Protection against art theft

The Rembrandt painting stolen from the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, Calif., is entitled "The Judgement," and is priced at $250,000.

On August 15, a quill-pen and black ink sketch drawn by the Dutch artist Rembrandt was stolen from the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, Calif. Luckily, the piece was recovered fully intactjust two days later in a nearby suburban church, but with no sign of the thieves.

The act of unceremoniously dumping a work of art with such a high profile and extensive worth (the drawing was valued at $250,000) is not uncommon. Thieves who become overwhelmed by the reputation of their stolen art have been known to recognize the difficulty inherent in making a profit off of these items without being caught with them, and dispose of the art in much the same manner as those who stole the Rembrandt sketch.

Though the art was found, how it was stolen at all has been a topic of discussion. The curator to the exhibit has stated that he was engaged in a conversation with a visitor to the gallery, and upon turning away from his conversation he found the drawing had been taken from the easel it had been sitting on.

Theft is an ever-present threat for hoteliers, but the situation changes when the hotel is host to an exhibit, and the exhibit itself is either damaged or compromised in some way. Greg Nunez, hotel manager of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami, Fla., said hotels frequently have security measures built into their layout. “We work with consultants for tips on hotel layout in order to provide security for both the front and back of the house,” said Nunez.

The Mandarin Oriental is currently host to a contemporary Asian art exhibit, and frequently is host to art exhibits for art spawned from the Miami area. “Our two key events right now are art events,” said Nunez. “We work with various security and police forces for these events, and for special events we have cameras and control centers watching exhibits.”

Oftentimes, clients looking for the Mandarin to host exhibits have special requests for specific security requirements. “We have our own security contingent, but [clients] often require that we have security covering different and specific points of an exhibition," said Nunez. "[The clients] often work with the police department on their own to make sure that we cover all the areas they want covered.”

When looking into what would allow for a failure to protect an exhibit from theft, sometimes the manner in which the work is presented has compromised its security. In looking at the impact of a high-profile theft, and the factors that went into the security breach at the Ritz-Carlton, Nunez says there has been a review of the Mandarin Oriental’s security measures. “Whenever something like this happens we go back through and make sure we dot our I’s and cross our T’s,” said Nunez. “We also work with an independent firm in the U.K. that conducts safety and security audits on a regular basis, and they make sure we are up to speed.”

When offering safety tips for other hotels looking to provide space for art exhibitions, an important factor to consider is using the hotel’s architecture and geometry to deter theft by placing exhibits far from exits, and fully illuminating the works while placing them within a clear line of sight of cameras and security personnel. “Never take anything for granted,” said Nunez. “You have to evaluate your best practices and see where exactly your system broke down. Additionally, our security directors are always in touch with each other, making sure they have similar priorities.”

Art theft is an important aspect of hotel security that hotels need to take care of personally, mainly because authorities see it as a victimless crime. Due to this, it is up to hoteliers to ensure the safety of exhibits they are catering to.

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