AXA Art Offers Security Checks after Swiss Theft

February 19, 2008

AXA Art, the specialty branch of France’s AXA Group that offers coverage for art works, has issued a bulletin “offering to conduct security protocol assessments of museums in its key markets. The goal is to identify weaknesses and to provide feedback on measures that can be quickly implemented to deter theft.”

The offer follows the recent major art theft in Switzerland, (see IJ web site – http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/international/2008/02/12/87246.htm). Museums have been experiencing an increasing number of high profile thefts. The Swiss theft was the second in a week. AXA said its goal is to “offer assistance to museums that seek to re-examine and improve their existing physical, electronic and manned security systems and procedures. This process includes an interview and physical inspection by an AXA Art approved security surveyor followed by recommendations to each museum to enhance its existing procedures. The surveys will concentrate on all aspects of theft and armed robbery prevention.” For museums, and assumedly collectors, who are already clients of AXA Art the security review is free; others would have to pay.

“We consider theft a huge and increasing threat to museums worldwide and as the leading art insurer we are committed to help museums protect themselves and their collections,” stated Dr. Ulrich Guntram, CEO of AXA Art Insurance AG. “The joining of forces between a museum and its insurance company is an obvious first step in preventing future incidents.”

AXA also explained that “successful robberies are usually characterized by easy access to objects and quick escape routes.” An armed robbery, of the type committed in Zurich, is probably impossible to prevent. However, “implementing effective security measures that include coordinated mechanical, physical and electronic procedures can serve as deterrents and hinder the success of thieves,” said the bulletin.

Some helpful hints include not hanging important works of art close to entrance and exit doors; tightly securing or encasing important works; not allowing cars to park near building exits and entrances; maintaining video surveillance inside galleries and around museum facilities.

AXA also noted that for the last several years it has used “Global Risk Partners, an expert security firm, to develop a ‘Global Risk Assessment Platform (GRASP)’ to create and manage a risk assessment system based on best practices. By the end of 2006, AXA Art launched its ‘Museum Security Program’ in Europe and a ‘Warehouse Security Program’ in the USA. To date, more than 60 warehouses and 150 museums have been audited.”

Source: AXA Art – www.axa-art.com

Ed. Note: Somewhat paradoxically the fact that museums are insured against theft may actually be encouraging the thieves, who are either extraordinarily stupid or exceedingly clever. High profile works of art – Picassos, Van Goghs, Monets, etc.- are instantly recognizable and therefore totally unsaleable. However, a clever thief can often negotiate the return of valued art works – for a price paid by the insurance company – with no questions asked.

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