Don’t Become a Victim of Art Theft

Theft can happen at any time to an artist, before a show or festival, during, or after an event. Your work or your money might be taken from your vehicle, or the vehicle itself could be stolen. Thieves quite often target artists who make high-end jewelry, seeking to get their hands on precious metals and gems.


Jewelry Shoppers


Usually they strike during show breakdown, while the artist is walking back to their hotel with inventory, or at a meal stop while traveling back home, according to an extensive report on theft prevention strategies published by CERF+, an article filled with important information on how to protect yourself and your inventory from these predators.

CERF’s report contains multiple checklists, covering everything from planning to travel to a show, to procedures to follow during exhibition, and even steps to take if a crime has been committed. Some of the highlights are:

  • Design your booth display so that you have sight lines to all areas, with no blind spots.
  • Attach artwork to your display securely so that it would take a lot of effort to remove it
  • Have a booth assistant, or plan to have coverage at all times, even during your breaks
  • Keep all money on your person, by using a “fanny pack” or lockbox that is secured to the display and cannot be easily removed
  • Cover your booth securely at night between show days
  • Don’t turn your back on a customer or leave them alone with merchandise
  • During non-show hours, use secure lockups provided by show producers
  • Keep an inventory record stored online, including art images
  • Keep valuables in your trunk rather than inside your vehicle, and disable the trunk release lever
  • Park close to your travel destinations in well-lighted public areas
  • Install a security deadbolt on your studio door – and put locks on windows
  • Use an alarm system in your studio, with security cameras if necessary
  • Understand your insurance coverage clearly
  • If robbed, do not resist, but cooperate to avoid physical harm
  • Get witness names and contact information, and call the police immediately after a theft has taken place

CERF’s report also lists resources for artists to read about taking even more security measures.

Harriete Estel Berman, an expert noted in the article, has also addressed the role of security precautions that artists should take to protect their artwork and cash at events, from exhibitions to festivals to open studios.

She notes that coverage for loss is imperative and asks, “Will we ever see the benefit of insurance? Hopefully not. Should we buy insurance? Yes. Insurance is an invisible assurance that if anything goes wrong we have a plan for protection.”

Do you have adequate insurance for your studio and inventory, and liability coverage in the event that a customer is injured during an in-studio event? If you don’t or are unsure, contact your insurance agent promptly to obtain quotes and make arrangements to protect your business and your property.

Becoming a victim of theft of your work can be devastating to an artist, sometimes resulting in loss of the business. Taking precautions can stop or minimize theft of your work, and help you recover from the loss if you are victimized.


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  1. Just received this email from weaver Carol Larsen in response to the article:

    There is another semi-precaution I highly recommend since I teach all about preventing theft at shows I attend…take photos of your complete booth after set-up, each morning, and each evening, section by section.
    Due to someone who “thought” she was helping “me” not once but at two shows…leaving the broken down booth unattended resulting in theft. The photos were proof…although my insurance was a huge pain in the arse…I had the photos. And I have since labeled all my packing materials with fluorescent pink duct tape in writing – PROPERTY OF…. because there were cameras but due to my packing materials being identical to others, couldn’t prove if what someone was carrying was from my booth or someone else’s. It was painful.

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