The Los Angeles Times blames the Greek Museum art theft on the country’s austerity program combined with Europe’s open borders and an increasing demand for and value placed upon art. Together that makes a volatile cocktail not just for Greece but for every out-of-the-way museum in Europe:
With borders blurred and customs inspections disappearing across Europe, art and antiquities trafficking has become increasingly easy. And growing affluence worldwide has increased the demand for art.
Experts say these trends, combined with Greece’s dizzying economic downturn and social crises, have made the tiny, culture-rich country a softer target for tomb raiders, looters and nefarious art dealers.
“We’re becoming more vulnerable,” said a senior intelligence official, requesting anonymity because of his involvement in the investigation of the gallery heist.
Greece’s economic crisis has left the Culture Ministry desperately short of cash, resulting in a near-shutdown of scores of museums, dwindling archaeological work in various parts of the country and, in some cases, severe cutbacks in security.
At the National Gallery, the curator acknowledged that although the safety of its collection “is not in peril,” budget cuts have scaled back security personnel by about 50% since 2010, leaving the country’s biggest storehouse of fine art with just 19 of the 37 guards it employed before the fiscal crisis.
“If robbers are breaking in here,” said Vassiliki Paraschi, a bystander peering up at the gallery’s assaulted balcony door, “then I can’t imagine what is happening to small museums in remote locations.”
Art Heist Robs Greece of a Sense of Security (Los Angeles Times)