Saturday, March 28, 2015
Much Adieu About Really Important Things
Much has been said about the recent anniversary of the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist. Trimming all of the developments, investigations, and news stories down into one skeleton of a sentence is not an easy thing to do, but here is the gist: Twenty-five years ago, in 1990, thieves disguised as police officers entered the museum, bound the guards, and stole works by some of The Greats: Manet, Rembrandt, and Degas. And they still haven't been returned.
Art such as the pieces housed in museums -- the Isabella Stewart Gardner chief among them -- are cultural property. What would a lesson on the Renaissance be without its artists? What would the world's history look like before the invention of the camera? And, most importantly, if our shared experience of time and place isn't safe behind the thick, stone walls of a museum, then where is it safe?
In The Judgement of Paris, Ross King makes a compelling argument that the history of a European middle class cannot be separated from the rise of Impressionism. And a recent exhibit on Impressionism at the Museum of Fine Arts made it clear that the city of Boston was deeply moved by the rise of the Impressionist art movement. That pieces have been stolen from the Gardner Museum and not seen again is a crime against more people than just the museum's management.
But all of this has been said before, and all of it has been stated more skillfully by better writers. So allow me to direct you to them; I will even arrange it all by cost of entry.
For free, you can read about the anniversary of the theft in this retrospective from The New York Times. Written by Tom Mashburg, a former investigator on the case, it is a good summary of events, but also a genuine reflection on the search for the missing art. Also, the museum itself has put together a great website in partnership with Google Art Project that is very informative. Find it here.
For under ten dollars (on Kindle or the Kindle App), you can read The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser. Or, if you prefer a fictionalized account, you can read The Art Forger: A Novel by B. A. Shapiro.
If you would prefer the latest release, Stephen Kurkjian recently wrote Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled off the World's Greatest Art Heist. It has a list price of $26, and is even available as a signed copy at the Harvard Book Store in Harvard Square, Cambridge.
And, of course, you could just visit the museum itself. Find all of the necessary information on their website.
Til next time!