Today, March 18, 2015, marks the 25th anniversary of the art theft at the Gardner Museum in Boston. Even though the FBI told us a couple of years ago it knew who did it in truth it had no clue. Its futile guess probably had the real culprits rolling in laughter if they are still with us.
The problem with the FBI investigation is it got off on the wrong track and has been chugging away on it until the present time. It figured the heist was carried out by local hoodlums. It started by looking at Whitey, Myles Connor, and other local guys including some associated with an auto repair shop in Dorchester. Those latter were involved in dealing drugs and hot cars but really had nothing to do with art work.
The first and most obvious clue the FBI missed in going after the usual suspects was that this was not a usual art museum robbery. I figured that out. There was also one person in the FBI who also did. Lynne Richardson, who manages the FBI’s National Stolen Art File, is reported to believe the Gardner theft as unique in modern American history, because it involved planning, disguises, and deception. She is quoted as saying: ”This is the way they rob museums in Europe, not the United States, ‘so (the paintings) could be right there or way across the ocean.”
The selection of items stolen pointed to an involvement of someone with a certain sophistication in art as well as the suggestion that most of the stolen items were picked out prior to the theft. 13 pieces were stolen from three different areas. In the blue room on the first floor a small painting, Edouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni which was in a room among many others.
In the Short Gallery on the second floor five sketches on paper by Edgar Degas were removed, three portrayed horse racing or horses. A pretty worthless eagle ornament from on top of a flag was also take. The last room in which items were taken was the Dutch room also on the second floor. In there a 12th Century BC Chinese beaker was removed which was on the table next to Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee which was cut from the frame. Also taken were Rembrandt’s A Lady and Gentleman in Black and Rembrandt’s tiny etching Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man that was hardly larger than a postage stamp.(A larger framed self-portrait by Rembrandt was removed from the wall but left behind.)
Also taken from the Dutch room were: “Landscape with an Obelisk” once attributed to Rembrandt but actually painted by his pupil Govaert Flinck that was sitting on a table top as well as what was considered the most valuable of the paintings: Vermeer’s, The Concert which was sitting on the same table top, back to back, to Flinck’s painting.
I suggest you throw out the Chinese beaker and the eagle emblem that were probably taken as souvenirs and assume the Flinck was thought to be a Rembrandt, then you have thieves that sought 1 Manet, 1 Vermeer, 5 Degas, and 4 Rembrandt’s. Not your everyday thieves.
These were targeted paintings by someone who wanted them. The heist was planned to get them. Too many other valuable paintings and art objects were ignored to suggest other than well thought out planning. Not only was the theft well planned but so was the ultimate way in which the stolen goods were to reach their destination.
Yet her FBI continues to act as if some local hoodlums on the east coast with no knowledge of art pulled it off. Under its recently retired SAC it announced that it had a pretty good idea who did it. As it would turn out that was a lie.