John Richards reports that the San Diego Police Department and its Chief William Lansdowne are very, very, very upset and frustrated because my articles have informed the Vatican Museums and Vatican Publishing about weak security precautions and occasional alarm outages around the art museums in San Diego‘s Balboa Park. Do you know who is even more upset? Every Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto and Eastern Orthodox voter in San Diego who does not approve of inadequate funding to protect artwork which honors these religious traditions.
The Vatican is a sovereign state and is pursuing an effective diplomatic policy to secure the safety and proper care of religious art worldwide. Its commitment to the safety of art and its protection from damage during potential hostilities is especially important now when violent conflicts are changing local security forces in the Middle East. International accords actually give works of art and cultural heritage properties special rights. In the United States, works of art can be parties in civil litigation as described in the landmark case, “The United States vs. One Oil Painting by Pablo Picasso.”
Vatican experts have determined that the security of art in San Diego has been compromised by the frequent misuse of Spanish language translation and forensic analysis computer programs for documents that are actually in Italian. That is the tip of the iceberg; the computer programs used by the San Diego Police Department to determine potential risks to public safety could not identify the local law enforcement officer who crashed a patrol car into the window and showroom of Parkers Posters on Morena Boulevard while under the influence of alcohol and a controlled substance. The incident damaged nearly $ 1 million worth of art. This happened in June 2007 and was previously covered up by aggressive threats to press criminal charges for causing a public commotion. The Vatican, of course, cannot be intimidated in this heavy-handed manner.
I have written San Diego’s First Lady Rana Sampson, informing her of many additional risks to the security of art and collection management in San Diego. I am optimistic that in her dual role as San Diego Museum of Art director and First Lady of San Diego, she will be able to mobilize sufficient resources to have San Diego recognized as an example of best practices in art collection security. I will keep readers informed of her progress in this column. (That means if you do not read anything further on this subject, the Vatican’s worst fears have been confirmed.)
Americans for the Arts will have its annual meeting in San Diego soon, June 15 to 18. It is the ideal time to show the world that San Diego can become a world class art center.
This news has solved at least one mystery. Now everyone knows why the Museum of Biblical Art is in Dallas and not in San Diego.