Abstract
We study the incentives that museums face in determining how much resources to invest in the protection of their artwork from theft. We present and analyze a gametheoretic model of art heists that accounts for the strategic interactions between museums’ and art thieves’ decisions and that incorporates several key features of the black market for stolen art. We find that the equilibrium level of security museums choose need not be monotonic in the true market value or the black market value of artwork, i.e., increasing the value of an art piece—whether it is the true market value or the black market value—does not necessarily lead museums to invest more in protecting their artwork. The effects of parameter changes in the model that reflect a shift of public policy depend critically on what type of policy change is considered. For instance, an increase in the penalty imposed for committing art theft cannot raise the amount of theft in equilibrium and could in fact lead museums to increase their level of security. On the other hand, investing more resources on law enforcement agencies so that they are better able to solve art crimes can actually increase the amount of theft in equilibrium by causing museums to spend less on security.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
References
Amineddoleh, L. (2013). The role of museums in the trade of black market cultural heritage property. Art, Antiquity & Law, 18, 227–254.
Boser, U. (2009). Art’s shadowy underworld. U.S. News Digital Weekly, 1, 17.
Caesar, E. (2013). Too hot to handle (pp. 28–33). New York Times Magazine, November 17.
Chang, D. (2006). Stealing beauty: Stopping the madness of illicit art trafficking. Houston Journal of International Law, 28, 829–869.
Day, G. (2014). Explaining the art market’s thefts, frauds, and forgeries (and why the art market does not seem to care). Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law, 16, 457–495.
Lawrence, W., Bachmann, L., & von Stumm, M. (1988). Tracking recent trends in the international market for art theft. Journal of Cultural Economics, 12, 51–71.
Lee, D. (2010) It’s a steal: Why art remains a favourite among thieves. The Times, May 22.
Nicita, A., & Rizzolli, M. (2009). The economics of art thefts: Too much screaming over Munch’s the scream? Economic Papers, 28, 291–303.
Ozernoy, I. (2005). The art of the heist. U.S. News & World Report, 139, 42–44.
Acknowledgments
Comments and suggestions from anonymous referees of the journal are gratefully acknowledged.
Author information
Authors and Affiliations
Corresponding author
Ethics declarations
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Appendix
Appendix
Proof of Proposition 4
It is easy to find parameter values such that decreasing \(C_{\mathrm{h}}\) causes the museum to switch from low security to high security. To prove the second part of the proposition, consider first Case 1, where \(\alpha \le 1\delta \left( V\right)\). Suppose given the initial value of \(C_{\mathrm{h}}\), the museum chooses the high level of security. Inspection of the conditions stated in Proposition 1 shows that there are only two ways for this to occur:

\(\delta \left( V\right) V\ge \frac{d_{\mathrm{h}}+\gamma _{\mathrm{h}}p}{1\gamma _{\mathrm{h}}}\) and \(\delta \left( V\right) V\ge \frac{C_{\mathrm{h}}C_{\mathrm{l}}}{\gamma _{\mathrm{h}}\gamma _{\mathrm{l}}}\)

\(\frac{d_{\mathrm{l}}+\gamma _{\mathrm{l}}p}{1\gamma _{\mathrm{l}}}\le \delta \left( V\right) V\le \frac{d_{\mathrm{h}}+\gamma _{\mathrm{h}}p}{1\gamma _{\mathrm{h}}}\) and \(\delta \left( V\right) V\ge \frac{C_{\mathrm{h}}C_{\mathrm{l}}}{1\gamma _{\mathrm{l}}}\).
When the value of \(C_{\mathrm{h}}\) decreases, both conditions above will still hold, i.e., the museum would still prefer the high level of security. Therefore, the museum would not switch from high security to low security in this case.
Now, consider Case 2, when \(\alpha \ge 1\delta \left( V\right)\). It is obvious from Fig. 5 that a decrease in \(C_{\mathrm{h}}\) makes the regions in which the museum chooses the high security level bigger. Consequently, we could never have a situation in which the museum switches from the high security level to the low security level. \(\square\)
Proof of Proposition 5
The first part of Proposition 5 is straightforward to demonstrate. For the second part, first note that changing the value of \(C_{\mathrm{h}}\) has no effect on the thief’s equilibrium strategy since \(C_{\mathrm{h}}\) does not enter into the thief’s payoffs. Now, suppose to the contrary we observe no heist given \(C_{\mathrm{h}}=c_{2}\) and see a heist given \(C_{\mathrm{h}}=c_{1}\). Whether we are in Case 1 or 2, the only way this could happen—given that changing \(C_{\mathrm{h}}\) does not alter the thief’s equilibrium strategy—is for the SPE of the game to switch from \(\left( h\text {, Steal, No Steal}\right)\) given \(C_{\mathrm{h}}=c_{2}\) to \(\left( l\text {, Steal, No Steal}\right)\) given \(C_{\mathrm{h}}=c_{1}\). However, Proposition 4 tells us that this cannot happen; therefore, the second part of Proposition 5 must be true. \(\square\)
Proof of Proposition 7
To see this, note that the conditions given in Propositions 1 and 3 imply the following, whether we are in Case 1 (\(\alpha \le 1\delta \left( V\right)\)) or Case 2 (\(\alpha \ge 1\delta \left( V\right)\)).

If \(\left( h\text {, Steal, Steal}\right)\) is a SPE given \(p=p_{1}\), then \(\left( h\text {, Steal, Steal}\right)\), \(\left( l\text {, Not Steal, Not Steal}\right)\), \(\left( h\text {, Steal, Not Steal}\right)\), or \(\left( l\text {, Steal, Not Steal}\right)\) is a SPE given \(p=p_{2}\).

If \(\left( l\text {, Steal, Steal}\right)\) is a SPE given \(p=p_{1}\), then \(\left( l\text {, Steal, Steal}\right)\), \(\left( l\text {, Not Steal, Not Steal}\right)\), \(\left( h\text {, Steal, Not Steal}\right)\), or \(\left( l\text {, Steal, Not Steal}\right)\) is a SPE given \(p=p_{2}\).

If \(\left( l\text {, Not Steal, Not Steal}\right)\) is a SPE given \(p=p_{1}\), then \(\left( l\text {, Not Steal, Not Steal}\right)\) is a SPE given \(p=p_{2}\).

If \(\left( h\text {, Steal, Not Steal}\right)\) is a SPE given \(p=p_{1}\), then \(\left( h\text {, Steal, Not Steal}\right)\) or \(\left( l\text {, Not Steal, Not Steal}\right)\) is a SPE given \(p=p_{2}\).

If \(\left( l\text {, Steal, Not Steal}\right)\) is a SPE given \(p=p_{1}\), then \(\left( l\text {, Steal, Not Steal}\right)\) or \(\left( l\text {, Not Steal, Not Steal}\right)\) is a SPE given \(p=p_{2}\).
These derivations tell us that it is not possible to have a situation in which no heist occurs in equilibrium given \(p=p_{1}\), while a heist occurs in equilibrium given \(p=p_{2}\). \(\square\)
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Chen, F., Regan, R. Arts and craftiness: an economic analysis of art heists. J Cult Econ 41, 283–307 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s1082401692696
Received:
Accepted:
Published:
Issue Date:
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s1082401692696
Keywords
 Art heists
 Museums
 Art thieves
 Black market
JEL Classification
 Z11