On Monday, March 18, the art world was galvanized by the information that the FBI has identified the perpetrators in the $500 million art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Investigators have long been baffled for decades over the theft.
In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990 the robbers entered the museum and tied up two night watchmen. Once in, they roamed the galleries with impunity, picking off the cream of the fabulous collection. The robbery was not discovered until the next morning.
The stolen works include: Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633), A Lady and Gentleman in Black (1633) and a Self Portrait (1634), an etching on paper; Vermeer’s The Concert (1658–1660); and Govaert Flinck’s Landscape with an Obelisk (1638); and a Chinese vase or Ku, all taken from the Dutch Room on the second floor. Also stolen from the second floor were five works on paper by the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas and a finial from the top of a pole support for a Napoleonic silk flag, both from the Short Gallery. Edouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni (1878–1880) was taken from the Blue Room on the first floor.
A decade ago, an attempt was made to sell some of the 13 artworks, including three Rembrandts, a Vermeer, a portrait by Edouard Manet, and sketches by Renoir. But the location of the stolen masterworks is still unknown.
Richard DesDesLauriers, special agent in charge of the Boston office of the FBI, said that "the probe “accelerated” in 2010 and “crucial pieces of evidence” were developed identifying the robbers and their associates.
“The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence in the years after the theft the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft. With that confidence, we have identified the thieves, who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England,” stated DesLauriers,
DesLauriers added that because the investigation is continuing it would be “imprudent” to disclose their names or the name of the criminal organization. He said the probe was in its “final chapter.”
Officials are seeking help from the public and will be launching a massive public awareness campaign that will stretch beyond New England. Among the exposure tactics will be a dedicated FBI website, video postings on FBI social media sites, digital billboards, and a podcast. To view and listen to these items, visit the FBI’s new webpage about the theft: www.FBI.gov/gardner.
There is a $5 million reward for information on the whereabouts of the missing art. The statute of limitations has run out on the robbers, and they might be granted immunity for other charges, such as possessing the stolen paintings.
Arts journalist Lee Rosenbaum, who writes the art blog "Culture Grrl" added further details about Boston Globe reporter Milton Valencia‘s Twitter feed from the news conference. His tweets suggests that the hunt may be moving to Philadelphia.
Special Agent Geoffrey Kelly, who is the lead investigator in the case nd a member of the Art Crime Team. “In the past, people who realize they are in possession of stolen art have returned the art in a variety of ways, including through third parties, attorneys, and anonymously leaving items in churches or at police stations.”
If you have a tip, call : 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324). Or you can go to this website: https://tips.fbi.gov. In addition, the press release gives you permission to “contact…the museum directly or through a third party.” Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.