This year, our Fine Art Specialist, Héloïse Decrocq-Mosnier, went to TEFAF, The European Fine Art Fair, the most famous art and antiques fair in the world which takes place in Maastricht from June 24 to 30. The 2022 session of this unmissable event will remain memorable for the quality of the works exhibited … and for the armed robbery that took place in the middle of the day, in full view of everyone. Our expert was a few meters away from the robbers and tells us about it.
First of all, what was the atmosphere like at this unmissable event before the robbery?
I arrived on Tuesday June 28. TEFAF seemed to me to be true to the image I had been given: a hushed atmosphere accentuating the very classy prestige of the works on display.
My Fine Art expert’s heart is filled, but my insurance expert’s eye twitches on some details: stands with absent staff, jewelry gallery exhibiting rings on the windows and not inside … All this is understandable, we are on the 4th day of TEFAF, the tension of the beginning has had time to fall.
Just before noon, I am at the exhibition level of the Gisèle Croës s.a. gallery, I discuss with an exhibitor who explains to me the principles of direct bronze cutting. My attention is focused on a repetitive thud (inwardly, I tell myself that someone must be fixing a particularly heavy work to a wall). The next moment my gaze is fixed on three men surrounding one, who is himself smashing one of the outside windows of exhibition n°229, Symbolic and Chase Gallery with a hammer!
So this is when the robbery takes place, in such an abrupt way?
Exactly, in front of everyone. The men are calm and methodical, almost serene, which makes the scene almost unreal. Yet I am not dreaming, I am helplessly witnessing a live robbery.
The scene lasts about 1 minute. The companions of the man with the hammer have handguns. They do not brandish them in an ostentatious way but do not hesitate to point them at a person trying to resist them. The shop window eventually shatters into pieces. The man with the hammer thrusts his arm inside and grabs several objects which he shoves into a black bag. Finally, the group runs away but without much panic.
How did the participants react?
A few seconds after the departure of the robbers, an impressive panic movement takes hold of the crowd. Dozens, then hundreds of people started to run, shouting and hurrying, towards the exit. The spectacle is unheard of and the movement of the crowd drags with it many people unaware of the initial reason for this emergency evacuation.
For my part, I do not move. Few of us know or understand that this panic is due to a robbery.
What are your thoughts at this moment?
My first thought is simply this: if everyone leaves in a hurry, who will look after the exhibits? What if the robbery isn’t over yet? No, I’m not leaving. I stay. I’m watching. The surrounding panic does not affect me. I feel safer inside a booth than in the middle of a frightened crowd!
Obviously, my thoughts quickly turn to the role of the insurance company in this robbery. While I’m thinking about it, I hope with all my heart that the Symbolic and Chase gallery has adequate Fine Art insurance coverage:
Is the exhibition risk covered? Is there a sub-limit? A deductible? Any exclusions? Have the security rules been respected? I can already imagine the insurer assailing the Gallery with questions, still traumatized by this terrible mishap… The presence of a competent broker specialized in Fine Art seems to me, in this situation, quite indispensable!
The broker is a real relay and a support of every moment for his client. He reveals all the more his value and his skills in the way he handles claims.
How did the organization of the event (re)take things in hand?
At 11:50, the thieves have left, the crowd has subsided and only a small group of people remain in TEFAF who, like me, have chosen to stay inside the MECC. No one will ask us to leave. Very quickly, the security organization marks out a security area around the broken window. Three agents are posted in front of the exhibition and grey screens are brought in to hide the scene and let the experts work.
At 1pm, TEFAF resumes its course with access once again completely open. On everyone’s lips, a single subject, the robbery. Exchanges of photos / videos of the event abound.
The rest of my day is uneventful as I continue to enjoy TEFAF with a friend and former classmate. I will remember for a long time this 2022 session of TEFAF which, through this episode, puts the issue of art insurance at the heart of the discussions and debates!
PSPI wishes good luck to all the human and technical ecosystem that will be put in place to allow the Symbolic and Chase Gallery to recover from this terrible event and to resume their wonderful work as soon as possible.
(cover picture: Huffigton Post)