Photo: ta Nea
An old security system, unreliable alarm system and insufficient staff are just some of the irregularities found in the National Gallery, from which the only painting by Picasso was stolen. The painting "Female head" by Pablo Picasso, a landscape by the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian and a sketch by the Italian Guglielmo Caccia – il Moncalvo were taken after a burglary in the gallery on 14 January this year. After a thorough inspection, public administration supervisor Leandros Rakindzis made a report accurately describing the condition of the security system and indicating the weaknesses in the gallery management that had largely facilitated the thieves.
One of the weak points was the electronic security system, which had not been changed for 20 years. The last time it was updated was in 1992 for the "From El Greco to Cezanne" exhibition. Then, it was slightly upgraded in 2000. The supervisor’s report indicates that despite the technological development and the opportunities for improving the level of security, the security system has not been touched over the past 12 years. The exterior of the gallery has had many "blind" points that are not covered by the existing electronic security system.
Another omission found by supervisors was the lack of instruction or other established procedure that guards should follow in case of burglary and robbery in the gallery. There was neither a training course for the specific site nor specific instruction. Furthermore, the internal phone line of the gallery was not operating during the robbery and the guards were communicating with each other by their personal mobile phones. The gallery has no direct electronic connection either with the Ministry of Culture or with the local police department. At the time of the incident, museum employees informed the private security company Ermis about the burglary and it, in turn, called the police. There is no direct contact between the museum guards and the police.
It was also found out that the batteries of the alarm system at the National Gallery in Greece had expired, which just goes to prove the indifferent management of the institution. Because of the exhausted batteries, the alarm was activated for no reason like the boy, who cried “Wolf”. However, the batteries had not been replaced for months. The security tapes are old, have been used frequently and now, they rarely record or the image quality is so bad that nothing could be distinguished. The excuse Rakidzis came up with was that the Ministry of Culture could not buy new tapes for lack of funds.
There are 11 gallery guards in total - one of them has to stay in the cloakroom to take and give coats. Two others were redirected to the souvenir shop and another had to sell tickets. The other "guards" worked in shifts and if one of them is absent because of illness, the gallery remains with only one guard.