Bulking up Gallery Security after $1.4M Heist

Australian gallery victimized by theft of small but extremely valuable painting


THE Art Gallery of South Australia will be reviewing its security systems in light of the theft of a $1.4 million painting from the New South Wales Art Gallery on Sunday.

Art Gallery of SA general manager Kaj Lindstrom said yesterday there had been no theft from the gallery in his many years working there.

On Sunday, a thief stole the NSW gallery's 17th century painting A Cavalier by Dutch artist Frans van Mieris. The thief may have unscrewed the small painting from the wall and walked out with it under his jacket.

Mr Lindstrom said a theft could happen to any art museum, but the Art Gallery of SA's risk management system was continually being refined and would be reviewed following the NSW theft. The gallery spends about $500,000 a year operating its security systems and regularly upgrades its security equipment, but details are not made public.

Mr Lindstrom said the Art Gallery was not a bank vault.

''We need to be welcoming,'' he said.

''We need to create a friendly atmosphere because half a million people are coming through the building each year. You don't want Nazi-style security guards. We don't have armed guards running around with submachine-guns like we see in some museums in Europe.''

ArtSA chief executive Greg Mackie said security had been upgraded at SA art and museum collections over the past four years, including increased CCTV monitoring and enhanced security guard presence.

Parliament House in Canberra has a major collection of modern art worth around $60 million. Most is on display in public areas.

OUR MASTERPIECES

* In the art world, size doesn't matter.

There are several paintings on display in the Art Gallery of South Australia that, while small in size, are rightly regarded as masterpieces. While galleries do not put a monetary value on their artworks, each of these would be worth over a million dollars.

* How we lost poor Flossie was painted on a cigar box lid by Charles Conder and is just 25 x 9cm.

* Boy with white scarf (top left) is a rare early painting by British artist Lucian Freud, and is one of the Gallery's treasures of British art. It is 41 x 31cm.

* Head of a youth (top right) is thought to be the only painting by France's Theodore Gericault in Australia.

Painted in 1821, it is 46 x 38cm.

* Coco (The Artist's youngest son, Claude) (above). A 41 x 32cm painting by famous French impressionist Auguste Renoir.