Early Tuesday morning, a group of bold criminals walked into the Kunsthal gallery (which was in the swing of a 20th anniversary celebration) in Rotterdam and swiped seven masterpieces painted by Picasso, Monet, Gauguin, Matisse, and Lucian Freud.
The stolen works, on display as part of an exhibition highlighting the private Triton Foundation collection, reminded of the fragile security plaguing Europe's museums.
The Kunsthal was designed by architectural firm OMA. Yesterday, a security expert, one Ton Cremers, placed partial blame for the heist on the building itself. Speaking with Dutch paper De Volkskrant, he claimed, "Once inside the building, thieves could easily walk through the entire museum," and that despite obvious charms, the building was impossible to defend against theft. Museum director Emily Ansenk refutes the suggestion, stating "the Kunsthal has stare of the art security."
However, gaps in coverage are clear. And, not just in Rotterdam. For example, just 10 days before Vladimir Umanets was able to stealthily vandalize a Rothko painting at London's Tate Modern.
Both events, despite obvious difference, raise a single, important question: In an art world that champions architecture that matches the objects on display, can security measures tighten without compromising visitor experience?