On the morning of March 18, 1990, 13 works of art were stolen from the Isabel Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston, and are still missing. The four-part documentary series, “The Greatest Art Theft in History” (Original: “This Is a Robbery”), traces the whereabouts of the works and follows numerous pieces of evidence from the 30-year history of the investigation. Here are five of the most intriguing details from a documentary on Nigo art theft.
1) Inner knowledge and bangling
Two robbers, disguised as police, deceived security officers at around 1am and then tied them up in the basement, pretending to know the way around the museum on one side: they had access to a secret passageway, took 81 minutes to loot, and then stole surveillance video and print detectors’ printouts.
On the other hand, the handling of the artwork was extremely brutal: most of the paintings were cut off from the frame (which could lead to a loss of value) and in the end the criminals spent some time unfurling the Napoleon flag. The 13 works of art stolen – including paintings and drawings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet – are valued at more than $ 500 million. They were not included in the Gardner Museum’s most valuable properties, and exhibit the works of Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian.
2) Dr. No-Theory
Among the stolen items are valuable and art-historically significant works: for example, The Concert, by Vermeer, a painter with only 37 paintings left around the world, and Rembrandt’s only beach, “Christ the Sea of Galilee.” Police and the FBI were surprised by the stolen items, meanwhile “Dr. No theory. “Bond film” 007 Dr. No “, borrowed from 1962, is based on an oil baron or billionaire who can accurately deploy these works.
As a Scotland Yard agent explains in the documentary, such theories make no significant sense: a thief team, driven solely by financial motives, will always betray the client, given the amount of the advertised reward. In the case of the Boston art theft, the reward for the clues that led to the discovery of pirated art has now risen to tens of millions of US dollars.
3) Miles Connor: Musician, art thief, son of a cop
The police investigation soon led to a man who repeatedly appeared as an art thief in Massachusetts since the 1960s: Miles J., the son of a respected police officer and a member of the High IQ Referee Association and a musician. Repeated in the area with Connor Miles and The Wild Ones.
In “The Biggest Art Theft in History,” the 70-year-old describes his criminal life quite unbridled: he stole a Rembrandt in 1975, recalling a total of 30 raids. Also, the Gardner Museum was always on his bucket list (!) – but he was serving a prison sentence when the crime took place. However, the documentary series repeatedly suggests that Connor, who had links to the Italian mafia in Boston, may have been involved in the planning of the law.
4) Art and immunity
Art is a good taboo and international currency, explains a Scotland Yard agent familiar with Boston art theft in “The Greatest Art Theft in History”. The investigation soon led to organized crime in Boston, which was mainly perpetrated by Irish and Italian mafias at the time of the crime. According to a thesis in the documentary series discussed in detail, pirated art was targeted in these circles because it could be used as a means of discussion in current and threatening cases against mafia members.
The aforementioned Miles Connor had already proven this to reduce his prison sentence repeatedly by returning the stolen artwork. A documentary in the documentary series suggests that Bobby Donati, a member of the Boston Art Stealing Mafia, was commissioned by the gang to imprison Vincent Ferrara earlier in prison. But before Donatik could negotiate, he died in the trunk of his car. The majority of men allegedly involved in art theft died violent deaths in subsequent years, the documentary series reveals.
5) Blank frames for reminders
To date, 13 works of art from the Gardner Museum are thought to have been lost, and ulations of their whereabouts lead to trade from Jamaica to Ireland and France to Saudi Arabia. In the documentary series, a Boston journalist even expresses grief that the artwork may have been ruined because the goods are “too hot”.
Meanwhile, you can visit several other exhibits at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, as well as blank frames instead of paintings stolen in the 1990s. It can be interpreted as a symbolic act that echoes hope and warning. The situation owes much to the will of Isabel Stewart Gardner, the art collector who built the museum in a swamp in the late nineteenth century: in which he ordered that the collection should remain unchanged in its arrangement. That is why the museum does not sell any of the works it has bought to date and keeps its space free for stolen works.
The four-part documentary series “The Best Art Theft in History” is available on Netflix from April 7, 2021.