The World’s Most Dangerous Places to Own Art
Published: November 10, 2009
NEW YORK— Are you hoping to have some art stolen? Move to the United Kingdom. That’s the message of a new report by the Art Loss Register (ALR), an industry group that tracks lost and stolen pieces of art. According to their records, the U.K. is home to more thefts than any other country on the planet, more than doubling the runner-up, the United States.
Since the group began keeping records in 1976, a rather startling 53,709 works have been purloined in the United Kingdom, compared with a still impressive 21,079 in the United States. France, Italy, and Germany — places with long histories of art collecting — round out the top five, with France edging out Italy for the dubious third place spot, 15,562 to 15,041.
The rankings were determined solely on the quantity, not the value, of work stolen. Norway, for example, failed to crack the top 15, though the theft of Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893-1910) from the country’s Munch Museum was one of the last decade’s most expensive burglarized works.
Iraq has been the biggest mover on the list in the last decade, as more than 3,000 works have been reported missing since 2006 compared with fewer than 100 before then. That sudden change has to do with the accounting that took place as museum officials determined what had vanished during the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the Iraq, as well as the fact that the statistics are based only on official reports to the ALR, which were rarely filed during Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.
Interestingly, Real Clear Arts points out that many art-rich Asian countries did not make the top 15 highlighted by ALR. Since ALR is located in New York and the U.K., the blog suggests, Asian collectors and museums may choose not to report thefts to the group — or they may be more discrete than some of their Western counterparts.