Readers of the blog will recall our view of Master Thieves: the Boston Gangesters Who Pulled off the World's Greatest Art Heist by Stephen Kurkjian. Kurkjian's book is the definitive work on the 1990 robbery of several masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and explores--and dispels--numerous aspects of the infamous case.
Refreshingly, March 18 passed this year without the usual breathless maybe-it’s-about-to-turn-up coverage that has often been manufactured each year on the anniversary of the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist of 1990. That theft, which remains on the short list of civic and public crimes against Boston, remains unsolved. After what seemed like a real development last year: the disclosure of the surveillance tape of the night before the theft and a possible dry run by the criminals, news has been scarce. Notwithstanding a few tipsters seemingly intent on paraphrasing Danny Ocean’s “I know a guy” speech in Ocean’s Eleven, the tape release has not managed to warm a cold trail.
Well that didn’t take long.
Just a few days after the FBI released vintage security video footage from the night before the infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, a lawyer has told the FBI that a former client called him to claim that he can identify a man seen in the footage. It bears noting that there are two shots showing a man in the new footage (one inside, one outside), and no indication of whether they are the same person. Regardless, George G. Burke of Quincy said that his former client was in the antiques business, and that the anonymous client knows a man in the video from that industry.
As we have often lamented, real news in the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist has been rare, with coverage far more often manufactured around anniversary dates. Last week was an exception at least from the public’s standpoint when the FBI released video footage from the museum the day before the robbery in an effort to solicit the public’s assistance. The FBI posited that the men seen in the video may have been engaged in a trial run for the eventual theft, in which the thieves pretended to be police officers to gain entry to the museum after hours. Most of the recent efforts by law enforcement have focused on Robert Gentile, whom authorities have accused of having information concerning the paintings’ whereabouts. Gentile has consistently denied knowing anything, and has spent time in prison that might have been avoided had he revealed information. Gentile most recently accused the FBI of entrapment, and no progress on that front seems particularly likely, but this approach is a notable shift.
Topics: Robert Gentile, Gardner Heist, Emerald Necklace, Mission Hill, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, FBI, Steven Kurkjian, Richard Jewell, Huntington Avenue, Museums, Master Thieves: the Boston Gangsters who Pulled of, Frederick Law Olmstead, Museum of Fine Arts
Robert Gentile, whom the FBI has claimed has knowledge of the whereabouts of the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, has moved to dismiss the indictment against him on firearms possession charges. He argues that the current investigation was manufactured solely to pressure him into cooperating with the Gardner investigation, and is unconstitutional as a result. He faces a tall task, but he has raised a few colorable constitutional issues.
In a rare development not manufactured to coincide with the anniversary of the March 18, 1990 theft of thirteen paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a man was arrested this week who has been identified previously by the FBI as a “person of interest” in the theft. So has there been a break in the case? Not really, but the details bear scrutiny. If, as a judge was told by the prosecution, Robert Gentile had been recorded offering to sell the paintings for $500,000, it would be a major breakthrough (and remarkable, given that a $5 million reward is available). But the recording has not been made public, and the FBI has greatly overstated the certainty of various players' involvement before, so the view here is skeptical until further evidence.
Topics: Robert Gentile, Gardner Heist, Robert Guarente, Stephen Kurkjian, John Kerry, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, FBI, Bobby Donati, A. Ryan McGuigan, George Reissfelder, Breitbart.com, Vinnie Ferrara, Museums, Associated Press, Master Thieves: the Boston Gangsters who Pulled of, David Turner, Breitbart, Museum of Fine Arts
Last year we called shenanigans on the seemingly-random, but actually predictable “updates” about March 18 1990 theft of paintings by Rembrandt, Manet, and others from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Our point last year was simple: the manufactured stories about what the FBI claims to know (“confirmed sightings” and the supposed identity of the supposed thief) are worse than no news. The FBI has no idea where those paintings are, and I am highly skeptical of the FBI’s claims to know who did it. It’s theoretically possible that protecting the identity of a dead thief would be important to an ongoing investigation, but that presupposes that there is anything going on. I am unpersuaded that anything new has happened in years.
Reflecting on the recent argument by the Detroit Institute of Arts that the city of Detroit cannot legally sell, let alone be forced to sell, the artwork in the museum to satisfy creditor, some overlapping terminology creates the possibility of an important confusion. Particularly in the realm of deaccessioning, this distinctions are quite important. Meanwhile, the state of Michigan today approved its part of the “Grand Bargain” to subsidize the bankruptcy to avoid sale or encumbrance of the artwork.
Topics: Donn Zaretsky, Roberta Smith, Rose Art Museum, Lee Rosenbaum, Columbia University, Deaccessioning, Detroit Institute of Arts, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Association of Art Museum Directors, Michigan, Albright-Knox Gallery, New York Times, Detroit Bankruptcy, AAMD, Edward Hopper, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, grand bargain, Brandeis University, Barnes Foundation
The FBI said today that the bureau has received “confirmed” sightings of the works of art stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Thieves dressed as police robbed the museum of thirteen major works of art on March 18, 1990, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet. Read carefully, however, the story is nothing new at all, just a retelling of last year’s “news” released around the anniversary of the theft and a raft of conjecture.
Topics: Gardner Heist, Philadelphia, Robert Guarente, Degas, and Robert Gentile, Carmello Merlino, The Storm on the Sea of Gallilee, Manet Richard DesLauriers, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston Globe, FBI, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Museums, Special Agent Geoff Kelly, La Cosa Nostra
To paraphrase the famous Saturday Night Live skit about General Francisco Franco: this just in: Museum members and supporters still cannot go to court to challenge the administration of the institution. The Barnes Foundation has defeated the latest challenge to its right to move from its original home in Lower Merion outside of Philadelphia to its new home in the center of the city. The relocation will go forward.