Art theft on the rise in the UK

The art market is experiencing one of its most financially lucrative periods, as typified by the recent record-breaking blockbuster sales of Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucien Freud and Andy Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster). It is a fascinating and profitable time, and the criminal world has taken note of this.
Art theft is by no means a new enterprise and, as is well documented, throughout history there have been many examples of successful attempts to pilfer brilliant works from private and public collections around the world.
This has included paintings like The Concert by Johannes Vermeer, The Storm on the Seas of Galilee by Rembrandt van Rijn, Poppy Flowers by Vincent van Gogh and View of Auvers-sur-Oise by Paul Cezanne.
According to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), organised criminal gangs are increasingly turning their attention to valuable works of art and antiques, with theft relating to these items now totalling more than £300 million a year in Britain alone.
“It is a significant concern to us,” Andy Bliss, chief constable of Hertfordshire, told the BBC. “Just a single item can be worth many millions of pounds and those sorts of items will appeal to criminals right around the world.”
The police force, in partnership with other agencies, has launched (November 25th) a new strategy aimed at tackling this specific type of crime. One of the reasons for there being a lot of concern is that gangs operating in this area are alleged to be willing to use ‘extreme violence’ to acquire works of art.
It has become a significant scheme for criminals, second only to drug dealing in terms of cost, and more costly than the theft of cars. Over the last 20 years, over 60,000 works of art and antiques have been stolen from UK libraries, museums, archives and private collections.
Mr Bliss, who is in charge of the ACPO’s heritage and cultural property crime working group, explained to the BBC: “Where there’s money to be made, organised criminals will move in if we don’t stop them.”
The Lost Art Register is a company that documents lost and stolen art, antiques and collectables. It has what is believed to be the largest private database of these items. Since it was formed in 1991, it has recovered over $230 million (approximately £160 million) worth of stolen objects.
One example was the recovery of Henri Matisse’s Le Jardin, which had been missing for over 25 years, after it was taken from the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, Sweden. It was duly returned to the institution.
Cadogan Tate has extensive experience in shipping fine art all over the world.