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Ecclesiastical Urges Vigilance After Activists Target Iconic Artwork

Following a recent incident in which climate activists smashed the glass cover of The Rokeby Venus at the National Gallery in Central London, Ecclesiastical Insurance is urging brokers to advise their heritage, arts, and culture clients to remain vigilant in protecting their artwork and exhibits.

Two activists from Just Stop Oil were arrested this week for suspected criminal damage after they used safety hammers to shatter the glass protecting Diego Velazquez’s iconic painting, raising concerns about the safety of artworks housed in cultural institutions.

Ecclesiastical, an insurer of Grade I listed buildings in the UK, has called on brokers to educate their clients about the importance of taking proactive steps to protect artwork and exhibits from potential attacks.

In an emailed news release, customer segment director Faith Kitchen emphasized the significance of safeguarding Britain’s heritage and suggested several security measures that institutions can implement to prevent similar incidents in the future.

“Inspecting bags at entrances and exits and installing proximity alarm systems can help to deter attackers,” she said. “It is also vital that staff and volunteers are trained to recognize and report unusual visitor behavior.”

In addition to these measures, introducing a visitor behavior code, protecting valuable paintings with glazed panels, and roping off items of significant value were also suggested to enhance security.

Ecclesiastical further emphasized the importance of restricting visitor numbers, maintaining CCTV systems, ensuring adequate lighting, and conducting regular checks of artwork conditions.

“Brokers have an important role to play in helping their clients identify and manage the risks they face,” Kitchen said. “We encourage brokers to speak to their clients about the need to be vigilant and to review their security arrangements.”

Just Stop Oil posted a video of the activists smashing the glass protecting the Valazquez painting on X, formerly known as Twitter. It referenced a previous incident in which the painting was vandalized by suffragette Mary Richardson in 1914.

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