Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser

I wanted to read this book last year when I was participating in the Art History Reading Challenge. I first heard of the Gardner Heist ten years ago when I was in grad school for Museum Science. And then again when I took an online Forensics course through Barnes and Noble several years ago. They had this case as one of the examples to discuss how things could have been handled differently by the authorities.

For those who aren't familiar, nearly 20 years ago (the anniversary is actually March 18th this year) two men dressed as police officers banged on the security door of the Gardner Museum in Boston. The guards let the two men in and were tied up in the utility room while the men went about stealing (ripping/cutting paintings out of their frames and leaving the empty frames on the wall) about a dozen artworks from the museum. And then they just disappeared into the night. The paintings have yet to resurface anywhere in auctions or the underground art world.

Boser's book very thoroughly traces the history of the investigation from renowned art investigator Harold Smith all the way through his own obsession with trying to crack the case. And amazingly enough, this case is still open today with only theories and speculation left as to what happened to the artwork.

I found this book a bit tedious to get through, while it is VERY thorough, I feel like maybe just a tad bit too thorough. There are sooo many names and places and Boser comes back to the some of the names in later chapters. It was a little difficult for me to keep track of everyone. However, it was very interesting too! Quite an inside look into the art theft world and just the criminal world in general. Some of the people Smith thought could be behind the theft were scary individuals. It's pretty surreal for a naive Midwestern girl like me to fathom the reality of the mob world and that the characters you see on television and movies do exist in the real world. I mean, you know people like that exist in the real world, but to see their personalities laid out in a nonfiction book, just incredible. I like my little bubble of goodness I live in. :-)

If you like investigative reports or are particularly interested in art theft, this would be a great book for you. Otherwise, I suggest moving on.
Source disclosure: Borrowed this from the library.

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