Gardner Museum Launches Audio Walk Detailing Infamous Museum Theft And Thirteen Stolen Artworks

Art Daily
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In this Thursday, March 11, 2010 file photo, empty frames from which thieves took “Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” left background, by Rembrandt and “The Concert,” right foreground, by Vermeer, remain on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

BOSTON, MASS.- Marking the 30th anniversary of the infamous Gardner Museum theft, the Gardner Museum announced a new audio walk detailing the theft and honoring the thirteen stolen artworks, available to visitors onsite and via the Museum’s mobile-friendly website beginning March 4, 2020.

In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the Museum and left with thirteen works of art including Vermeer’s The Concert, Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee and A Lady and Gentleman in Black, Manet’s Chez Tortoni, and Edgar Degas’ Leaving the Paddock. The theft of more than $500 million worth of artwork remains the largest unsolved art heist in history. Today, the stolen artworks are remembered in the Museum’s galleries by their empty frames, which hang in their original locations on the gallery walls.

Now, visitors to the Gardner Museum will be able to recount the theft in a newly released audio walk narrated by Anthony Amore, the Museum’s Director of Security, and Nathaniel Silver, William and Lia Poorvu Curator of the Collection. The new audio walk is the most comprehensive and official account of the theft provided by the Museum, including an immersive retracing of the thieves’ path throughout the Museum’s galleries that night, and detailing the thirteen missing works of art and their importance—considered amongst the most valuable stolen objects in the world.

“This was a horrific robbery. A robbery that deprived not just the Gardner Museum—but more importantly the public—of some of the greatest masterpieces in the world,” said Amore. “Our hope is that the audio walk will not only help visitors learn more about the Gardner Museum theft, but also appreciate and come to know more about these incredible missing works of art that we’re still working to recover.”

Among the works taken that night included Rembrandt’s only seascape; and one of only 36 known paintings made by Vermeer.

Throughout the audio walk, Amore shares insights into the thieves’ thinking and decisions made as they moved through the Museum during the theft’s 81 minutes. Curator Nathaniel Silver details not only the beauty and importance of the missing artworks, but also a look into Isabella Stewart Gardner’s deliberate choices of installation in the gallery spaces, and the “visual conversations” she created between works of art throughout the Museum.

“Our intention is always to keep present the memory and images of these masterworks until we can celebrate their return. This audio walk helps visitors to imagine what’s no longer there, and in doing so evokes Isabella’s original intention for these galleries,” said Silver. “We mourn the losses from the theft with the empty places left on the wall—but Isabella’s vision persists, in the more than sixteen thousand objects still in the collection, the galleries she installed them in, and the museum she created to house them.”

The audio walk will be available to stream for free via mobile phones, and handheld audio walk devices are available for rental at the Museum for $5.

The search for the missing works remains part of an active and ongoing investigation, and the Gardner Museum is offering at $10 million reward for information that leads directly to the recovery of all the stolen works in good condition. Find more information about the reward, the audio walk, and other resources about the theft, at: https://www.gardnermuseum.org/about/theft.

“We want everyone to know what these works look like because although they are gone—for now—they are not forgotten,” said Amore. “We look forward to the day when they can take their rightful place again so that our visitors can enjoy them in person.