Like many, we were captivated by the news story of Naples police returning a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi to a museum that had not even realised the work had been stolen, highlighting yet another indirect threat Covid-19 poses to public and private art collections.

With this in mind, we ask Bart Miller, Head of Commercial at leading security system firm Fortecho Solutions to discuss how the latest advances in fine art security work to significantly reduce the risk of theft, particularly in properties that may stand empty for part of the year…

Closed museums and empty houses present tantalizing opportunity for would be thieves. The story of the missing painting at Naples is one in a long line of thefts perpetrated and left unreported until a policemen or unwitting staff member notices an empty frame.

The archaic tradition of physically checking each artwork at the beginning and end of every day has never been fit for purpose. Famous thefts from the Isabella Gardner Museum, Boston to The Buccleuch Da Vinci, Scotland and the Ashmolean Cezanne, Oxford, demonstrate that the artworks themselves need to be individually protected. 

The nature of the world’s great museums, galleries and private collections prevents security teams from permanently affixing artworks in place. These are living spaces where exhibitions, acquisitions and re-hangs happen constantly. Any solution needs to be amenable to these requirements whilst adding a considerable and impenetrable last line of defence against theft, and a host of other risks.

Fortecho delivers this final and most prescient layer of security. Wireless tags in varying form factors are affixed to artworks sending beacon messages into a hidden reader every two minutes. The message confirms the artworks location in the building, as well as its temperature, humidity and lux levels. As soon as the artwork is moved, or one of the environmental pre-sets is breached, the tag sends an alarm in real time.

This allows for a complete modernisation of collection security and management, removing the need for a large physical presence and centralising control of the collection.

At the front end Fortecho offers two options: Fortecho and Fortecho Lite.

The marquee Fortecho product is aimed at museums and private collections spread across multiple sites. It is an enterprise software product allowing for complete control over objects, lasers, pressure pads across multiple sites all over the world.

Fortecho Lite is an ‘out-of-the-box’ offering which Fortecho developed in the last five years to suit smaller private collections. It was built in response to the growing demand for museum quality protection in a smaller environment. In conjunction with the leading artworld insurance firms this product is designed to be fully integrated into an existing security system, so that even if the residence is empty, the alarm will still sound, be monitored and actioned.

Fortecho has worked in this space for well over 20 years and continues to build new hardware and develop software in accordance with the needs of the institutional and private artworld. Existing clients include The National Gallery, London – The Getty, LA – Guggenheim, Bilbao – Louvre, Abu Dhabi – Gallery of New South Wales, Australia – Hermitage, St Petersburgh.

Fortecho Solutions will start hosting a series of monthly Webinars on high value asset protection from March 2021, for more information and to join please contact Bart Miller – & 0044 7590 187 273.

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