Back in the late 1970s and early ’80s, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, arguably New York’s most esteemed institution, kept its treasured works about as secure as the razor blades at Duane Reade.
“Before surveillance, which became sophisticated in 2004, museums were vulnerable,” John Barelli, the Met’s chief security officer until 2016, told The Post. “They want the public to have access to the art, and that results in the work being exposed. Sometimes it bites you in the ass.”
He explains just how easy it once was to rob the Met in his new book, “Stealing the Show” (Lyons Press).
In 1979, one year after Barelli, now 70, started, the heralded “Treasures of Tutankhamun” exhibit was in full swing. It was so popular, the Met extended its hours to accommodate crowds.
Formet Met chief security officer John Barelli and the cover of his book, “Stealing the Show: A History of Art and Crime in Six Thefts.”Lyons Press/Stephen Yang
Amid all that hubbub, it was not too difficult for someone to walk out with a 23-pound marble sculpture of Greek god Hermes. The $150,000 head, dating to the fifth century and with a heart carved above one eye, was simply yanked from the wooden pedestal on which it had rested for decades.
A search of the museum and patrons provided no clues, Borelli recalled.
“Five days later,” he said, “somebody called Rockefeller Center security and said, ‘If you are looking for the head, it is in locker 5514 at Grand Central Station.’ ”
The head was there and in good shape, save for one alteration: A second heart carved above the right eye, which contributed to a hypothesis.
“One theory is that it was given as a Valentine’s Day gift,” Borelli said. “Then the recipient heard [on the news] about the head being stolen, and said, ‘What the frig?’ and wanted to return it.”
Assistant security managers, left to right: Barelli, Ed Ryan…
Read the full article at https://nypost.com/2019/09/07/it-used-to-be-super-easy-to-steal-from-the-metropolitan-museum-of-art/