Банкеръ Weekly



Climbing scaffolding and smashing a window early Sunday (May 11), thieves slipped into Vienna's Art History Museum and - despite high-tech motion sensors and round-the-clock guards - disappeared with a 16th-century gold-plated masterpiece sculpted by Benvenuto Cellini. The stealthy and stunning heist was one of the biggest art thefts in Europe in recent years. The intricate, 10-inch-high sculpture, known as the Saliera, or salt cellar, is valued at about USD57MN. Museum director Wilfried Seipel called the piece the Mona Lisa of sculptures. The masterpiece can hardly be sold on the official market for art objects, Mr. Seipel said. Moreover, it has been insured against theft!In that connection the BANKER weekly decided to investigate the matter concerning the insurance of art objects, of museums and cultural monuments, in Bulgaria. And it turned out there is no such thing (and there won't be). Most of the museum directors pray for God's mercy.The cultic old Thracian tomb in the village of Starosel (Hisarya region) has not been insured, although treasure-hunters do not bypass it. In fact, it was after forays of treasure-hunters that the State permitted the archeologist Dr. Georgi Kitov to make excavations and he discovered the most spectacular Thracian architectural monument. The tomb has been strengthened with nylon and planks. Now the keeper (who also sells entrance tickets, costing BGN2 for adults and BGN1 for children) can only keep her fingers crossed ...The National History Museum (NHM) has neither been ensured, nor can it be, the institution's Director Bozhidar Dimitrov specified. The problem is that the exponents, displayed at the NHM, are worth about USD7-8MN, he explained. The insurance premium is usually 1% of the object's value. Thus, USD70-80MN should be paid by the Ministry of Culture, but this amount is onerous for that institution. And which Bulgarian insurance company could pay compensations of that size? (However, DZI - ROSSEXIMBANK, is among NHM's sponsors.)But the NHM hardly needs insurance. The museum is housed in Home No1 of the Boyana Residence, in the close proximity of the living quarters of President Georgi Parvanov - the so-called Home No2. So, the NHM relies on the President's secutity guards and measures. There are also motion sensors in the garden in front of the museum, and its glass-cases have been studiously protected, Mr. Dimitrov explained. There are camaras all over the place and no thefts have been committed so far, nor exhibits have been damaged for any reason.But whenever a Bulgarian collection travels abroad or a foreign collection is displayed at the NHM (as the presently exhibited exponents from the State History Museum in Moscow, evaluated at USD2MN), the insurances for transportation and display are obligatory. The expenses for insurance premiums in such cases are undertaken by the host country. In our case this is rather a matter of State guarantees for compensation of eventual losses or damages. But of course, the NHM is not indicative of the situation everyhere in Bulgaria. The other museums really need to be insured, but they will hardly be able to afford that luxury in the near future. In the Archeological Institute and Museum (AIM) with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS), for example, articles worth almost as much as those in the NHM are kept, but with considerably poorer security measures. A member of AIM's former security guard - Sole Trader Python - Peter Petrov, stole 900 coins from the museum's collection in April 2002. Luckily, 80% of them were not so valuable, and the police succeeded to return everything that was stolen. Currently, the AIM relies on security alarming devices and on the security company Trio Stars, and on the camaras in the premises. The museum has no insurance as the money from the BAC is for salaries only. The other expenses are paid by AIM itself.The situation is similar at the Earth and People Museum. The idea about insurance sounds like a fantasy to the press attache Desislava Delibaltova. Till the autumn of 2001 when the building was repaired, its roof was leaking heavily - luckily in the offices and not in the hall where the exhibits are displayed. There have been no thefts at the AIM, Ms. Delibaltova said.

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