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4 J. Art Crime 69 (2010)
An Empty Frame: Thinking about Crime

handle is hein.journals/jartcrim4 and id is 74 raw text is: 


Derek Fincham


                         An  Empty   Frame: Thinking about Art Crime
                            Palm   Tree  Justice for Derelict  Guards
















The Mohamnled Mahmoud   Khalil Museum   has been undergoing close scrutiny by many after the theft in
August of  Poppy Flowers, by Vincent van Gogh. There were few visitors at the Khalil museum on August
2 1ft The thieves seemingly made sure to strike during the warm afternoon when the security staff would be
praying, or perhaps even be tired from their fast during the days of the holy month of Ramadan. The thieves
used a box cutter to slice the canvas from its frame and leave the museum. Not only were the guards tired or
praying, but there may have been only ten other visitors at the museum that day. Other security measures also
failed. The alarms at the museum were not working, and only seven of a total of 43 security cameras were
working. There are indications these breakdowns are not unique to the Khalil Museum. Egyptian businessman
Naguib Sawiris has offered a $175,000 reward for any information leading to the recovery of the work.

     The Khalil Museum is located in Cairo, near the Giza area of Egypt. It was a palace in the early part of
the 20th century, but was dedicated as a museum in 1971. It houses works by Gauguin, Monet, Renoir, Rodin,
and van Gogh, making it one of the best collections of 191 and 20th century art in the Middle East. Thefts have
been taking place there with alarming regularity. Poppy Flowers was stolen in 1978 and recovered later in
Kuwait. The BBC  has reported that in 2009, nine 19th century works by Ibrahim Pasha were stolen and found,
10 days later, dumped near the museum.

     Hadeel Al-Shalchi reported for the Associated Press that the Egyptian Museum's guards were sleeping,
talking on their cell phones, or praying with their Quran rather than actively observing visitors to the
museum.  In response to the utter breakdown of security at the Khalil, Egypt and its Culture Ministry have
taken a number of surprising steps. Mohsen Shalaan the head of the Culture Ministry's fine art department
was arrested for negligence. Culture Minister Farouk Hosni ordered three other museums closed because
their security cameras were not working properly. The Culture Ministry has also announced the creation of a
central control room in Cairo that will collect video feeds and information from the security rooms in all of
Egypt's museum  security rooms. Yet these measures will come too late to protect Poppy Flowers. As Ton
Cremers, founder of the Museum Security Network says, the investment in security systems should be dead
simple, The value of the van Gogh is $40 (million) to $50 million ... A complete security system of that
museum  would be $50,000, and to keep it running would cost $3,000 a year. ... Need I say more?

     Egypt's interior minister announced soon after the theft that a Museum employee was behind the
crime. Habib al-Aldo claimed a museum employee participated in the theft or stole it himself. Even given
difficulties with translation from Arabic into the English press, scant evidence for this assertion other than
the location and placement inside the museum has been given. This has not stopped the Egyptian criminal
system from acting swiftly.


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