Monday, October 20, 2008

A Sadness in Stealing

Vermeer, "The Concert", 1658-1660 (among the 13 paintings stolen in the heist)
Rembrandt, "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,"1633 (among the 13 paintings stolen in the hiest)
The empty frames that remain in the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum
A woman glancing at one of the now-empty frames in the museum

Last night my husband and I settled in for an evening of programming on Ovation TV, a network whose tag line is "make life creative."  The network is devoted to championing the visual arts, theater, opera, music and dance.  After briefly catching some of their new series, SOLD!, which is an insider's guide to high stakes art auctions, we began watching "Stolen," an independent documentary film from 2006.  

The film chronicles the history of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, focusing on the 1990 burglary, during which the museum suffered the largest art heist in American History. On the night of March 18th, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the museum and roamed the galleries, stealing thirteen works of art including pieces by Degas, Rembrandt, Manet, and Vermeer's masterpiece, "The Concert."  In total, the works are estimated to be valued at $300 million.  Not a single work has been recovered to date and the $5 million reward leading to the return of the artworks is, as of yet, unclaimed.  

This, in itself, is a tragedy.  But, what I found most intriguing about the documentary, was how devastated art historians, critics, collectors, and museum directors were (and still are) about the disappearance of the paintings.  The overarching theme was that of extreme sadness over the loss of the paintings and the opportunity that had been thus stripped from the American public. Wherever the paintings are now, they have not been seen by the public in 18 years.  Those interviewed were so emotional over the loss that most were brought to tears and were pleading to the thieves to please return the paintings so that the public could once again enjoy the European masterpieces.

Similarly, although not nearly as intensely,  I often am saddened when a painting that I love leaves the gallery.  Since most paintings take months to sell, a certain attachment often develops, and although I am always pleased to sell a painting, there is a tinge of disappointment over its loss.  Not only is the painting no longer on view to the ever-growing, gallery-going public; I too will likely never see it again.  

So remember, the next time you visit a gallery or a museum, the paintings that you are fortunate enough to see, at that time on that day, may or may not be there the next time you visit, so cherish them (just as Isabella Stewart Gardner did her collection).



Laura said...

I am so jealous! I just looked up that channel and can't get it on comcast. That show sounds really interesting.

I'm so glad you started a blog!

Brilliant Asylum said...

How have I missed this? I am tearing up just thinking about it. (Or maybe I have been staring at my computer too long).

Thanks for the recommendation. I will try and get the Tivo working so we can watch it.

Emily Amy Gallery said...

For both of you...I think it is also on DVD at the Blockbuster or through Netflix. Very interesting and the real life characters are just as quirky as if they were fictional.

Alicia B Blogs said...

sounds cool! I get so upset when I hear about things like that...and also art that gets destroyed because of war! Can you imagine how many amazing works of art were destroyed in WW2? Sick.