With the publication of the assessment outlining how heritage crime is to be tackled in the future in the UK last week, several points stand out as being important to both private collectors and dealers alike.
Firstly the document outlines the nature of art crime, citing as example the theft of Henry Moore’s Sundial valued at £500,000 stolen and sold for scrap metal for £46.50. This highlights the importance for vigilance of items that might be of value for their material, for example metal sculpture and any art displayed outside. Not all of us have a Henry Moore sculpture, but awareness of the material value of our own artworks is important to understanding this sort of crime.
Another important topic that the assessment raises is the correlation between historic dates or events and the peak in art prices that might prompt art crime. The most obvious upcoming example of this is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 2014. This will cause memorabilia, both in private and public collections and on heritage sites throughout Europe, to become more valuable and thus a more tempting prospect for art thieves.
The reason for highlighting this particular threat is that First World War memorabilia comes in such a diverse range and is in small private collections, larger public collections but also belonging to veterans of the Great War and their relatives. Any piece of art, or artefact that is of any value should be stored securely where possible and insured against theft and accidental damage. This is increasingly important as the risk of theft increases.
The key message of the report is that the profile of art and heritage theft should be raised in order to promote public awareness. This will allow both private collectors and larger heritage organisations to prepare their security and to allow them to promote a social sense of responsibility towards protecting our heritage.