Art & Sculpture

GPS Tracking Use Case: Securing High-Value Artworks with GPS Tracking Technology

It’s estimated that in excess of 50,000 pieces of artwork are stolen each year, giving the illicit market for stolen master pieces an annual value of $6-8 billion. Vincent Van Gogh’s $50 million-dollar Poppy Flowers, for example, was stolen from a museum in Cairo in 2010. Just this week, in the UK, prints by street artist STIK were stolen while being transported to be a donation to local residents in Hackney, London. The artwork then began to appear for sale online, the entire delivery likely intercepted by thieves in one foul swoop. Art heists, especially while valuable art is in transit, are not unusual. Anthony Amore, an expert in the field of art crime, writing for the Observer in 2017 stated: “The most robust art security systems involve multiple safeguards against loss—when put on the road, those layers disappear.” Amore described a number of art heists including the theft of a Paul Villinski sculpture while on the road from his studio in New York to an exhibition. However, just days later Villinski’s $358,000 piece was discovered abandoned and included in the exhibition, albeit late. In 2006, a 1778 Francisco de Goya work was stolen from a transport truck in Pennsylvania. It was recovered two weeks later. Amore says when art is taken out of secured locations “it is incredibly vulnerable.” In Madrid, in recent years, thieves stole a truck containing 28 paintings including works by Picasso. It is not unusual for high-value art transports to have a “chase car” following for extra security. Amore recognised that the future of securing high-value art in transit lies in GPS devices, adding, “thieves might be able to make a quick getaway, but they can’t outrun a satellite.” Art theft is an extremely lucrative business. Thieves that accidentally find themselves with valuable art after taking a vehicle might be inclined to dump their haul without the right illicit channels with which to offload stolen art. For professional art thieves there is a massive opportunity with black market buyers around the globe who will acquire stolen art for their own personal collections and where said pieces never see the public eye again. Some thieves steal artwork on demand for such collectors.

Advancements in Tracking Technology & Greater Availability

GPS art tracking is certainly the future for artists, legitimate collectors, galleries, and museums. A GPS tracking device costs a tiny fraction of the value of a masterpiece yet can ensure every step of its journey is tracked in real time. GPS tracking devices are so small they can even be hidden permanently in paintings and sculptures or their housings, protecting art while on display and on the move. GPS tracking software can monitor a single device and item or can be used track whole exhibitions worth of pieces, individually and all at the same time. Should any one GPS tracked item leave a software and user defined perimeter immediate alerts can be sent by email or text message. GPS trackers can also be configured so that authorities are immediately notified of a possible theft. And these tiny, powerful, trackers can also alert to extremes of heat and cold that could potentially damage an artwork beyond repair. GPS tracking technology is inexpensive and easy to use. Devices, such as MyTrackerPlus, simply need to be switched on, charged, held outside to reconnect with GPS satellites, and then placed in packaging or containers. Tracking such a device is as easy as logging in to a website on a mobile, tablet or PC, and browsing to view the item location. Users can remotely send commands to a GPS tracker, download tracker history, or setup relevant alerts. MyTrackerPlus and other GPS trackers can monitor valuable shipments for just a few miles, or for thousands. In the case of art thefts, criminals may never know their every move is being tracked. Not only can masterpieces be recovered quickly but GPS tracking could also mean that thieves, and even the collectors they buy for, are apprehended by authorities.

Further Reading:

Why It’s So Risky to Move Your Art
The 10 Most-Wanted Missing Paintings In The World

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