March 30, 2010

Twenty Years and Counting: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Theft

The following is a review of IFAR's 15 March 2010 conference on the 20th anniversary of the Gardner theft written by Johanna Devlin of ARCA's postgraduate program in International Art Crime Studies Class of 2010.

Twenty Years and Counting: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Theft

Monday March 15, 2010: Twenty years after the single largest art heist in history, people like me, interested in art crime stories, gathered together in New York for the conference organized by the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) which “celebrated” the 20th anniversary of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft.

Four speakers brought their expertise on the case.

The conference began with excerpts of the film “Stolen” presented by the producer, Rebecca Dreyfus. These excerpts provided a great introduction for the speakers as they set the context very well, presenting the main protagonists of the case, from Isabella Stewart Gardner's vision to the investigators and possible suspects.
More information about the film/documentary can be found on www.stolenthefilm.com.

Anthony Amore, Director of Security at the Museum followed Dreyfus’s discussion. He supported his presentation with exclusive photos of the theft. These photos let the audience examine the damage perpetrated by the thieves.

Amore gave a description of the thieves with the sketches of the two men. However, he mentioned that at the time, the security guards of the museum were in their mid 20's and while they identified the thieves as in their late 20's early 30's it turns out that today, twenty years later, they might have been mistaken and believe that they might have been in their 40's-50's. Amore's photos highlighted how the thieves cut the canvases and removed the pictures from their frames. Additionally, he explained the lack of logic in the theft pattern. 

Why in 81 minutes – from 1:24 to 2:45 AM – would two thieves dressed as policemen steal 13 works, including paintings by Vermeer and Rembrandt, take “lower value” pastels by Degas and leave a Rembrandt on the floor facing the wall?

Brian Kelly, Chief of the public corruption and special prosecutions unit, US Attorney's office in Boston, discussed mostly about the immunity and the $5 million reward for the person retaining the works of art. He clarified that there was no excuse for them not to be returned because the thieves would not be incriminated if they turned themselves in.

Geoffrey Kelly, Special Agent of the FBI office in Boston was also here to add his expertise on the case and examine where we stand 20 years later. 

For the past eight years, Special Agent Kelly in the Boston office has been the lead investigator on the case and said that leads come in on a weekly basis. The possibility of the theft being commissioned by a collector seems to be unlikely. It is important to point out that the DNA samples dating back from the theft that were recently sent for reexamination not because of the 20 year anniversary of the crime, but as part of the normal procedure of an investigation. This had to be reiterated during the conference as some questions were raised concerning new possible evidence.

Kelly is confident that one day the case will be solved. Not so long ago a woman contacted the FBI saying she had found the Vermeer Concert in New Mexico; however, it turned out to be a replica. Nevertheless, it shows that every lead and tip is investigated with the hope that it will lead to the missing masterpieces.

For more information about the details of the case, including the description of the thieves and the detail of the works of art you can refer to http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/arttheft/northamerica/us/isabella/isabella.htm.

March 25, 2010

Museum Security Network: New Management

Ton Cremers, the founder and moderator of the Museum Security Network, has decided to pass the ownership and responsibilities of the MSN onto me, Mark Durney. Before I introduce myself, I have a few words on Ton's advances and innovations in the field of art crime for which we are eternally grateful.

Over 14 years ago, when Yahoo! was under a year old and Google was still two years away from "logging on," Ton Cremers had a vision to expand the local Dutch cultural property protection and preservation discussions to the global village. With the assistance of some new technologies, this vision became the Museum Security Network. As Dante said in the Inferno, "From small spark great flame hath risen." For those who are unaware of its size and scope, the MSN now receives over 13,500 visitors a month. Rest assured that I do not plan on diverging from Ton's vision rather I hope to contribute to it and build on the solid foundation and reputation he has already established.

Currently, I am pursuing a year-long Masters in Cultural Heritage Studies at the University College London's Institute of Archaeology. For the past two years, I have maintained Art Theft Central - a blog that discusses recent news about art crime as well as contributes insights into the trends in the field from a variety of perspectives. Additionally, I serve as Business and Admissions Director for ARCA - the Association for Research into Crimes against Art. As an undergraduate at Trinity College (Hartford, CT), I majored  in History and completed a thesis on deconstructing the Thomas Crown Affair art heist scenario. I have had experiences from a financial strategy consulting firm with 90,000 employees worldwide to a local community bank to most recently, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where I worked as a security guard/gallery officer.

My work in the realm of art crime, like Ton's, has been largely voluntary. Hopefully, this conveys my passion to pursue the protection and preservation of our shared cultural heritage through theoretical, experiential, and practical approaches.

The MSN will continue to operate as a forum to update and engage those interested in the heritage and culture sectors. In the upcoming months, there will be a transition period as well as some transformations during which I hope to expand the MSN's volunteer base among other projects. I have invited Jonathan Sazanoff to continue assisting with the MSN's daily operations. I ask that the followers of the MSN exhibit the same confidence that Ton has placed in me so that together we can continue his mission.

Thanks for your support. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments you can reach me at mark@artcrime.info .

Mark Durney, March 2010

March 22, 2010

Gardner Museum Art Theft Anniversary Event



On Thursday 4 March 2010, the Gardner Museum hosted the event titled "The Gardner Theft: 20 Years Later." Listen here to Anthony Amore and Tom Ashbrook discuss the many intricacies and intimate details of history's largest art heist.

March 10, 2010

ARCA's Art Crime Exhibit Featured on FOX News, Washington DC


10 March 2010 - ARCA's Art Crime exhibit at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment was featured on FOX News 5 DC. Colette Marvin, who will be graduating from ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime Studies this summer, curated the exhibit. The exhibit runs from February 12 - April 26, 2010.

March 6, 2010

ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore Featured on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric



6 March 2010 - Anthony Amore, ARCA Trustee and Security Director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, was featured on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. Watch Amore discuss the complexities of the Gardner heist. The theft's 20th anniversary is only weeks away. Find more of CBS's coverage here.

March 3, 2010

What happens after ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime Studies?

As Business and Admissions Director of ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime Studies, I have had a number of prospective students, current students, figures in the field, and others pose this question to me. Many have often queried, "Where are the opportunities in the fields related to art crime?" While not everyone can, or will, become a private art investigator, there are still opportunities within the fields related to art crime. This is the first post in a series on life after the MA in International Art Crime Studies. The first student profiled is Julia Brennan '09.

Julia has worked in the field of textile conservation for over twenty-five years (in practice). She established Textile Conservation Services in 1995 to serve private collectors, galleries, museums, and institutions. Early training included six years in a private atelier specializing in the conservation of 16th-20th century tapestries, Oriental carpets, Asian textiles and American samplers and quilts. Ms. Brennan helped establish the textile storage and conservation facility at the Philadelphia College of Textile’s Paley Design Center, and was the editor for a manual of conservation stitches. In 1989 she received a Getty Research Grant focusing on the analysis of dyes in historic Thai textiles, as well as treatments for oriental carpets. During her five years as Assistant Conservator for Exhibitions at the Textile Museum in Washington, she prepared over 30 exhibits, and was the guest curator of a contemporary textile show on Faith Ringgold.

She does regular contract work and maintenance of textile collections for The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, The Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, George Washington's Mount Vernon and Smithsonian Institution Museums. For more info about Julia's work see her site "Caring for Textiles". Recently, she contributed a chapter on teaching preventative and textile conservation in Asia and Africa in Frances Lennard and Patricia Ewer eds. Textile Conservation: Advances in Practice. Butterworth Heinemann. March 2010, pp 336.

March 1, 2010

ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore Featured at IFAR's Twenty Years and Counting: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Theft

Twenty Years and Counting: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Theft
Anthony Amore - Director of Security, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Rebecca Dreyfus - Producer/Director "Stolen," a PBS Independent Lens Production
Brian Kelly - Chief of the Public Corruption & Special Prosecutions Unit, U.S. Attorney's Office, Boston
Geoffrey Kelly - Special Agent, Violent Crimes Task Force, FBI, Boston Division

Program Location:
"10 on the Park" at the Time Warner Center; 10th floor, 60 Columbus Circle, New York

In March 1990, in the early morning after St. Patrick's Day, thieves masquerading as policeman stole 13 works, including 11 paintings, from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Among the paintings were Vermeer's Concert and Rembrandt's only seascape. Twenty years later, the theft remains the most significant U.S. art theft in history, and it is still unsolved. This special program, organized with the cooperation of the Gardner Museum and both the FBI and US Attorney's Office in Boston, is a rare opportunity to learn more about the case from the people closest to it. It is a follow-up to the program IFAR organized -- also with the help of the FBI -- on the 10th anniversary of the theft, in March 2000.

ARCA with the National Museum of Crime and Punishment present...

The Dark Arts: Thieves, Forgers, and Tomb Raiders
ARCA has partnered with the National Museum of Crime & Punishment to focus on Crimes in the Arts. The exhibit will include information on theft, forgeries and looting. There will be a section devoted to the Gardner Museum Heist, which is an unsolved case of the largest property crime in US History.

ARCA Call for Papers

Call for Papers
2nd Annual ARCA Conference in the Study of Art Crime
Amelia, Italy
10-11 July 2010

ARCA (The Association for Research into Crimes against Art), an international non-profit think tank and research group dedicated to the study of art crime and cultural property protection, is pleased to announce a Call for Papers for its second annual conference. Papers are welcome from scholars and professionals in any field relevant to art crime and protection, including law, policing, security, art history, conservation, archaeology, and criminology. Please submit a title and abstract (up to 250 words) as well as a professional biography (up to 150 words) by email to director@artcrime.info by May 1.

The conference will be held in the elegant Zodiac Room of Palazzo Petrignani, in the beautiful town of Amelia in the heart of Umbria. The conference will feature the presentation of the annual ARCA Awards to honor outstanding scholars and professionals dedicated to the protection and recovery of international cultural heritage. The goal of the conference is to bring together international scholars, police, and members of the art world to collaborate for the protection of art worldwide.

Please direct any queries and submit papers to director@artcrime.info. For more information on ARCA, please visit www.artcrime.info.