ISSUED BY: GCIS ART PROTECTION UNIT
FROM: MUSEUM SECURITY NETWORK
31 MAY 2010 7:08PM PST
North Attleboro School Committee members would be wise to consider Anthony Amore’s recent cautionary words on art heists before deciding to ferry the town’s valuable “Afghans” painting back here from its storage at Sotheby’s auction house in New York City.
Amore has been the Director of Security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston since 2005. For the past five years, he has also served as the museum’s chief investigator into the 1990 theft of 13 priceless works of art from that museum.
Amore, writing on Huffington Post, stressed the prevention of loss as critical. Numerous major institutions have been successfully targeted, the pursuit of stolen pieces often proving fruitless.
"To put the prevalence of art theft into perspective, in Massachusetts alone, nearly every major museum in the state has fallen victim to art theft," Amore wrote. "These thefts have included works by Rembrandt, Gaugin, Degas, Picasso, Manet, and Vermeer. Art is likely to remain an attractive target for criminals, who see art theft as a lucrative endeavor."
North Attleboro has wrestled over the future of “Afghans” since town officials learned more than three years ago that it could be worth more than $1 million. The painting was donated by W. Charles Thompson in 1951, when he hung the masterpiece in Community School. It has since become the subject of numerous vigorous debates over its future.
If Amore’s words are insufficiently alarming for North Attleboro, which is considering the option of returning the painting for at least temporary display in town, consider the enormity of an art heist just pulled off at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Burglars broke a window and left with $613 million worth of canvasses by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Braque, and Leger. This genre of thief is canny and serious.
North School committee Chairman Christopher Frost said he would place a discussion about the Alexandre Iacovleff masterpiece on the June 14 meeting agenda after members of the “Afghans” subcommittees formed by the school committee and board of selectmen met on Tuesday, it was reported by Sun Chronicle writer Amy DeMelia.
Most of the discussion involved a proposal made by former Selectman Paul Belham to bring the painting back to town and hang it in the police station until a decision can be made whether to keep or sell the masterpiece. Greg Smith, whose family donated the painting, offered to speak privately with the subcommittees but did not want to talk publicly about the issue. He said he would like to see the painting “quietly” returned to town.
With all due respect to Mr. Smith, “Afghans” has attracted so much publicity from so many sources that it may be far too late for its movements to be carried out quietly. It’s impossible to know just who is watching, reading and listening.