In 1990 significant works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston–an unsolved mystery heist that continues to fascinate and perplex after 31 years. The Netflix mini-series does a terrific job of exploring the complexities and labyrinth of dead end leads. The banality of evil in the mobster culture as evidenced by the documentary’s interviews and footage is unnerving. Sociopaths are always creepy and of course the investigation focuses on plenty of them. In this way it is about so much more than the actual crime. It’s hard to avoid the “Dateline” comparison, but this series feels more measured and cautiously avoids the sensationalistic. Besides the theft of the work, future visitors, potentially millions of people, were robbed of their right to experience the art. It was also a sad reminder of the loss of a more innocent age. Of course art theft has been around a long time, but somehow the laxity of security in the museum seemed to speak of a more innocent time. (can’t believe I’m waxing nostalgic about the 90’s and its “innocence”–blame it on CoVid) I visited Boston a number of times pre-1990 but never went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Now I am kicking myself. Highly unlikely that I will get to see those masterpieces, but hope springs eternal. The filmmakers are hoping that their mini series will stir up some more attention for the theft and perhaps lead to a recovery of the works. I hope you will watch it–would love to talk about it.
“This is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist” (Netflix)