Last night, a thief walked out of the Paris Museum of Modern Art with some $127 million in paintings by Picasso, Matisse, and Braque. There were no lasers and no temperature-sensitive security systems. Hell, there wasn’t even an alarm.
My whole understanding of what a major-museum art heist entails is informed by the Pierce Brosnan version of the Thomas Crown Affair, and I doubt that this is one of those cases in which Hollywood is exaggerating; if anything, I imagine that museum security is even more advanced than the stuff they show in the movies, with sophisticated motion sensors and trip wires and big heavy gates that smash down and trap thieves like rats in the middle of their undercooked operations.
So what happened in Paris last night? Not much of anything, actually. The museum’s cameras managed to grab a few shots of the crook, who entered by smashing a window and snipping a gird with some bolt cutters, but he didn’t set off any electronic alarms as he collected his five-painting haul, taking the time to remove each from its frame instead of slicing them out with a razor blade, as is common. In fact, one source claims that the museum’s electronic alarm hadn’t been working for two months prior to the theft, so the entire security of the facility was left up to a few night guards—a lot of good they did.
It all just goes to show that while technology is increasingly found in places you might not expect it—WiFi on airplanes and AR codes in the Sunday paper—sometimes it’s nowhere to be found in the places you do expect it. People who visited the museum today were greeted with a sign explaining that the museum was closed for “technical reasons.” It really meant the lack thereof.