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AXA Insurers Offer Security Rx After Zurich Art Thefts

In the wake of one of the largest art heists to date, AXA Art Insurance is offering museums a chance to review and upgrade their security systems in order to help prevent future thefts.

NEW YORK—In the wake of one of the largest art heists to date, AXA Art Insurance is offering museums a chance to review and upgrade their security systems in order to help prevent future thefts.

Last month three masked men stole four major paintings reportedly worth more than $160 million—including works by Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh—from Zurich’s prestigious E.G. Buehrle Collection. Reportedly the thieves entered the museum shortly before closing time on Feb. 10. One used a pistol to restrain the museum staff, while the others took four works from the wall. Just a week earlier, two Pablo Picasso paintings—on loan from a German museum—were stolen from an exhibition in Zurich.

AXA says the goal of its current effort is to “identify weaknesses and provide feedback on measures that can be quickly implemented to deter theft.” Amid “heightened concerns within the museum community about increases in frequency of such major incidents,” AXA notes, it wants to assist museums in reexamining and improving their existing security systems and procedures.

The process involves an interview and inspection by an AXA art-approved surveyor, who then makes recommendations to each museum about ways to enhance its security systems. AXA says the service will be free to its clients, while non-clients will be charged a “moderate flat fee.”

A week after the theft, Swiss police recovered two of the stolen masterpieces: Monet’s Poppies near Vétheuil, circa 1880, and van Gogh’s Blossoming Chestnut Branches, 1890. The paintings were discovered in a white car parked in front of a psychiatric hospital in Zurich. The other two works—Cézanne’s The Boy in the Red Vest, ca. 1894, and Degas’ Viscount Lepic and His Daughters, ca. 1871—have not been recovered.

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