Picasso artwork stolen from Art Miami 2014
Picasso artwork stolen from Art Miami 2014

Managing Security during an Art or Trade Show

Plate was reported as stolen overnight from booth at Art Miami

An original Picasso plate was stolen from Art Miami during Miami’s Art Basel week. Each year, 73,000 visitors flock to Miami Beach to attend the world-famous Art Basel show. The show presents artwork from 250 leading galleries across the globe. The event attracts artists, collectors, gallerists, curators, and even those who are simply curious. Art Basel sets up house in the Miami Beach Convention Center. The show has gained recognition for its displays of modern and contemporary art in the form of paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, photographs, films, and performances. The show, which originates from Basel, Switzerland – a city tucked snuggly next to Germany and France – has become one of the most influential artistic events of our time.

With such a large amount of valuable art being shipped in from around the world and housed in various venues throughout Miami, security is a number one concern for event coordinators and artists alike. Historically, art pieces have been a huge target for thieves looking to obtain priceless good they can sell at premium prices in the black market. In fact, stolen art has become such a phenomenon that the FBI has created a National Stolen Art File indexing the stolen objects (fine arts, antiques, books, manuscripts, scientific instruments, and coins – anything with historical or artistic significance valued at over $2,000). In the database you can see records of stolen pieces from legendary artists like Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet.

During the most recent Art Basel show in Miami, the database grew by one as an $85,000 silver plate titled Visage aux Mains made by Picasso was stolen from Art Miami, one of the satellite fairs that pops up during Basel week. The thief remains unknown as the investigation continues. Gallery owner David Smith noticed that the famous Picasso piece went missing upon his return to the Art Miami tent on Friday morning. It has been assumed by police that the theft took place Thursday night after 10:30 pm. The gallery’s booth was cordoned off so that the Miami police could conduct a proper investigation. For Smith, it meant he had to turn away potential customers on one of the busiest days for Art Miami.

As it stands, investigators have very little to go off of. No video surveillance or witnesses were present to report on the situation. The tent in which the Picasso piece was held was under 24 hour security. Doors were chained after the fair closed and only pre-approved maintenance crew members were permitted to enter the area.

Investigators do say that whoever took the Picasso piece likely did not know how much it was worth. Rather they took the piece because it was made from solid silver which could be sold for about $400 when melted down. Although the piece is worth over $85,000 on the art market, the police are offering a $5,000 reward for the safe return of the famous plate – no questions asked. The plate was stolen from a display containing more famous works by Picasso valued at much higher prices, all of which remained intact.

Typical protocol for events where such valuables are housed involves a strict procedure of authorized guards, video surveillance, and around the clock supervision. Some of the most tightly secure art venues utilize scanning, vibration sensors, inventory numbers, and alarms. Security checks of carry-ins are also standard procedure. Along with uniformed guards that are present at all entrances and throughout the location, plain clothed guards are on standby to detect suspicious activity and supervise security staff.

For more information on the next Art Basel Miami show (taking place December 2015) visit the Art Basel website.

If you wish to obtain information on exhibitors and artworks, check out Artsy’s Art Basel page which showcases over 1000 pieces of contemporary art, artist info, and editorial content surrounding Art Basel.

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