Museum Security

Interesting interview:

Banks don’t take millions of dollars and put them in plastic bags and hang them on the wall so everybody can walk right up to them. But we do basically the same thing in museums and hang the assets right out on the wall. So it’s our job, then, to either use technology or develop technology that protects the art, to hire honest guards that are trainable and able to meet the challenge and alert and so forth. And we have to keep them alert because it’s the world’s most boring job. It might be great for you to go to a museum and see it for a day, but they stand in that same gallery year after year, and so they get mental fatigue. And so we have to rotate them around and give them responsibilities that keep them stimulated and keep them fresh.

It’s a challenge. But we try to predict the items that might be most vulnerable. Which are not necessarily most valuable; some things have symbolic significance to them. And then we try to predict what the next targets might be and advise our clients that they maybe need to put special security on those items.

Posted on October 19, 2022 at 6:16 AM38 Comments


Mike Scott October 19, 2022 8:16 AM

As it happens, the Bank of England does have millions of pounds’ worth of both gold and paper money on display for anyone to walk up to — it has a museum which contains things like a large gold bar and some of the million-pound notes that are used internally for accounting.purposes.

Aaron October 19, 2022 10:27 AM

Regardless of the agenda of “Just Stop Oil” and somewhat unstable ideology it follows and if they did check the protection of the painting… they were still in violation of several laws and museum protection policies. Why fund security, physical or electronic, if you are going to sidestep when it comes to political activism putting risk very near to “bags of money hanging on the wall”?

Historically, people who destroy or attempt to destroy art, have been “the bad guys”; lets not forget that component.

Roderick October 19, 2022 10:34 AM

Similar to what Mike wrote, the Bank of Canada’s pre-2014 Currency Museum had lots of banknotes on display too—probably trillions of dollars, if the Zimbabwe dollars are counted. Granted, these were in sealed roll-out drawers and not plastic bags. The nearby Mint gift shop does let people lift (slightly) a gold bar worth upwards of 100,000 CAD, and has a guard just for that.

I’m surprised at the claim that it’s difficult to protect a painting against soup, given that a piece of glass did exactly that and is apparently common. The article does go on to say that sometimes museums want to use the original frame, and it can be difficult to modify without visible damage. And the glass doesn’t go over the top and back and sides, which I’d have expected—don’t they also have to guard against water damage from fire sprinklers and hoses? But I suppose museum fire-protection is gonna be its own surprisingly complex topic.

Frank B. October 19, 2022 10:56 AM

I blame George Costanza for all of this. He gave a guard a chair to sit in and it’s been downhill ever since.

JonKnowsNothing October 19, 2022 3:14 PM


It’s all in the same vein as a “prank” where the people self-select themselves to be arbiters of Fun and Not Fun. Groups of like minded self-selectors eventually come to the conclusion it’s Alright to Have Fun – provided THEY don’t catch any flack back.

Like the ones roaming the streets inserting lentil beans into car tire valve stems and tighten down the cap. The lentil pushes the release valve when the cap is tightened slowly deflating the tire.

It’s similar to the old “Stick an Ice Pick in the Side Wall”, but makes them feel more sanctified.

Or the ones hacking into school computer systems as an Unofficial Fun Pen-Test Project. Give them a all A+++ and a scholarship for that. Such a grand idea!

There’s the ones taking Up Skirt and Up Kilt pictures or the ones hanging micro-mini video cameras in bathrooms, showers and under the toilet seat-rim.

It’s all FUN don’t you see? Can’t you take a JOKE Bro???

NO – I cannot take it as a joke.

Art is one of the few items that humans do voluntarily. It’s done for many reasons and we wonder at how driven those reasons are. Music, Art, Theater are human activities and have emotional impacts on the viewers and listeners.

It’s something just a precious as the tiny sugar ant visiting your kitchen for that drop of sugar crystal that fell on the table. We crush them without a thought.

That pretty much sums up their Attitude to Everything: No Thought.

Clive Robinson October 19, 2022 5:09 PM

@ ALL,

Re : It’s not just museum security.

First of did anybody else notice that the protesters –as they call themselves– used the wrong brand of soup?

That would have lost them “sympathy points” with the liberal elite that are alleged to be ultimately in charge of UK art museums…

But more seriously,

Yes it is hard to protect against a can of soup, and a lot easier to protect against it’s contents (which was what was actually thrown).

In the UK a can of soup has 400g of contents and depending on the brand 25g upwards of “tin can”. So call it about a pound in weight, thus it’s not something you would want thrown at your head or even toughened glass. Especially as mechanically they are very strong from end to end even when empty[1].

But again that is realy a secondary point. Because the real question people should be asking is not about museum security, but,

Why the protestors protested the way they did“…

In the US you allegadly have the “Right of ‘free speech'” and to an extent that extends to protesting.

In the UK whilst we did not have a right to protest, protests could be held provided certain formalities were followed[2].

Unfortunately the recently departed Prime Minister decided that protest –where he and his chums who handed him large backhanders and other unlawfull incentives could see or be inconvenienced by them– would nolonger be alowed…

So protesters have had to move to “private property” which museums are even though regarded as public spaces.

Such legislation is moronic at best and is actually going to backfire.

Why? Because eventually protest will happen, and it will move into other privately owned public spaces like shoping malls / centers and the like. Where unfortunately the risk of injury and damage will go up effectively exponentially. But as long as it’s not on politicians and their chums doorsteps they don’t care…

“But we the general public should.”

Daft as it might sound to some, it’s probably worth taking a view at “politics” as part of your own personal plans when travelling or going shopping as well as “security”.

For instance in East London just a few days ago the “south bound” half of the M25 London orbital motorway was closed for atleast 36hours due to just two protestors,

If you read to the bottom of the article you will find like minded protestors “super-gluing” themselves to infrastructure including roads on a frequent basis. Thus peoples everyday lives of going to work and shopping are being disrupted as well as longer journeys to vist relatives and go to more distant venues of major entertainment etc.

You obviously do not want to go somewhere, then find you are effectively trapped there as “darkness falls” eyc where your personal safety / security risk factors climb.

Whilst I don’t agree with the way they are protesting, I can see why they see what they are protesting about is important. Thus why they now have to consider “unlawfull protest” as “lawfull protest” has been taken away from them…

If I said this was an “obvious outcome” of the legislation I know there will be some who disagree. However I can give historic examples I’m personally directly aware of going back over four decades, and others family members talked about from the 1960’s and 70’s. Then there are historical accounts going back to before the middle ages. Put simply trying to stop “protest” is an almost guaranteed way to cause not just civil unrest but actual insurrection and eventual civil war.

A lesson “authoritarian leaders” do not want “taught” but is easy enough to “learn” if you know where to look. So it adds yet another reason as to why our schools are failing our nations not just the citizens.

Obviously this effects all sorts of other “security” not just that of a few museum’s artifacts.

[1] Some older style soup cans –of which the one used is an example– are actually designed to be stacked upto ten feet high for a year or more in warehouses and shops. Thus are very strong, so a greater than 300lb adult can stand on even an empty one without problems (providing they can keep there balance). Back some decades ago kids would take empty cans make a couple of small holes in them at the sides to put string through to make loops they could hold then walk around on them like miniture stilts, it was not unknown for parents to join in the fun for party games and the like.

[2] Part of the formalities was filling out various forms with the police to notify them in good time likewise the local authority, such that safety and good order could be preserved. I won’t name him but a writer and comedian decided to hold a “100 acts of minor dissent”. One of which was to hold a “one man protest” outside Westminster, for which he duly filled out the paperwork and the Met Police thinking him slightly barmy as he put down the expected size as one person duly assigned him a police officer. Well the date came up and it turns out there was an “unlawful protest” by thousands in Westminster. Imagine if you can the comedian and his assigned police officer moving through the unlawfulk protest so he could hold his lawful protest… With his police officer telling his colleagues as he went by that “It’s alright he’s legal and with me”… Apparently nobody thought to ask the comedian if maybe he might want to protest on another day…

lurker October 19, 2022 6:16 PM

@Clive Robinson

So is it the internet/social media that has allowed Fear, Panic and the Madness of Crowds to become contagious beyond physical interpersonal distances? JSO activists are blocking motorways and street tunnels here in NZ too.

Whenever we get visiting artworks of sufficient value to be a target of such behaviour, there’s an army of security persons present at all times.

Clive Robinson October 20, 2022 5:34 AM

@ lurker, SpaceLifeForn, ALL,

Re : Who is funding this terrorism?

As you’ve noted with,

“JSO activists are blocking motorways and street tunnels here in NZ too.”

The “Just Stop Oil”(JSO) campaign is “international” and it is well funded.

It’s time for other people to,

“Start joining the dots…”

JSO is funded out of Los Angeles by a US organisation called “Climate Emergency Fund”(CEF). Supposadly they have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to such activists and activities.

But who are CEF? Little appears to be actually known about them behind the “frontage” that is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Which is not uncommon with the way US tax and other laws alow for the easy creation of “front organisations”. They appear to represent “US Philanthropists” and “unknown others” but whilst there are some “Green apples bobing on the surface” such as Abigail Disney, Aileen Getty, Rory Kennedy, Adam McKay, and Trevor Neilson,

However the water those names bob in is “Murkier than Alabama ditch water after a storm”… CEF like JSO apparebtly encorages the use of crypto-currency for donations, with “Ethereum”, apparently the cryptocurrency of choice on JSO’s web site… For those that do not know, Ethereum produces about the equivallent of 34kg of CO2 carbon footprint average per transaction when measured back in 2020 by a report from the “Digiconomist website”. That’s about the same as an average US Household uses in 2.5days, with the US having the highest per capiter energy usage in the world. In short Ethereum goes through more energy than some EU soverign states…

Apparently the use of coin-mix services not unlike “Tornado Cash” have been suggested for more anonymity. So JSO/CEF’s funding outside of a few “Green Whales” with historic ties to the Petro-Chem / oil industry is unknown to not just CEF and JSO but just about anybody trying to investigate where “other money” is comming from… So a good setup for a front organisation…

But what are CEF’s aims? Certainly “direct action” in more than 25 countries… But of what form? Back in April this year, CEF’s executive director, Margaret Klein Salamon, said of JSO,

“We’re their lead institutional funder”

Along with the more revealing,

“I think actually their exclusive institutional funder at this point.”

In fact CEF pay the ~25K GBP saleries for around 40 JSO staff according to some sources… That’s a lot of people for a small group.

Which set “alarm bells ringing in my head” as it should in other peoples heads. In effect a “single source funder of major terroristic action in a foreign sovereign state”…

But other things have happened that are probably not unrelated to other petro-chem “accidents” in Europe such as “incidents” in Austria where one of only two refineries had an unexplained mechanical incident (OMV’s Schwechat Refinery next to Vienna airport). It brought OMV’s output capacity down to or below 1/5 of it’s normal output necessitating Austria’s goverment to use a large amount of it’s 90day “stratigic reserve” thus depleating it just before winter. The plant was effectively declared as longterm “shut down” for repairs, but is now apparently back in some production. There have been other events you may not have heard about along with the now well publicised blowing up of Nord Stream 1 & 2.

All of which has led to a “perfect storm” in the energy sector across all of the EU with probably a real inflationary effect aproaching 20% crippling the EU economy and creating massive hardship for EU citizens that is only going to get worse over the comming months, if not years.

There is a saying,

Once is hapenstance,
Twice is coincidence,
Three times enemy action.

For those getting on in years, they may remember the “Air craft hijacking in the 1960’s through 1970’s”, where certain Super-Powers “Inteligence Communities”(IC) funded the hijacking through various “front organisations”. The MSM at the time as the good little boys and girls that they were back then, only reported the “Russian Backing”. Carefully leaving out what was also known which was that the CIA amongst others Wesyern IC agencies were also in it upto their eyebrows.

It’s now better known, but people have to think about cause and effect. Along with the CIA funding, training running and supplying of arms and othere resources of other terrorist organisations and NGO’s having become more publicised over the intervening years, other events came from CIA activities. Especially their activities in Afghanistan, and Middle East, that started and created a clear path through Osama Bin Laden that led directly to attacks on US military personnel on bases and in ships, eventually causing what is seen as the worst terrorist attack against civillians in the modern western society known simply by it’s date, 9/11. Also other attacks in the UK, Spain and around the globe, which in turn led to some significant reprisals,

When you stand back a little from what is going on in Europe, there appears to be a “two pronged attack” on energy thus the economy of Europe, that is comming out of the US. In effect it appears to be running the equivalent of yet another proxie war, this time with Russia not China (that rose up to the Korean and Vietnam wars, followed by other activities like the Contras etc).

So folks, keep your ears and eyes open and make sure you have situational awareness that is not just current but kept uptodate, carry certain mibimum essentials with you, such as water, energy bars, medications and extra clothing, to see you through a couple or three days. We’ve already seen closure for a day and a half, and it would take very little effort to double that. And that is what is apparently to come…

So to close more words from CEF’s executive director Margaret Klein Salamon,

“More protests are coming, this is a rapidly growing movement and the next two weeks will be, I hope, the most intense period of climate action to date, so buckle up.”

Peter October 20, 2022 6:56 AM

Cash can be readily exchanged for goods or services. If you steal a Van Gough, you have to exchange it for cash first, which is practically impossible today.

JonKnowsNothing October 20, 2022 7:07 AM


re: Stealing a Van Gough…

There specialists in hunting down stolen or hidden art works, from both the run of the mill thieves and the not so run of the mill governments.

In the thief class there are 2 primary branches

1) Those who have a long term plan for disposal
2) Those who don’t have any plans beyond smash and grab

The smash and grab types, often end up rolling up the canvas and storing in the attic or under the bed. They don’t hang it on their walls – only occasionally will they do that.

The Long Term Disposal group have connections with Extremely Wealthy People with Private Vaults Hidden in Many Places. The painting goes into the Private Vault Show Room and is enjoyed by the Wealthy Patron of Purloinment.

Only the second group has disposable wealth and how they parcel out the payment is key to the finding them. Often times the amounts paid out to the thieves is trivial because:

  • Who are they going to complain to?
  • Who is going to believe them if they did?
  • Who will pay for their funerals if they do?

JonKnowsNothing October 20, 2022 7:20 AM


re: Murky Waters…

Over on EmptyWheel there is a post about some very murky details involving a missing well known journalist.

I don’t really get all the dots being laid out there but All the Usual Suspects are involved and perhaps some classified information that has escaped its SCIF.

A secondary item semi-related to the missing journalist in reference to the possible escaped fill-in-the-blank items was this:

  • … a laptop, after all, can be air-gapped, and fully encrypted information stored in digital form can be safer than papers lying around.

Murky Waters with Increased Turbidity


ht tps://www.emptywheel.n et/2022/10/20/sometimes-we-fall-in-love-with-our-sources/

(url fractured)

Winter October 20, 2022 7:31 AM


But other things have happened that are probably not unrelated to other petro-chem “accidents” in Europe such as “incidents” in Austria where one of only two refineries had an unexplained mechanical incident (OMV’s Schwechat Refinery next to Vienna airport).

This sounds like you want to suggest that JSO is a Russian/Chinese front organizations executing disruptive violent attacks on the energy supply of Western nations?

Today, the actions of JSO are less disruptive than the average French strike, farmers protests, PETA, or Greenpeace action. Piling unresolved happenings around the world on the heads of people who are honestly concerned about their future and who organize non-violent protests is premature (as an understatement).

Clive Robinson October 20, 2022 8:16 AM

@ Winter,

“This sounds like you want to suggest that JSO is a Russian/Chinese front organizations “

What I’ve pointed out is that there are facts that are individual “dots” that potentially have a relationship. How you chose to join them up is upto you.

However as for Russia / China there are way less dots for them than there are for the US…

I guess time will tell who is actually behind it and why, but as I said it’s upto you.

All I can tell you from what the representatives of the two organisations have said, is they hwve an intention to step up their activities in the very near future for an extended period of time. Thus if you live, work, or socialise in any of the areas they are “active in” a little common sense planning could save you quite a bit of inconvenience, discomfort, and disruption.

evilkiru October 21, 2022 11:14 AM

@Q*bert: Because any two-bit bloke can display a replica, so there’s no prestige in displaying one. If there’s anything most museums strive most to project, it’s prestige.

lurker October 21, 2022 12:19 PM

@Q*bert, evilkuru

Many well above two bit natural history museums will have a replica of paleontology specimens on display, and the real one in their vault. Or commonly the real one is in some national repository and replicas are available for sale to any museum that wants one.

Making replicas of artworks is a crime most places

Q*bert October 21, 2022 1:07 PM

@evilkiru, lurker

Well no one has to know that it is a replica. Just leave the visitors with the illusion that it’s the real deal:-)

Also how creating the replica in some jurisdiction where it is legal. Then just ship from there to the jurisdiction where it is to be displayed:-)

JonKnowsNothing October 21, 2022 2:08 PM

@ Q*bert, @evilkiru, lurker

re: making replicas of artworks

For the most part making the replica is not illegal, it’s how art students learn different techniques and styles.

What is on the illegal side is to claim the work is by “a famous artist” and forge the signature.

In a number of museums that support painting art students, their criteria is to use a canvas that is not the same size or proportion as the original-source canvas.

Once you forge the signature… you pretty much cross a boundary.

In the realm of photography and the like, you run into copyright issues. Museums sell the reproduction rights to a photo outfit (ie shutterstock) and using those images requires a permit-fee.

It’s a bit amusing the M$/W11 uses such works as their lock-screen and wall paper images.

There are other types of art where you can run afoul of the law not by making an item but by possessing the components of the final product. Only some people are allowed to have these restricted items and other people are not allowed to have them at all.

There is still a dust up over the “Aboriginal Flag”. A very nice flag design but one that was sold off for copyrights and then not available for the Aboriginal Peoples to use because … well they don’t own it and the guy who made it sold it. Some of this got sorted and some of it is still off-limits to use.


Search Terms

Aboriginal Flag

Winter October 21, 2022 2:16 PM


Well no one has to know that it is a replica.

So it’s a lie?

But this is what Disney does. They show replicas of stories and history. But these are censored replicas. They are “clean” stories and a “cleaned” history.

Like the books children get to read about US history, eg, in Florida. A history without racism, slavery, or genocide. Without the death and destruction from religious wars, pirates without the gore, blood, loot, and torture.

That is the type of replicas you already see in the US. No need for more.

JonKnowsNothing October 21, 2022 4:41 PM

@Winter, @All

re: Disney … show[s] replicas of stories and history.

These are not replicas. Replicas are exact copies of something. Good replicas (labeled as such) might be 1:1.

Disney does not make replicas or verified or even half-verified histories. They make fairy tales, stories and made up by human events. This later is likely to become made up by AI/ML events soon.

Over time, people may learn that what they saw, read or listened to in their initial experience with any topic is “not quite so”. Sometimes people do not learn the difference between “Then and Now”, between “What We Want vs What Happened”.

One can make a replica of a US Cavalry Saddle but it’s not that many horsemen that can replicate full cavalry tactics on a battlefield, even with the many Historical Recreation Organizations doing their best to match “the time, the place,and the period”. (1)

LARPING is quite fun too. It’s the rare LARPER that would last even a nano-second in battle with a real cleaving bladed weapon.

Make believe isn’t real although it may have some aspects of real in it.


Search Term

live action role-playing game (LARP)

1) RL anecdote TL;DR

I play MMORPG LOTRO Lord of the Rings Online game. As you move your character through the LOTR story, you experience what the game developers and world builders have prepared or thought would be appropriate for Tolkien’s works. It’s not real. It’s made up. Made up by Tolkien and then interpreted by the devs and world builders. It’s not even a replica.

It’s still useful as a game, as entertainment and sometimes a thought provoking experience into human nature and human nature as represented by the many peoples of Middle-Earth.

While the story is make believe, as are all the elements that make up the story and the game, if one is thoughtful when arriving at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in front of the gates of Gondor, as envisioned by the ME Lore & Cannon Masters, developers and world builders can be more than just another tick on your level rank.

The devs don’t put too much reality in, and there are even options to turn off “extra blood effects” but sometimes make believe can be very instructive.

It is all very noble until you have to clean up the battle field….

lurker October 21, 2022 4:50 PM

The respondent in the Atlantic interview didn’t understand why the National Gallery of London was so often a target. I am informed the NG is funded by BP; and the latest attackers were established by a Getty heiress …

MarkH October 21, 2022 10:33 PM


Your comment about art forgery touches on some deep points. To my knowledge, in the U.S. the signature on an artwork has (by itself) no legal relevance.

Suppose that P paints a copy of a Rembrandt including Rembrandt’s signature. That’s 100 percent legal.

If P — or another party, D — then sells the painting with either (a) a representation that it is (or might be) the work of Rembrandt, or (b) omission of knowledge that it’s in fact a copy, then legal liability can ensue. [P can’t claim the he didn’t know it’s a copy, but D can say that he was unaware.]

If P and D worked together to effect a fraudulent sale, they can both be in legal trouble.

The object in itself cannot be illegal, only the financial transaction.

MarkH October 21, 2022 10:44 PM


If you don’t know the great documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, I recommend attention to any of his work.

He has a special interest in “false history,” and wrote a series of long essays analyzing famous photos of yore.

His thesis is that a photograph cannot be true or false, regardless of any rearrangement of the subject before shooting, cropping, etc.

It’s only meaningful (says Morris) to speak of the truth of a photo combined with a statement about what the photo represents.

Copied artwork might be illegal in combination with the statement that it’s the physical work of the original artist.

JonKnowsNothing October 22, 2022 3:49 AM


re: Visual Truths and Fakes

Your points are well made about the representation of signatures or provenance. The art world is scattered with works of “great masters” from all generations that were not made by the signatory on the image(s).

An interesting by-product, is that people will spend $$$$ for a signature on a work of art, but if the signature is wrong, incorrect or forged suddenly that work of art has little value but nothing changed inside the frame.

This covers all sorts of art works from pre-history to modern times.

Sort of makes you wonder exactly what museums are buying: Sunflowers or Cans of Soup or paint poured down a tilted canvas or paint splashed on a canvas hanging on the wall.

iirc(badly) A good number of “ancient works” turn out to be modern works made to look ancient. The secrets are closely guarded on how to age canvas and marble and prep things to avoid discovery under intense investigations. Large sums of money change hands over such items.

Years ago, there was a small bronze sculpture in a museum collection that was thought to be quite ancient. It was long before xrays and other material component analysis was available. It was very pretty and a star of the museum’s collection. It had been thought to be a single cast object as welded cast assembly was not known in attributed period.

Some time later when it was xrayed and it looked to be confirmed as a single cast item with no internal seams, a small section was found where the creators had missed covering and disguising a seam.

Since the object was still beautiful, the museum moved it from their Ancient Art section to their Modern Art section.

Provenance is always difficult and like many issues of “trust” it has it’s failings.

MarkH October 22, 2022 1:21 PM


Apart from forgery of famous artists (a recent example can be found using ‘basquiat fedex’ as search terms), there seems to be a much larger industry of fake antiquities.

If somebody revealed what appeared to be a previously unknown Vermeer canvas, the publicity and scrutiny would be intense.

Whereas a sidewalk merchant in Baghdad saying that an urn was made in ancient Mesopotamia draws no attention at all … manufacturers can safely produce these by the thousands.

Some apparent antiquities can go for very large sums of money — but then, the vendor may be at legal risk.

JonKnowsNothing October 22, 2022 3:12 PM


(road rash p1a)

re: Antiquities Manufacturing

There are such industries in nearly every part of the world were there is anything of “value” that people are willing to pay for and to keep quiet about. Psuedo-Ancient artifacts get mixed in with the Real Deal. These often go for nominal amounts of cash, and you just cannot tell unless you are an expert in the field if you have a real Mayan clay figurine or a modern recreation.

JonKnowsNothing October 22, 2022 3:13 PM


(road rash p2a)

There is another source or sources of both types of art and that’s through government agencies and military deployments. Historical government agencies have done-deals to get spectacular pieces of art. Sometimes they pay but often times they don’t. Our Current Events news relates how such items pass into the possession of governments and museums.
As already mentioned they collect their fair share of fakes too.

JonKnowsNothing October 22, 2022 3:14 PM


(road rash p3a)

Another common source, historically and currently is military looting. It might be illegal but it is pretty common. Trophies are desirable as memorabilia and if the soldier lucks out getting something significant there is The Dilemma. When property is seized from someone else by force or forced legal changes, the new holder may be able to claim Clean Provenance. It’s used by a number of EU museums to lay claim to the thousands of art works in their storage basements.

Ted October 22, 2022 3:23 PM


Re: Museums as targets

It is a curious thing to dig deeper into activists’ activities. I am reminded of the time Nan Goldin staged a protest at NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. They threw prescription bottles into a reflection pool in front of the Sackler Wing. A significant number of institutions have since eschewed the Sackler family’s philanthropy.

@MarkH, JonKnowsNothing

Re: Fake antiques

I don’t want to get into the Koch’s, except to mention that William Koch won substantial damages against several counterfeit vintage wine sellers. It did take him a lot of money to do it however.

Clive Robinson October 22, 2022 6:20 PM

@ Q*Bert,

Re : Why originals.

“But why would they actually hang the originals on the wall when a replica would be sufficient?”

I used to attend the National Gallery and Royal Accadamy in London quite often in the past, and you would be surprised how often your question comes up…

In fact even the “guards” can answer it.

Put quickly the art on the wall serves two basic purposes,

1, Enjoyment
2, Education

With the first covering all the human emotions that art can bring to people including outrage, and rage.

The second is more interesting, in that it is in part like archaeology about history but also about method and skill.

I have seen one or two paintings in my life, so well painted they are more life like than the best photographs can be.

One I spent over two hours staring at from only inches away looking at the method used for the self portrait. It was way more than mear brush strokes, the intention of the artist was not just to get colour onto the wood panel, but a difference in texture that was not just life like as well, it had directionality as well, in that the shadows in the painting brightened and lightened as you moved your head from one side of the painting to the other.

You realise after a while that there is no realy way to “copy” such depth of methods by photography or other non painted technique. Likewise getting the skill the artist put in, would be nearly impossible for anyone not as skilled.

So yes hanging the originals on the wall is just a part of it, sometimes getting not just the directionality of illumination but it’s spectral content right as well is important. Some paintings were painted to be seen in the soft glow of tallow candles not from above or sides, but from below. That is the artist would be aware of the place the painting would be destined for in a house, such as to be on a wall above a table or desk, where the candles would be.

Holbien the younger and earlier artists had a mastery of the craft seldom seen in the work of modern artists, and it’s a shame. Because you get to feel we have lost something from our lives that our technology and modern methods just can not replace.

MarkH October 22, 2022 8:06 PM


I would add that authenticity is increasingly precious in a world drowning in rubber-stamp mass production.

To be sure, an original painting or sculpture is a complex 3-dimensional construction; every point on its surface has its own chemistry, spectrum, specular reflectance (as a function of angle) and so on.

With typical arrogance, the Tiny Minds in Silicon Valley think that everything can be “digitized.”

Some may remember that years ago, Google/Big-Brother announced their project to “scan” the world’s art.

The only painting from that project I looked up — which I had gazed at for some time in its home museum — was represented by a lousy jpeg with washed-out color. We know the Barbarian by his footprint.

JonKnowsNothing October 22, 2022 9:32 PM

@MarkH, @Clive, All

re: Historical Artist’s Skills

In broad brush terms, every succeeding generation loses concepts and techniques with the previous generations on how-to-do stuff, including art.

Within the last 400 years the style of art changed and what was once popular is possibly now found stored away in attics and rare versions are found in museums. It isn’t that the same sort of works cannot be created but the reasons for creating them changed and without that support system the art of each period ends.

Much of this older art was commercial art for it’s time. The named and unnamed of these periods painted by commission and by patronage. Much of what is called Classical Music was also created under patronage support.

Successful artists had workshops which churned out “replicas” for more moderate pocket books. In current times, we have gone from considering the items produced in the workshop of XYZ, as being created by XYZ, to now redefining the items as “craft by persons” employed there.

Current art often follows this same pathway. The patron is now a gallery or a museum contract.

The significant difference is the taste or commercial value of the created art. We admire the Dutch Masters but few companies would be willing to support an entire segment of art to get a painting similar to the Night Watch.

Without a demand, the skills needed fall into disuse. So many skills are lost and some get re-created.

Nearly all the great 20th century artists could paint in the “realistic” style, an apprentice graduation piece showing mirror and reflection and light refraction was the ticket to getting employed by a major atelier.

There is another aspect to the change and that is once some techniques are learned they are supplanted by better variants. There are still some who make their own paint colors from raw materials but a larger number just buy pre-filled tubes from the store.

There are types of art that capture more than the imagination. They don’t fall into the everyday commercial mode. They come from a different perspective of life. Anyone lucky enough to pass through the Art Caves of the Dordogne, France or other similar sites or even the replica sites, can experience something more profound. Something that links all humans together, no matter where they exist on the planet, or time, or any physical, economic, geographic, or political distinction.

It would be a rare modern human who can view them and not feel a connection to that which is lost.

Clive Robinson October 26, 2022 3:25 AM

@ MarkH,

Re : Scan the world.

I think it was Bill Gates who first started it by trying to buy up all the digital rights to art in the world with Google just scanning rvery book and effectively claiming “rights on a new work”…

But as you note,

“We know the Barbarian by his footprint.”

In Bill’s case, his spore / shoe size is smaller than you might expect… Though what car he might drive and how big it is I’ve no idea 😉

Clive Robinson October 26, 2022 7:55 PM

@ MarkH,

Re : “they all look alike to me”

Put any flea ridden mangy cur in a sheep skin and it can pretend to be a wolf underneath…

A wise person rather than investigate, should not even use the proverbial barge pole, but should just “shoot on sight” as it were, and let it fester for a while then dump it in an open ditch somewhere along with the rest of the trash 😉

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