Showing posts with label Boston Globe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Boston Globe. Show all posts

May 11, 2013

Boston Globe's Todd Wallack on "Prized stolen art frequently resurfaces after decades"

John Singleton Copley (1738-1815)
Painting of William Ponsonby,
Second Earl of Bessborough, 1790
The Boston Globe's Todd Wallack points to the increased chance of recovery stolen art years after the theft in "Prized stolen art frequently resurfaces after decades" (May 10, 2013).

Wallack recounts the recovery of John Singleton Copley's portrait of William Ponsonby stolen from Harvard University in 1971 at the 2006 Stair Gallerie's Auction of items from the William M. V. Kingsland Estate. Melvyn Kohn, who went by the name of Kingsland, was later discovered to have died with a private collection of stolen art. Alex Acevedo, owner of The Alexander Gallery, had purchased the unattributed painting for $85,000 then discovered it had likely belonged to Harvard and contacted the FBI.

Wallack writes:
Art detectives say long-lost works like the Copley are increasingly turning up after going missing for ­decades, thanks in large part to readily available information on the Internet or in electronic databases. The trend is feeding hopes of art fans that the prized pieces taken from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 23 years ago could eventually surface as well. 
Though the vast majority of missing artwork is never recovered, stolen items are often discovered when they change hand, sometimes many years later, when brokers and buyers research the pieces online and through databases, according to brokers and others in the business.
“We’ve got recoveries happening every week,” said ­Christopher A. Marinello, an ­attorney for the Art Loss Register of London, which maintains an international database of more than 360,000 stolen, looted, disputed, or missing works around the world, including 1,000 from Massachusetts and hundreds of pieces from ­Harvard alone.
“It’s not that unusual to find artwork that has been lost for more than a quarter of a century,” Marinello said. “The valuable pieces either are recovered right away, or they go underground for a generation.”

April 15, 2013

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: How has the institution faired more than two decades after the theft? Former Undersecretary for Homeland Security Juliette Kayyman wrote about this last year

Here's an article overlooked by the ARCA Blog last year: In the Boston Globe, a former Undersecretary for Home Security, Juliette Kayyem, wrote in March 2012 of the "Gardner's narrative of resiliency" on the new addition to the institution:

In 1990, two thieves dressed as Boston police officers told the museum night guards on duty that they were responding to a call. The thieves passed the sole security door. There was just one alarm button at the time; only motion detectors traced their movements. There were no cameras. A mere 81 minutes later, they were in possession of the masterpieces worth, today, half a billion dollars. The investigation is ongoing. 
The new building could have been a fortress. But that would have made the theft the focal point of how we would perceive the museum. Instead, the colorless glass entry, the brick walls, even the enclosed corridor that passes from the new building through a grove of trees into Gardner’s historic courtyard serve as practical access controls. There are no doors for the public to the original Gardner mansion. A thief would now have to walk through a transparent glass tunnel, into the new building, and out a security door for the easiest exit. Though counterintuitive, its openness makes it more secure. 
While the museum is watched by hundreds of cameras, the new structure is designed to relieve some of the stress from Gardner’s old home by shifting the burdens of exit and entry to the much more modern and secure building. “There is simply no place in the museum where a thief can just grab art and get outside,’’ Anthony Amore, the head of museum security and author of “Stealing Rembrandts,’’ said.

March 19, 2013

Boston Globe Correspondent Stephen Kurkjian Interviews ISGM guard who let in the thieves in 1990; Abath says he's never been ruled out as a suspect by investigators

Boston Globe Correspondent Stephen Kurkjian reported March 10 in "Decades after the Gardner Heist, police focus on guard" who opened the door to the robbers more than 23 years ago in the largest art theft:
Night watchman Richard Abath may have made the most costly mistake in art history on March 18, 1990, when he unlocked the doors of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for two robbers who stole 13 works of art valued at more than $500 million. For years, investigators discounted the hapless Abath’s role in the unsolved crime. But, after 23 years of pursuing dead ends, investigators are focusing on intriguing evidence that suggests Abath might have been in on the crime all along.
According to Kurkjian, investigators blamed Abath's actions on 'his excessive drinking and pot smoking':
But, after 23 years of pursuing dead ends, including a disappointing search of an alleged mobster's home last year, investigators are focusing on intriguing evidence that suggests the former night watchman might have been in on the crime all along -- or at least knows more about it than he has admitted.
Why, they ask, were Abath's footsteps the only ones picked up on motion detectors in a first floor gallery where one of the stolen paintings, by French impressionist Edouard Manet, was taken? And why did he open the side entrance to the museum minutes before the robbers rang the buzzer to get in? Was he signaling to them that he was prepared for the robbery to begin? 
No one publicly calls Abath a suspect, but federal prosecutors grilled him on these issues last fall. And one former prosecutor in the case has written a recently published novel about the Gardner heist in which the night watchman let the thieves into the museum to pay off a large cocaine debt."
Abath insists that he had nothing to do with the heist, Kurkjian writes.
'Abath, then a rock musician moonlighting as a security guard, said he opened the doors that night because he was intimidated by men dressed as police officers who claimed to be investigating a disturbance. His own uniform untucked and wearing a hat, Abath knew he looked more like a suspect than a guard.'
The 46-year-old Abath agreed to speak to The Globe to gain publicity for a book he is writing about the ISGM theft, according to Kurkjian. Abath told Kurkjian that the former security guard 'realized he was under suspicion four years ago when FBI agents asked to meet him at a Brattleboro, Vermont, coffee shop.'
"After years of not hearing a word the people charged with the task of solving the Great Museum Robbery, they popped up; they wanted to talk," Abath wrote in the manuscript he shared. To his surprise, one agent told him, "You know we've never been able to eliminate you as a suspect."
Kurkjian writes that Abath said that on the night of the robbery he had been sober and had just given his two-week notice. James J. McGovern, who worked on the federal investigation for the US attorney's office in 2006, wrote a novel, Artful Deception (2012), portrays a night security guard who was an accomplice in the Gardner heist [Kurkjian].

June 11, 2012

Boston Globe: FBI plans public awareness campaign aimed at recovering paintings stolen from Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

I am always curious when a new article is published more than two decades after the world's largest museum theft, the 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  It has been almost one year since James "Whitey" Bulger was apprehended in Santa Monica, California, briefly giving rise to expectations that one of the FBI's formerly "Most Wanted" criminals would talk about the stolen paintings as a way to negotiate favorable treatment after his arrest.

The Boston Globe's article by Milton J. Valencia and Stephen Kurkjian, "Public's aid sought in '90  Gardner Museum heist", explains that the FBI plans a "public awareness campaign" to recover the paintings, much like the strategy used to capture fugitive Bulger.  Let's all hope that the efforts are successful and that the museum's security director, Anthony Amore, will finally put the artworks back into the empty frames hanging on the institution's walls.