all art heists, are well prepared. An adversary selects a target considering three criteria:

Theft of The Scream
  • Do I have the 'opportunity'?
  • What is the probability that I will be caught?
  • What are the consequences if I get caught?

The burglars in 1994 left a note "Thanks for the poor security". They must have known that security was poor while preparing for the heist. They identified the 'opportunity' of stealing The Scream. The highest priority in a security program, must be to 'deter' adversaries. Deterrence is a combination of organizational, physical, electronic controls and early warning systems.

Attention must be given to special events, such as the opening of the Winter Olympics in the event of theft of The Scream in 1994. Certain events (internal or external) can increase exposure and present a threat to an organization, which have to be taken into account.

Could this crime have been prevented within reasonable limits of security investments? Yes, it could. Notable attributes of this crime are deterrence and special events.

Diefstal van "De Schreeuw" 1994
Theft of The Scream

Op 12 februari 1994 plegen twee mannen een inbraak in "The National Gallery" in Oslo en stelen er een versie van 'De Schreeuw' van de hand van Edvard Munch. De inbraak gebeurt op dezelfde dag als de openingsceremonie van de Olympische Winterspelen van 1994 in Lillehammer. De dieven laten een boodschap achter: "Bedankt voor de slechte beveiliging". Het schilderij was naar aanleiding van de olympische winterspelen verplaatst binnen de Galerij. De dieven eisen zonder scrupules een aanzienlijk losgeld van 1 miljoen dollar.

Op 22 augustus 2004 is het Munch museum in Oslo nogmaals slachtoffer van diefstal. Munch's "tempera on board" versie van "De Schreeuw" en Munch's Madonna worden gestolen op klaarlichte dag. Gemaskerde overvallers dwingen met geweld de bewakers op de vloer terwijl ze de kabels doorbreken waarmee de schilderijen aan de muur zijn bevestigd. Een omstander fotografeert de overvallers wanneer ze met hun auto op de vlucht slaan. Naar aanleiding van de roof wordt het Munch museum gesloten voor tien maanden om beveiligingsmaatregelen te herzien. Er is een theorie die stelt dat de roof was bedoel om de aandacht van politiediensten af te leiden van een bankoverval waarbij een bewaker om het leven kwam.


In 1994 waren de daders twee mannen. Ze waren duidelijk goed voorbereid, ze lieten immers de boodschap achter "beankt voor de slechte beveiliging”. Hun motief was losgeld. De daders gebruikten eenvoudig inbrekersmateriaal.

In 2004 waren de daders gemaskerde en gewapende gangsters. Het motief was mogelijk de diefstal van het schilderij of wou men de aandacht van de politie afleiden van een bankoverval met een dodelijk slachtoffer? De daders gebruikten wapens, eenvoudig materiaal om het schilderij van de muur te halen en een auto om te ontsnappen.

"Had deze misdaad voorkomen kunnen worden?"

Kunst is intrinsiek een attractief doelwit voor diefstal. Elk museum, galerij of gebouw dat kunstwerken beheert is een mogelijk doelwit voor dieven. Bijna alle kunstroven zijn goed voorbereid. Een potentiele dader selecteert zijn doelwit op basis van drie criteria:

Theft of The Scream
  • Heb ik de 'opportuniteit'?
  • Wat is de kans dat ik word gevat?
  • Wat zijn de gevolgen als ik word gevat?

De inbrekers in 1994 lieten een boodschap achter "bedankt voor de slechte beveiliging". Door voorbereiding wisten ze ongetwijfeld welke de zwakke plekken in de beveiliging waren en oordeelden dat er 'opportuniteit' was om De Schreeuw te stelen.

De hoogste prioriteit in security ligt bij het 'ontmoedigen' van mogelijke daders. Ontmoediging is een combinatie van organisatorische maatregelen, bouwkundige maatregelen, toegangscontrole, intrusiedetectie, camerabewaking, toezicht en alarmafhandeling van een interne of externe controlekamer en bewaking.

Confessions of an Art Thief - the Story of Stéphane Breitwieser 1995-2001
Stéphane Breitwieser

An incredible number of art thefts between 1995 and 2001 where of the hand of a single thief: Stéphane Breitwieser. He admitted stealing 239 artworks and other exhibits, worth an estimated € 1.2 billion ($1.4 billion / £960m) from 172 museums while travelling around Europe, an average of one theft every 15 days.

With his girlfriend keeping watch, he worked out the nails holding the painting in its frame and slipped it under his jacket. He would use similar methods for at least 170 other museums for his thefts in the ensuing years. He visited small collections and regional museums, 'where security was lax', and his girlfriend would serve as his lookout as he cut the paintings from their frames. In an estimated 60% of his thefts, she acted as a loud decoy while he pulled off the heist, directing guards' attention away from camera surveillance.

Adversary Profile

The adversary is a Frenchman named Stéphane Breitwieser, born 1 October 1971. In the period of the thefts from 1995 to 2001, he worked as a waiter, a sales person... in combination stealing art on an average of one theft every 15 days.

The profile of Stéphane Breitwierser differs from most other art thieves in that he did not steal for any profit motive. He was a self-described "art connoisseur" who stole in order to build a vast personal collection, particularly of 16th and 17th century masters. At his trial, the magistrate quoted him as saying, "I enjoy art. I love such works of art. I collected them and kept them at home." Despite the immensity of his collection, he was still able to recall every piece he stole. He interrupted the lengthy reading of his collection during his trial several times to correct various details.

Breitwieser worked with an accomplice, his girlfriend Anne-Catherine Kleinklauss. They used simple crime equipment e.g. to work out the nails holding paintings.

"Could this crime have been prevented?"
  • Stéphane Breitwieser and his girlfriend Anne-Catherine targeted museums with 'lax security' and used the techniques such as a loud decoy to draw attention away from guards and their attention to camera surveillance. These crimes could have been prevented with more effective deterring security controls.
  • Secondly, Breitwieser could steal 239 artworks from 172 museums between 1995 and 2001, he was only caught November 2001 stealing from the Richard Wagner Museum in Lucerne, Switzerland. A security guard spotted Breitwieser before he escaped. However, he returned to the museum two days later. That day, a journalist, Erich Eisner, was walking his dog on the museum grounds when he noticed a man who seemed out of place in a nice overcoat, surveying the museum. Aware of the recent theft, Eisner alerted the main guard, who happened to be the same guard who had seen Breitwieser at the heist and alerted the authorities, who arrested Breitwieser.
  • More effective security controls to detect, alarm, assess and respond would, most probably, have stopped Breitwieser's art thefts much sooner.

Could this crime have been prevented within reasonable limits of security investments? Yes, it could.

The Mona Lisa, the theft that created a legend 1911
The Mona Lisa

On August 21, 1911, Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, one of the most famous paintings in the world, was stolen right off the wall of the Louvre in Paris, France. It was such an inconceivable crime, that the Mona Lisa wasn't even noticed missing until the following day. On Tuesday, August 22, 1911, Louis Béroud, a painter walked into the Louvre and went to the Salon Carré where the Mona Lisa had been on display for five years. But on the wall where the Mona Lisa used to hang, sat only four iron pegs.

Béroud contacted the section head of the guards, who thought the painting was being photographed for marketing purposes. A few hours later, Béroud checked back with the section head of the museum, and it was confirmed that the Mona Lisa was not with the photographers. The Louvre was closed for an entire week to aid in investigation of the theft.

Criminal investigation

Unfortunately, there wasn't much evidence to go on. The most important discovery was found on the first day of the investigation. About an hour after the 60 investigators began searching the Louvre, they found the controversial plate of glass and Mona Lisa's frame lying in a staircase. The frame had not been damaged. Investigators and others speculated that the thief grabbed the painting off the wall, entered the stairwell, removed the painting from its frame, then somehow left the museum unnoticed. But when did all this take place?

  • Investigators began to interview guards and workers to determine when the Mona Lisa went missing. One worker remembered having seen the painting around 7 o'clock on Monday morning (a day before it was discovered missing), but noticed it gone when he walked by the Salon Carré an hour later. He had assumed a museum official had moved it.
  • Further research discovered that the usual guard in the Salon Carré was home (one of his children had the measles) and his replacement admitted leaving his post for a few minutes around 8 o'clock to smoke a cigarette. All of this evidence pointed to the theft occurring somewhere between 7:00 and 8:30 on Monday morning.
  • But on Mondays, the Louvre was closed for cleaning. So, was this an inside job? Approximately 800 people had access to the Salon Carré on Monday morning. Wandering throughout the museum were museum officials, guards, workmen, cleaners and photographers. Interviews with these people brought out very little. One person thought they had seen a stranger hanging out, but he was unable to match the stranger's face with photos at the police station.
  • The investigators brought in Alphonse Bertillon, a famous fingerprint expert. He found a thumbprint on the Mona Lisa's frame, but he was unable to match it with any in his files.
  • There was a scaffold against one side of the museum that was there to aid the installation of an elevator. This could have given access to a would-be thief to the museum. Besides believing that the thief had to have at least some internal knowledge of the museum, there really wasn't much evidence. So, who dunnit?
Adversary Profile
The Mona Lisa Missing

Who would steal such a famous painting? Why did they do it?

"Could this crime have been prevented?"

The theft of the Mona Lisa was inconceivable, though it happened. An important lesson to learn from this crime is to conceive even the inconceivable crime. No security measures are taken for crimes we cannot conceive.

The Mona Lisa wasn't even noticed missing until the following day. Detection simply failed, guards and workers in the museum could not remember precisely when they had seen the Mona Lisa last. Even when the painting was first found missing, one assumed a museum official had moved it. During investigation afterwards, one person thought they had seen a stranger hanging out, but he did not report it at the time…Security Awareness could have prevented this crime.

In 1911, security technology was not what it is today, today art can be secured through very specific technology:

  • Camera surveillance - 'museum search': A dedicated search on specified object in picture to help retrieving the relevant pictures.
  • Detection: Small radar fencing in front of the picture, or VCA (Video Content Analysis) with detection on removing object.
  • Asset tagging: To detect paintings or art when moved, removed or relocated.
  • Integration: Magnetic contacts on staircase doors to indicate opening and start registration of cameras.

Could this crime have been prevented within reasonable limits of security investments? Yes, it could. Notable attributes of this crime are deterrence and special events.

The dubious honor of triple attacks on Rembrandt's "The Night Watch" 1911, 1975 & 1990
The Night Watch

Rembrandt’s painting The Night Watch (1642) has the dubious honor of being attacked no less than three times during the last century; the painting has been slashed with a knife on two occasions and doused with acid on a third... Though the two most recent attacks are fairly well documented, the first attack which took place during 1911 is less clear.

What happened?
  • In 1911, someone tried to cut the painting with a knife, but could not cut through the thick varnish on the painting. The painting was restored.
  • In 1975, the painting was cut by dozens of zigzag lines with a knife. The offender was wrestled by the guards. It took six months to restore the painting, and traces of the cuts still remain.
  • In 1990, a man threw acid on the painting. Museum guards seized the attacker and handed him over to police. The guards managed to quickly dilute it with water so that it penetrated only the varnish layer, and the painting was restored again.
Adversary Profile
  • Who was behind the 1911 attacks is not clear; did a shoemaker attack the painting or was it a disgruntled navy cook? This disgruntled cook would apparently have been angered by his discharge from the service, went into the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and badly slashed the masterpiece with a knife. The man's name was Sigrist, and he said he vandalized the painting as an act of vengeance against the state for discharging him.
  • The attacker in 1975 was William de Rijk, an unemployed school teacher. He later was identified with a mental disorder; he was sent to a psychiatric hospital and committed suicide there on 21 April 1976. The day before the attack, de Rijk had been turned away from the museum because he arrived after closing time.
  • Police said they do not know what prompted the attack in 1990.
"Could this crime have been prevented?"

Within reasonable limits of security investments? Yes, it could. Some measurements are:

  1. Put a glass wall in front of the painting. This measure is not applicable if the painting size is too large. Another important issue is the distance, if it’s too great visitors can still deal damage between the painting and the glass. If there's no distance, preservation issues might occur (HVAC).
  2. Increase the distance to the painting. Put barriers in place to avoid touching and to prevent attacks involving sharp objects. Use CCTV equipped with VCA-technology to monitor the public. This way, if a person crosses a defined line, an alarm is automatically generated (normally an audible signal to alert the public and the guard). The use of CCTV alone has little effect on the response time.
  3. Provide training to raise Security Awareness (organizational level).
  4. Take the necessary damage control measures. E.g. if there was an acid attack, initiate low-pressure water mist extinguishers to dilute the acid.
  5. Post the right number of guards to detect potential attacks. Increase the sense of security.
  6. Place the painting in a ‘social controlled’ space (e.g. central hall).
  7. Limit the number of people who may visit at the same time and urge visitors to keep moving. It enables the guards to maintain an overview of the situation.
  8. Implement and maintain physical measures (CPTED).
  9. Execute a path analysis to verify that you've taken the appropriate measures. Define the path to the painting and calculate the probability of interruption according to the response time of the guard. This topic will be discussed by Mr. Paul van Lerberghe at the conference.
  10. ...

Series by Inge Vandijck Managing Partner, Optimit (BE)

She will present her keynote "Could this crime have been prevented?" at 10:00 on the 19th of March 2015.

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Thank you to the following supporting organizations
For more information, please click their logo

  • Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA)
  • Siemens Building Technologies
  • ICOM, International Committee for Museum Security (ICMS)

  • AXIS
  • Flash Services
  • Honeywell Building Solutions

  • Securitas
  • ISIS Technology

  • Gunnebo
  • IC Verzekeringen
  • Meyvaert Museum

  • Pelco by Schneider Electric

  • ArtSecure
  • De Zilveren Passer