Monday, April 19, 2010

Summer Porch Reading

Ulrich Boser. The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

While somewhat breathless in tone, this page-turner does present extensive details of the aftermath of the theft of works by Rembrandt and Vermeer from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Following an introduction to Museum’s founder and her approach to the collection and placement of the objects, journalist Boser moves on to discuss the reasons for and methods of successful art thefts in museums great and small. These include complacency, underpaid security guards, the reticence of museums to acknowledge thefts – alas, no surprises here. Caught up in the Gardner search himself, the author regales the reader with accounts of colorful characters of art theft investigators, convicted and unconvicted art thieves, art dealers and curators which unfortunately lapses into a somewhat tedious litany of dropped names and dead leads. And yes, he believes that the Gardner paintings will reappear, probably damaged, but he will not be the one that discovers them.

Thanks to former Archives student Kristin Justham for alerting us to this work. For an update on the Gardner’s director Anne Hawley, and her plans for expanding this museum of a museum, see Julia Klein’s “Elitism for all” in the March 23, 2010 issues of the Wall Street Journal Hawley had joined the Museum in 1989, the year before the "Gardner Heist."

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