Lost Opportunities – Gardner Museum Theft of 1990

Some people may remember the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft of March 18, 1990. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabella_Stewart_Gardner_Museum_theft ) The short version is that two guys tied up the two security guards in the early morning hours, stole several valuable and rare paintings, which have never been seen since. No one has ever been charged in the theft and the paintings are still missing to this day. Every once in while there is a new lead that results in nothing. At one time or another just about any possible suspect in the theft was brought in for questioning or mob leaders within the underworld searched to find out ‘who had done the robbery’; usually to collect tribute they felt was owed since it was in an area they consider their turf or trying to collect on the reward currently at $10 million. At this point, the statute of limitations has expired on the crime, so whoever did it could hold a press conference, collect the reward, and live in comfortable retirement.

So the big question is: Why has no one come forward. returned the works, and collected the reward?

My Answer: Because anyone and everyone involved in the original robbery that took part, or knew where the paintings are, is dead. At this point I expect the only way anyone will ever recover the works is if and when someone accidently comes across them. This person may at first have no idea what they even have unless they are familiar with works of art or heard about the robbery.

From looking at a summary of the robbery on Wikipedia, I would probably say that it is not entirely clear who the original robbers were, but they are all probably dead at this point, and left no word or clue to where the works are. The paintings have probably been put into storage somewhere that no one would expect, know, or think to look for them. I expect it is possible they have been buried somewhere. The reason I put forth this theory is that IF the paintings were in any of the typical places for storing items like this, the family and friends of any of the possible/probable suspects in the robbery would have done a search of every place the paintings could be. The fact that no one has returned the paintings tells us there paintings are not sitting in a garage, basement or storage shed. (Or at least one that the suspects had access to. It is always possible they found some out of the way place/building to ‘ditch’ the paintings in and no one has discovered this hiding place yet. Personally, I hope that is what happened since one of the suspects said they were ‘buried outside of the US’ and expect that is not exactly a great way to store such items if this is what really happened.)

There was some speculation that maybe the works stolen were in someone’s collection but that seems unlikely because some of the works were valuable but others were of modest value and seemed a strange item to make part of the theft. (i.e. Think ‘The Thomas Crown’ affair where a guy steals a work of art that he really can’t buy at any price and part of the reason on why he steals it is just for the thrill of doing such a thing.) It is generally believed that the works were picked somewhat at random and done because the thieves wanted to use them in some kind of trade of exchange; i.e. the theft was more about arranging some kind of deal with authorities than just money.

The tragedy and lost opportunity is that whatever the original reason or plan was is that nothing useful or of value ever came to the two robbers simply because they waited too long to do anything with the opportunity they had and now rare works of art have been lost, maybe forever.

Lost opportunities happens a lot in many situations, people simply think that there is no time limit on exercising their option to realize the value from something. They have some collectible, and think it will keep going up in value forever. Sometimes that does happen but even then, is something that one holds onto until it is worth more money when they are 95 years old really worth it, when if they had sold it for less money when they were 30 or 40 years old, and would have had a greater change in the course of their life, be worth it?

I have seen some situations where people have collectible items, but the market is small and shrinking over time. While the items ‘have value’, the question always is; Yes, but who wants to buy them and who is able to buy them? Sometime people hold onto various collectible items for far too long that the item disintegrates, case in point being a lot of 16mm or 35mm old films. All those films have a limited shelf life and unless they are transferred to digital, the films eventually will ‘go bad’. The film material actually starts to disintegrate, get moldy, turns to dust, or even curls to the point that it can no longer be put through a projector and the sound track is not playable anymore.

Eventually the works of art stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum will be found and returned to their place in that museum; the only question is when. It will be interesting to find out where the works have been all these years and why no one ever returned them for the reward.

Good Luck and Take Care,

Louis J. Desy Jr. LouisDesyjr@gmail.com

Saturday, May 29, 2021