The big news story in this issue is of course the theft of four paintings worth a total of £82 million from a Zurich museum. There has naturally been a lot of comment on the theft, but one which caught my eye was from an American commentator who asked: "Why is it so easy to steal art in Europe?" The suggestion was that it was too easy in Europe to simply walk into a gallery, take a picture and walk out.
Well, for a start, I'd say that it wasn't quite that simple. This was apparently a raid by armed and masked men who threatened staff with a pistol. They were also fast - in and out in three minutes. Even if you post armed guards, you'd need a lot of them to cover some of the larger museums and even then they can be distracted or taken by surprise. And of course, they do need to go to the loo from time to time. You certainly wouldn't want gun-toting guards standing around with weapons drawn and itchy trigger fingers.
Also, consider bank robberies. Banks can invest in as much security as they like, but unfortunately, it's not that difficult to run into a bank with a gun and run out with a load of cash. There's no one answer to stopping art crime, but a combination of security measures, deterrence, and punishment will help - and of course we're doing our bit with this magazine!
This issue also includes the story of members of the Greenhalgh family, who sold a fortune in fake antiques over a period of many years. Shaun Greenhalgh, 47, was jailed for 4 years and 8 months for his part in producing fakes that fooled even the British Museum. There has been much speculation that he could make a nice living on the right side of the law when he is released, and I'm sure we all hope he finds a better use for his undoubted talents in future.
But let's not lose sight of the fact that the family made an awful lot of money out of conning people. We've heard about the major, expensive pieces that fooled leading experts, but I can't help but wonder how many lesser items were produced that were sold 15 or more years ago, have evaded detection and are still out there somewhere.