Unsolved Art Theft

The Gardner heist took place over 25 years ago, it is still unsolved and remains one of the robberies that hit the art world the hardest. To honour the anniversary of this huge upset, the Gardner Museum offers a virtual tour. There have been several magazines who have published the latest information regarding the case.

18 March 1990

According to the case files, it was 1:24 am that the guard was asked by two policemen to buzz them in at the Gardner Museum. Well, they looked like officers, yet once they gained access to the building, they ordered the guard to stay away from the emergency button, which was his only communication to the world outside. He got handcuffed and tied up with another guard in the basement. This gave the thieves around 81 minutes to raid the museum and grab some of the most valuable treasures. Outside a vehicle was waiting and when the day shift guard arrived, he found the empty spaces, the artwork missing includes five works by Edgar Degas, Storm on the Sea Galilee by Rembrandt, Chez Tortoni by Manet, and also The Concert by Vermeer. Empty frames were left behind after priceless art pieces were sliced from them.

Largest Art Heist Ever in the USA

Some of the artworks were collected during travels in the 1890’s through Europe, and this crime started a multinational investigation that included several private parties, the police and the FBI. Even today, it remains the largest robbery of art in the USA, and the value of the stolen art adds up to well over $600 million. No matter how many leads were followed up, more than twenty-three years later, none of the art pieces have been found. Every bit of new information led to great excitement, yet none paid off, art thieving is a major industry, and art theft reached up to $8 billion every year.

Gardner Museum Heist Still Baffle FBI Investigators

With so much planning and in all its complexity, what still baffles the FBI investigators is how crudely the heist of the Gardner museum was carried out, some of the most valuable art pieces were left behind, such as The Rape of Europe by Titian. Others such as two of the most valuable Rembrandts where simply sliced out of their frames, which indicates that the thieves might have been unaware of the damage and decrease in value. Some say they knew how to plan a robbery, yet they were completely art stupid. What makes this case super unusual is that after two decades not one of the stolen art pieces have resurfaced into the art market, the one theory is that all have been destroyed, while the Art Crime Team feels it still is in existence as such valuable art is hardly ever destroyed. Knowing the location is the get-a-reduced-sentence card any criminal would use in exchange for a lighter sentence. All hopes are still that one day the art would find their way back to where they belong.