A version of this article originally appeared in The Art Newspaper, by Jordan Arnold and James Wynne, 8 April 2020.

As museums and galleries extend closures in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it is critical that security remains top of mind. There is renewed warning following the recent theft of Van Gogh’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, which was stolen from the Singer Laren in late March.

With minimal museum staff or visitors, some criminals will try to see if the “closed” sign actually means “open.” For institutions that have not already invested in prevention or are looking to revisit their efforts, there are ways to meaningfully fortify physical locations.

Tactics can include:

  • Security cameras and monitoring: Larger institutions likely already have video monitoring and other technology within their security program. They should ensure these cameras are working and producing high-quality footage for use in the event of a theft. Smaller entities, such as galleries and private collectors, should also consider installing cameras.
  • Physical deterrents at entry and exit points: Basic elements, like bright entryway lighting, can deter thieves. Additionally, institutions should consider temporary metal barriers at entrances. For glass entry points, glass security film can help slow criminals employing the “smash and grab” method—with the glass spidering instead of shattering. Boarding up windows and doors with wood is also an alternative.
  • Collection audits: Regular collection audits should be done, both during this time of lockdown and “regular” operation to help minimize the time between theft and the realization that a piece is missing—a window that is critical in terms of solvability.

Read the full piece in The Art Newspaper (registration may be required).