The Economics of Masterpieces' Thefts: Too Much Screaming Over Munch’s Scream?

A Journal of Applied Economics and Policy, Forthcoming

Posted: 16 Feb 2010 Last revised: 20 May 2011

See all articles by Antonio Nicita

Antonio Nicita

University of Siena - Department of Economics

Matteo Rizzolli

LUMSA University

Date Written: February 5, 2010

Abstract

The theft of Munch’s the Scream in 2004 fired up a debate over museums’ protection policies because of the low level of security and the lack of any insurance against theft. In this paper we provide a rationale for the choices made by the Much's museum. More generally, we show how diverting expenses in security and insurance to investments over the notoriousness of their collections reinforces the protection of Museums' properties. This is because of two counterintuitive effects: i) investments in precautions, while reducing thieves profits, may adversely attract them towards works of art of higher value; (b) insurance may actually increase the incentive to steal art for the purpose of ransom. Owners may take a third way: investing in famousness as this also reduces thieves' profit. The museum thus acts as a protection device by reducing the post-theft value of masterpieces, and under certain assumptions, this policy qualifies for being more cost-effective than precautions and/or insurance.

Keywords: Theft, Protection, Cutural Economics, Law and Economics

JEL Classification: K42, H23

Suggested Citation

Nicita, Antonio and Rizzolli, Matteo, The Economics of Masterpieces' Thefts: Too Much Screaming Over Munch’s Scream? (February 5, 2010). A Journal of Applied Economics and Policy, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1553095

Antonio Nicita

University of Siena - Department of Economics ( email )

Piazza S. Francesco, 7
Siena, I-53100
Italy

Matteo Rizzolli (Contact Author)

LUMSA University ( email )

Via Pompeo Magno
Roma, Rome 00191
Italy

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
369
PlumX Metrics