Movies and TV shows have successfully romanticised art crimes. I think not one woman would complain if Neil Caffrey broke into their homes. White Collar has made art crime very sexy. Movies like The Thomas Crown Affair, etc. also adds to the attraction. Most people agree that art crime is a ‘victimless’ crime. Well, yes and no.
Yes, because if we work on the assumption that no one was home while Neil stole the Picasso and Van Gogh, indeed nobody got hurt (physically). Except maybe for the insurance company. No, because the real crime is the loss of cultural heritage. We can all agree on that. And we can debate this topic for a long time on how many other ways it hurts us individually and as a society. There are much more sinister reasons too for different kinds of art crimes.
But let’s stay on the fun side of this. Or… the Hollywood side of it. If you were to become an art criminal, what would you choose? Forgery? Ninja-type cat-burglary? I thought it was acceptable enough to make Colin that kind of thief. It seems harmless enough, especially since he steal back illegally acquired artworks. I does call himself ‘the art re-appropriator’.
So, one of my ‘favourite’ art crimes is one that happened in 1990. In the early hours of St Patrick’s day, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts were robbed of numerous masterworks, including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet. And till today it remains a whodunit. The FBI is quoted to say that they have been aggressively investigating the Gardner heist for 22 years. I smiled when I read that. Really? Aggressively? And by now it’s kinda embarrassing for them.
Well, on that day. two Neil-types dressed themselves up as police officers and smooth-talked their way into the museum. They then duct taped (seems like essential heist equipment!) and handcuffed the guards. Where? In the basement. I mean, how much more Hollywood does this get, right? Well, the thieves took their time and spend something between 60 and 90 minutes making art theft history. This is an especially bad heist since the museum didn’t have any insurance at that time. It’s also bad because they actually cut some of those works out of the frames – this made me cringe.
There have been many theories. Of course. One theory states that it was the IRA. Yes, the IRA! One of my favourites came out the beginning of last year when the finger was pointed at a 75-year old mobster from Connecticut. It’s at this point that I really start giggling. I really, truly love a good conspiracy theory, but when it involves faux-police, masterpieces and the Mob? Yeah, now I’m laughing. It’s just so cool, that I’m tempted to write something like this into one of Genevieve’s adventures. Seriously, art imitates live because the truth is truly stranger than fiction. There is no ending to this tale, though. No one has been caught. Yet.