Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Artwork Heist True Story

Early on the early morning of Sunday, March 18, 1990, two adult males dressed as law enforcement officers and armed with pistols entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, tied up the protection guards, and used the subsequent 81 minutes eliminating artwork from the museum’s galleries. They left the making with is effective by Degas, Rembrandt, Vermeer—in total 13 pieces now valued at $500 million.

It was the greatest theft from a museum in fashionable heritage, and even with an ongoing three-ten years-extended investigation and a $10 million reward for info that leads to the return of the stolen work, no suspects have been arrested and none of the art returned.

Filmmakers Colin and Nick Barnicle, who grew up in a city right outdoors of Boston, expended 7 a long time interviewing witnesses, suspects, investigators, and art globe industry experts for their new documentary, This is a Robbery: The World’s Largest Art Heist, which debuts tonight on Netflix. The 4-aspect collection lays out in fascinating depth how the criminal offense took position, current developments in the investigation, and the myriad theories and suspects the FBI and other investigators have pursued and deserted over the many years.

“There are so a lot of components that make this case unique,” Colin, who directed the series and served as co-government producer with his brother, Nick, advised T&C. “The individuals, the spot, but most of all simply because it was Boston in the 1990s.”

The Criminal offense

Two robbers dressed as law enforcement officers rang the bell at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and claimed they were being responding to a claimed crack-in. At the time inside of, they advised the guard, “This is a theft.”


Every person agrees on at minimum some of the details. The theft took place on a chaotic getaway weekend when local police experienced their fingers full overseeing the St. Patrick’s Working day parade and accompanying celebrations.

The robbers have been familiar with the museum’s format as well as its stability protocols, even though to what amount of depth is even now debated. They took some of the Gardner’s rarest paintings, but also grabbed items of lesser worth, which includes an ancient Chinese beaker and a bronze Napoleon-period finial.

Witnesses and Persons of Interest

myles connor
Myles Connor, a area art thief who was in jail at the time of the theft, spoke to filmmakers at length about the criminal offense.


“A great deal of folks assumed at to start with that it was a superior-brow Thomas Crown Affair–type factor,” mentioned Colin. “When you hear about a theft involving a Rembrandt or Vermeer, you imagine of global legal masterminds.”

But interest quickly turned to regional actors, among the them a notorious artwork thief named Myles Connor (he was in jail at the time of the theft), a gang of small-degree drug dealers that operated out of a operate-down automobile human body shop in Dorchester, customers of the Italian mob and the IRA, and even some of the guards who worked at the museum.

The Barnicles interviewed hundreds of people today for the sequence, such as previous guards, artwork specialists, and suspects.“Boston is these types of a small town that if you stay in this article it is type of inevitable that you will know anyone who was somehow associated in the situation. We’d talk to a person human being and they’d say, ‘Have you talked to so and so?’”

The Theories

A boggling aspect of the circumstance is that none of the stolen artwork has resurfaced. For the reason that the theft obtained so substantially interest, the operates would have been challenging to fence, but if the motive for the crime was to make funds, it would be realistic to assume after all this time has handed that at least just one or two pieces would switch up on the black sector.

Some of the most intriguing sections of the series are focused to checking out other feasible motives for theft. The filmmakers flew to Northern Eire to interview specialists common with IRA operations about a concept involving investing artwork for guns. They spoke to arranged criminal offense experts about the probability that the art was stolen to be utilised as a bargaining chip to minimize the sentence of imprisoned mobsters.

“Researching the case was like finding out the game of chess,” suggests Barnicle, “The a lot more you know about it, the more options you see.” And though This is a Theft sheds gentle on which theories are more possible than some others, the filmmakers have been mindful not to draw last conclusions. “I really do not believe you can say the scenario is solved till the art is uncovered.”

The Aftermath

isabella stewart gardner museum
Empty frames in the museum’s Dutch Room.

Boston GlobeGetty Photos

The Gardner Museum, a beloved but lesser-acknowledged establishment, observed itself quickly in a spotlight of worldwide attention soon after the robbery. Its executives decided to rehang the vacant frames the robbers remaining strewn on the gallery floors “as a placeholder for the lacking will work and as symbols of hope awaiting their return.” At any time due to the fact, a take a look at to the museum (and not long ago its web-site, as well) features an face with the gatherings and repercussions of a evening 30 yrs back.

The theft also introduced focus to Boston’s then substantial and remarkably varied legal base. “One of the matters I hope persons will take absent from the series is what a outrageous confluence of actually substantial art and reduced and reduced crime this was,” states Barnicle. “This was quintessential Boston, 1990, I do not feel it could have occurred any where else and if it did the robbers would have been caught prolonged ago.”

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