Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Monday, January 01, 2018

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist 2018, The Story So Far !!

Gardner Art Heist 2018 begins with the expiry of the $10 million reward offer, now reduced to $5 million.
The Robert Gentile court case, with proxy links to the Gardner Art Heist, will be finished.

Interestingly, 2018 will see a renewed spotlight on the Gardner Art Heist with a movie being made as well as more documentaries and podcast series being planned.
Stay tuned..........................
BOSTON (CBS) – The reward for the return of precious artwork stolen from a Boston museum is back, and it’s as big as ever.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is extending the $10-million reward that was set to expire at the end of last year. Investigators hope that huge sum will encourage people with information to come forward.
They are some of the most valuable paintings in the world, Vermeer’s “The Concert,” Rembrandt’s “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee” and Degas’ “Leaving the Paddock.”
But in 1990, two thieves disguised as Boston Police officers stole those pieces of art and 10 others, making it the largest art heist in history. The masterpieces are worth more than $500-million.
“I really do think we are moving the ball downfield,” says Anthony Amore, the Gardner’s Director of Security.
He says when the museum doubled the reward last year to $10-million, it helped.
gardner1 $10M Reward Extended For Return Of Stolen Gardner Museum Art
Empty frame at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (CBS)
“We received a real outpouring of information from people in the public which prompted us to say we should extend this because it was productive to get people to try and help us,” he says.
Empty frames where the paintings once hung are still a reminder of the loss at the museum. New information is what they hope will lead them to the artwork.
“We are looking for 13 needles in a haystack, and everything we do, all the work we do, even when we eliminate bad leads, we’re making the haystack smaller,” says Amore.
If you have information that could help call Anthony Amore at (617) 278-5114 or emailing
For more information please visit:

Friday, December 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist, Double Reward, $10 Million, Expires Next Month

Wiseguy's Take On Gardner Art Heist Case

Inside The Gardner Museum Heist, The Biggest Unsolved Art Theft In History

On March 18, 1990, the greatest art theft in history was pulled off at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Estimates put the value of the 13 stolen pieces between $300 and $500 million, and the case remains unsolved to this day. Though it may seem like they only happen in movies, art thefts are fairly common. With famous paintings valued in the multi-millions, art theft is lucrative business for criminals, who either ransom the artworks back to their owners or sell them for big money on the black market. According to ABC, tens of thousands of works of art are stolen yearly, and Interpol says on its website the market for stolen art is “becoming as lucrative as those for drugs, weapons and counterfeit goods.”
The Isabella Stewart Gardner sits just south of The Fens, the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed green space which gives its name to the nearby ballpark of the Boston Red Sox. Founded in 1903 by wealthy art collector and philanthropist Isabella Stewart Gardner, the museum consists of her personal art collection and is housed in an intimate setting, designed to emulate a Venetian Renaissance palace. It contains pieces from antiquity up to the 19th century from every corner of the world and includes important works by Michelangelo, Botticelli and Rembrandt, among many others.

At 1:24 AM on the morning of March 18, 1990, as the previous days’ Saint Patrick’s Day reveries died down, two men in police uniforms rang the buzzer at the Gardner Museum. They said they were responding to reports of a disturbance. Once inside, they handcuffed the two security guards, explained this was a robbery, and locked them in the museum’s basement.
Over the next 81 minutes, the thieves handpicked some of the museum’s most important pieces of art, while leaving other equally valuable pieces alone. Among the stolen works were three pieces by Dutch master Rembrandt, one of only 34 known paintings by Vermeer, a painting by 1800s impressionist Manet and a series of drawings by Edgar Degas.
The museum’s trustees initially offered a $1 million reward for information leading to an arrest or the work’s return, later raising the amount to $5 million, at the behest of the FBI, according to a March 1998 feature in Vanity Fair. That same feature claimed the robbery may have been committed by Boston-area career criminals Robert Donati and David Houghton. The only problem was both men were dead: Donati from a 1991 gangland slaying and Houghton from a heart attack the following year.
The FBI has pursued numerous leads over the years related to the case, but have yet to find the missing artworks. In March 18, 2013, 23 years to the day of the original robbery, they announced they knew the identities of the two thieves who pulled of the Gardner Museum heist, though they refused to name them.
“We’ve determined in the years after the theft that the art was transported to the Connecticut and Philadelphia regions. But we haven’t identified where the art is right now,” special agent Richard DesLauriers was quoted in The New York Times at the time.
Since 2012, the FBI has been engaged in a battle of wills with small-time Connecticut Mafia associate Robert Gentile. The 81-year-old has been in prison for the last four and a half years on drug and gun charges in hopes of pressuring him to reveal what he knows about the theft, after he was incriminated by the widow of a fellow gangster. In late September 2017, a judge ordered a competency evaluation for Gentile, according to the Hartford Courant.
In 2015, the US Attorney’s Office released newly discovered security camera footage from the night before the robbery, which they believe may have been a practice run. A source close to the investigation told the website that one of the two men in the video was Richard Abath, who was one of the two security guards on duty the night of the robbery. Abath, however, denies any involvement, and has been repeatedly questioned by the FBI.
Last June, Dutch private investigator Arthur Brand told CBS Boston he was negotiating for the return of the paintings, which he believed were in Ireland, possibly in the possession of former members of the Irish Republican Army.
In May of this year, The New York Times reported that the board of trustees of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum had raised the reward for the stolen items recovery to $10 million.
“We encourage anyone with information to contact the museum directly, and we guarantee complete confidentiality,” the museum’s security director Anthony Amore said in a statement. The offer expires at the end of the year. The stolen paintings' picture frames still hang on the walls of the museum where they originally were, forlornly awaiting their one-day return.

Judge Will Not Free Gardner Heist Suspect Robert Gentile

A federal judge on Wednesday refused to release Gardner museum heist person of interest Robert Gentile to home confinement and dismissed his claim that federal authorities are tormenting him by shuttling him between penal institutions.
The 82-year-old Hartford mobster, who is being held while awaiting sentencing on gun charges, was ordered moved to a North Carolina prison medical center in late September for a mental competency examination. Last week, after the judge on his case inquired about the examination, authorities disclosed that it had been delayed and Gentile was waiting in a federal prison in New York City.
Between September and last week, Gentile lawyer A. Ryan McGuigan said Gentile had been moved from a state jail in Bridgeport to a federal jail in Rhode Island to a New York prison. He complained that the shuttling between prisons amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Federal prosecutors said in a court filing that Gentile has been moved around because of transportation delays. Initially, a bed was not available at the medical institution and, when one opened, Gentile’s flight was canceled. They said Gentile flew to North Carolina on a commercial flight Tuesday.

The FBI believes Gentile is concealing information about the 1990 robbery of $500 million in art — including a Rembrandt and a Vermeer — from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Gentile denies knowing anything about the art or the heist. But he has been under extraordinary law enforcement pressure since 2010, when the widow of one of his mob partners told investigators that she saw him with two of the stolen pieces several years earlier.
Gentile has complained his arrests since for a succession of drug and gun offenses are a futile effort by law enforcement to press him to share information he does not have. Federal authorities have replied that they have several, surreptitious recordings made by informants and undercover operatives on which Gentile says he has knowledge of or access to the art.
In the public portion of the government’s legal filing, prosecutors said that Gentile, who suffers from a variety of ailments, appears to be in generally good health. They said he was examined in New York “and it was determined that the defendant’s medical condition is stable other having what is referenced in the examination report as Nasopharyngitis, that is … a common cold.”
He was to have been sentenced on the weapons charges in September, but the hearing was postponed after McGuigan expressed concerns that extended incarceration has eroded Gentile’s mental acuity and he may have difficulty understanding the the charges against him and assisting in his defense. At that point, U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny ordered the competency examination, Gentile’s second.
An earlier examination, more than a year before, found him competent.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Heist, Stolen Art, Stolen Story

Sean Hicks, nephew of Winter Hill Gang founder, is writing a script for film about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist

Sean Hicks has been out of prison for a little more than a year, which is the longest consecutive period of freedom he's had since he was incarcerated 20 years ago.
In that time, Hicks has moved to downtown Worcester, partially as a way to get a fresh start, and partially as a way to distance himself from his associations with the notorious Irish crime syndicates in Boston, specifically the one his uncle, Howie Winter, once led: The Winter Hill Gang.
As part of his probation, Hicks is no longer allowed to communicate with anyone in organized crime, including his uncle.
"I've given my life to the streets and half my life in prison, and I'm only 46," Hicks said. "Why does my uncle live in Millbury now? Because there's nothing left to prove in Boston. The days of traditional crime are over."
When he was 29-year-old, Hicks was put away for 10 years for his involvement in the Sept. 25, 2000 brutal stabbing of 22-year-old Celtics forward Paul Pierce. Hicks was part of the Boston-based hip-hop group Made Men, several members of which were found guilty of stabbing Pierce 11 times in the face, neck, and back at the Buzz Club, a late night dance club in the Boston Theater District. Pierce had to undergo lung surgery to repair the damage.

He would end up serving an additional five years in prison between 2011 and 2016 for shooting in South Boston of two Chinese gangsters, Hicks said.
According to prison records obtained by MassLive, Hicks was accused of committing a "racially-toned" stabbing during one of his prison stays. Prison officials wrote that because of Hicks' high propensity for violence and long-standing associations to organized crime, he should be kept in maximum security prison.
He was released nearly a year ago, and he says he's been focusing most of his time on leaving his violent past behind.
"This is the longest period I've ever made it out of prison. At times, it's overwhelming. It seems I've never been able to escape my past. It's kind of hard to change people's preconceived perception of you," Hicks said. "But I'm fortunate because I've met my wife, my older daughter is in my life again, and I've been able to rekindle doing the things I love."
During that time, he has remarried, reconnected with his family and begun work writing and attempting to sell his life's story.
More specifically, Hicks is focusing on getting production started on a film based on a script he wrote about the infamous unsolved Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist called "No Loose Ends.

After 27 years, the heist remains the highest valued theft of private property in history, with $500 million still missing, and according to Hicks' attorney, Torin Dorros, many in the entertainment industry are interested in the story.
"The story and Sean's involvement are pretty well known across industries, including major players in the entertainment world. There is already a fair amount of interest, and we are actively talking with writers and producers on how to most effectively tell the story," Dorros said.
These days, Hicks can be found at The Grid in downtown Worcester. He likes to frequent The Brew, a cafe where he can often be found in the middle of the day drinking a beer and meeting with his family, business associates or lawyers.
He's got the look of a man who has spent more than 15 years in prison. Sleeves of tattoo ride up and down his arms and circle his neck. Three inky teardrops lay underneath one of his eyes.
Despite the worry-lines and wrinkles that adorn his face, Hicks often wears a big smile on his face, the kind of smile that says "I'm capable of anything."
Hicks recently teamed up with two experienced Hollywood writers, Samuel Franco and Evan Kilgore. The writers are currently working on the upcoming film, "Mayday 109," about the sinking of John F. Kennedy's PT boat in World War II. Ansel Elgort, the star of "Baby Driver," signed on to play Kennedy in July.
Hicks is also receiving legal representation from Brown & Rosen, a law firm with experience representing entertainment clients, such as the United Nations Association Film Festival and several artists that appeared on "Making the Band," "Love and Hip Hop" and "R&B Divas," according to the firm's site.
Dorros said getting Hicks' story published comes with several risks and challenges, specifically because the script could implicate numerous parties, potentially causing a stir in the Boston criminal underground. When asked about what his uncle thought of the script, Hicks said he is no longer allowed to speak with him or anyone else involved with organized crime due to his probation.
"I want to bring his story to the world, but we do tread cautiously only because he has a special history," Dorros said. "The only concern is that we want to always make sure that third parties, whether that's news agencies or investigators or otherwise, don't take things the wrong way."
Hicks started writing his life's story roughly five years ago. He was inspired to start writing after receiving a copy of Stephen King's book "On Writing," while in prison.
This period of writing and self-reflection gave him the resolve to turn his back on criminal life and turn his stories into something of substance.
"I finally grew up and matured. I've always given my life to my family and done what's right by the streets, at my own peril. I just turned 46 and decided I've done enough: It's time for me," Hicks said.
While Hicks was away, Whitey Bulger, the notorious head of the Winter Hill Gang, was arrested after dodging authorities for 16 years and started talking to investigators.
Records from the Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Cedar Junction acquired by MassLive indicate that Bulger linked Hicks and his uncle to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist.
According to those records, prison authorities were aware and worried that Hicks was working on a script and other related media about the Isabella Gardner heist. Prison authorities were hoping to keep him in maximum security status for reasons relating to his writing and a reported stabbing incident that took place between Hicks and another inmate.
When Hicks heard that Bulger had linked him and Winter to the largest art heist in the history of the world, he was not surprised.
"He's been ratting people out since the '50s. Once a rat always a rat," Hicks said.
He said Bulger knew he was never going to receive a plea deal, but was hoping to keep his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, out of prison. For this reason, Bulger informed on several of his associates, Hicks said.
Despite being linked to the unsolved heist, Hicks said he has never been questioned about any possible involvement in the crime.
"He knew he was never going to get a plea, but he was trying to keep Catherine out of prison. That would be a last ditch act of humanity," Hicks said.
The indignant act of writing a script about a crime Boston's most notorious gangster connected him to fits Hicks' aggressive and risky persona.
The script is in many ways a defiant response to the many reporters and writers who have attempted, and failed, in Hicks' opinion, to capture the truth about what really happened on March 18, 1990.
He said he was inspired to write a story about the heist after reading Boston Globe reporter Stephen Kurkjian's "Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World's Greatest Art Heist." That book, and the works of Boston Herald reporter Howie Carr pushed Hicks to "set the record straight" on the heist.
"A reporter for the Globe came up with the idea for a movie and wrote a novel and a few people inside and outside of prison weren't happy about the novel he wrote, and I agreed with them. I just thought, 'I can do better than that,'" Hicks said. "If you have a story coming out, you don't want to get it wrong because you can get a lot of people on the streets in trouble."
Hicks calls his version of events a "hypothetical," but his hypothetical is backed by decades of life growing up the Boston underworld.
Hicks thinks it was a setup, a scheme to get rid of two troublesome gangsters and maybe get away with some priceless art.
The Italian Mafia, Hicks claims, was commissioned by a wealthy broker to pull off the heist. The mafia tried to take advantage of the situation by sending in two members they believed to working with police.
If the robbers failed, which is what the mafia expected, they would be taken to prison. If by some miracle they pulled it off, the mafia would have an excuse to "cut the loose ends," Hicks said.
The script will tell the story of the planning, execution and direct aftermath of the heist based on Hicks' theory. The title of the film, "No Loose Ends," references the mafia's intent to kill people connected to crimes in order to squash an investigation.
"Everything in the mob is compartmentalized. You can't just get rid of two guys because you want to get rid of two guys. They were sent in on a suicide mission," Hicks said.
Production on the film is expected to begin summer 2018, Hicks said. Part of the film is expected to be filmed in WorcesterAttorney's from Hicks' legal team said they could not disclose actors being approached for the film, but said they are reaching out to several recognizable Boston area stars.
In the meantime, Hicks is continuing to work on revitalizing his music career and publishing a 76,000-word manuscript loosely based off of his life in organized crime. He's working on an album with the Worcester-based band Four Year Strong.
This next period of his life is like a second-act for Hicks, a chance to give meaning and substance to his destructive criminal past.
"When you start going away when you're 17, 18, 19, you end up spending your life in prison ... Now I've got nothing left to do with my life other than try to make something of my past," Hicks said

FBI agent tells Norfolk crowd he's still optimistic about solving famous Boston art heist case

FBI Special Agent Geoff Kelly is optimistic he will solve what some consider the most famous art-heist case in history.
It’s been 27 years since about $500 million of art was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, but that amount of time is a “drop in the bucket” compared to the amount of time it has taken for other art to be recovered, he said.
Kelly spoke at the Chrysler Museum of Art on Wednesday at an event held by the FBI called “Nothing Sketchy.”
He’s been on the case since 2002 and said he never imagined that 15 years later he would still be trying to find the missing art.
On March 18, 1990, two thieves dressed as police officers, talked their way into the museum by claiming to be responding to a broken window, then tied up the two guards, and stole 13 pieces of art.
Among the works: three Rembrandts, including his only known seascape, Vermeer’s “The Concert” and works by Degas, Manet and Flinck.
Today, empty frames hang on the wall where the pieces were once displayed.
Kelly speaks about the case around the country to try to get the word out.
“The fact that I’m here talking at all about a case that’s open and pending in the bureau is kind of unusual,” Kelly told the audience of about 100. “But this is an unusual case.”
The museum is offering a $10 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the works, according to its website.
Kelly said he has traveled the world to investigate tips and is confident the art will one day be returned.
Authorities have for years been pressuring Robert Gentile, an 81-year-old reputed Connecticut mobster for information on the art, the agent said. Gentile is incarcerated and awaiting sentencing on federal gun charges, according to The Boston Globe. He previously served time on drug and other gun charges. The Globe reported in September that Gentile’s sentencing was postponed because of questions about his competency. A judge scheduled a hearing to November, The Globe said.
Kelly has been with the FBI for 22 years, mostly investigating violent crime and art theft.
He said he was one of the original members of the FBI’s elite Art Crime Team and has recovered more than $70 million in stolen art and antiques. Kelly also said he tracked down one of Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jerseys when it was stolen.
Kelly encouraged the public to reach out to the FBI or the museum if they know anything about the Gardner case. The Boston FBI office can be reached at 857-386-2000 and the museum’s director of security can be reached at 617-278-5114.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch Gardner Art Heist Gets Surreal As Gentile Gets Dementia Test October 2017

The ‘Sociopath’ Scholar Who Made Films of His Crimes Tried to Confess to America’s Most Famous Art Heist

Out of Rikers and facing a bank robbery charge in Providence, he’s trying to complete his masterpiece of ‘autobiographical fiction’ that began with buying a dime bag.

“Don’t spoil a good story by telling the truth.”—Isabella Gardner, founder of Boston’s Gardner Museum.

In February 2017, Joe Gibbons sat in a Greenwich Village restaurant and calmly confessed to a role in the largest art heist in American history.
Gibbons, a filmmaker and former MIT lecturer now in his mid-sixties—back in circulation after pleading guilty in 2014 to a Manhattan bank robbery and spending a year in jail—had already confessed and would soon be charged with another bank robbery, this one in Providence, Rhode Island.
He was sitting with a Pulitzer-winning journalist, Stephen Kurkjian, and a novelist, Charles Pinning, both of whom had traveled from New England and knocked on his door that afternoon. Their visit came weeks after an assistant U.S. attorney in Massachusetts had called Gibbons’ lawyer to inquire about his possible involvement in the Isabella Gardner Museum heist.
In March of 1990, a security guard at the Boston museum let in two thieves dressed as police officers who proceeded to steal $500 million worth of art, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Degas. The guard, who now lives in Vermont, was never charged and has long denied any involvement in the heist.
Twenty-seven years later, Gibbons, chasing a morning’s worth of Jameson down with a Kir Royal, was toasted—“well lubricated,” he calls it—and ready to confess.
Soon after midnight on the morning following St. Patrick’s Day, 1990, Gibbons told his audience of two, he was at the Gardner Museum, to score a dime-dag from a security guard there he’d bought from before.The guard told him to walk with him into the closed museum’s Blue Room with the promise of a dime bag, he said. There, several masterpieces were spread across the floor. “I don’t know how to get them out of the frames,” he says the security guard told him. He stomped on Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, the artist’s only known seascape.
“That’s not the way to do it!” Gibbons yelled.
The guard threw another piece of art on the floor, a Rembrandt sketch. “Do you want this one? Do you want this one?” he teased.
Gibbons rejected the offer, he said, in part because he “wasn’t a big fan of Rembrandt” but helped the guard pull off the caper. “I showed how you could remove the backings of the paintings and take the canvases out.”
His wife walked into the restaurant, and cut the interview short, not wanting her husband’s name attached to still another crime even as he faces possible jail time for the Providence robbery. So Gibbons wrapped it up, saying that he’d run out of the museum with a dime bag and without any of the paintings.
Still, he had confessed, before two writers to his role in the white whale of a crime that’s filled decades of newspaper column inches, TV-news airtime and the pages of non-fiction books with speculation about who done it.
Asked about his involvement with Gibbons, Kurkjian told me in July that “I’m no longer working with him and have asked that he not associate me with the reporting any longer.” Pinning refused comment.
But what to make of the confession of a criminal and artist who’s dedicated both careers to his “autobiographical fiction” propagating the myth of Joe Gibbons, artist, filmmaker and self-alleged criminal mastermind?
Gibbons began to cultivate that myth in Oakland, 1977. Then in his early twenties, he moved to the Bay Area after attending Antioch College in Ohio. He was welcomed into the art scene and began making films. He also kickstarted his career as a petty criminal.
The intersection of his two careers garnered press attention when Gibbons—well-lubricated at the time—grabbed a painting off the wall of the Oakland Museum during an opening party for artist Richard Diebenkorn.
Gibbons shoved the painting beneath his coat, and waltzed past hundreds of party guests and the museum’s security. The police tracked him down, but rather than go quietly, he seized the opportunity.
He was a member of a renegade group of six artists called the “Art Liberation Front,” Gibbons claimed. The Front had a manifesto, dreamt up by Gibbons: They were critical of the arbitrary value placed on a piece of art—but they were also publicity hungry.
“We’re inveterate opportunists,” Gibbons told the Berkeley Barb after the theft. “Our philosophy is full of contradictions. It had nothing to do with Diebenkorn—it was about museums in general. We saw the opportunity for some publicity and we grabbed it.
“Basically we’re creating meta-art, which is art about art,” he told the paper. “We are whimsically critical of the art establishment as well as the art-critic contingent, who view art solely in terms of its commodity function—its exchange value versus its use value.”
By their logic, the frame was the only piece of a painting that had any actual value. Before the police caught up with him, The Front agreed they would return the painting, but keep the frame hostage. One of their ransom demands, the group told the Barb, was for the Oakland Museum to hold an exhibition with nothing but frames.
That crime, which Gibbons unquestionably committed, might draw someone to believe he could’ve somehow been involved in the famous Gardner Museum heist. Beyond the obvious art-crime connection, there are the frames. On that early March morning in 1990, the Gardner Museum thieves cut the paintings out and left the frames—which still hang there, with nothing in them.

Ben Feuerherd

I first connected with Gibbons through a Facebook message this summer. I’d seen a news alert about a bank robbery in downtown Manhattan, and Gibbons, who I’d covered as a reporter, popped into my head. I messaged him, hoping to find out how he’d adjusted after jail. When we met Washington Square Park on a recent afternoon, he recounted the story of the two writers who knocked on his door in February, and produced a recording of his confession.
“It’s an old myth the artist has to have experiences, which he can then use for his material,” Gibbons told me between sips from a can of bubbly wine. His gray hair was unkempt and long on the sides. He has few teeth left in his mouth.
“When I was a teenager, I thought I was innocent and protected, my upbringing,” he said. “I needed to really get dirty. Get my hands dirty.”
In his films, Gibbons’ combined his dry wit and intellect with transgressive material.
“He was always flirting with a certain amount of criminality. It was always one of his subjects,” said noted film critic Jim Hoberman, who was one of the first journalists to write about Gibbons’ work. “He was already notorious for having stolen that painting” from the Oakland Museum.
Gibbons’ contemporaries in late 1970s and early 1980s in New York were creating overtly sexual films in a trumped-up John Waters’ style, Hoberman said.
Gibbons, on the other hand, was also exploring taboo subjects, but with wit and nuance. “He was transgressive in a way that was much more interesting to me,” Hoberman said. “His films were just much more interesting, conceptually and visually. I was very supportive of them. I thought he was doing something new.”
In his 1978 film, Spying, for example, Gibbons secretly recorded his neighbors in San Francisco as they sunbathed, gardened, kissed one another, and did other routine tasks.
The film flirted with the taboo of voyeurism, but also commented on American daily life.
When it was screened by the film society of Lincoln Center in 2012, they published critiques of the film by Hoberman and filmmakers who knew Gibbons’ work.
“It’s an aggressive film in its Rear Window quality,” wrote artist Peggy Ahwesh, “but also a film that exposes the pathos of a loner as he gazes on to the lives of others who are active, have relationships, lovers, pets and manage to accomplish the small tasks of daily life. Spying is the ultimate home movie.”
Away from the camera, Gibbons continued to find new material in his own criminality.
After the Oakland Museum theft, Gibbons began stealing books at shops along Telegraph Avenue near the University of Berkeley’s campus, in part to pay for lawyer fees, he said. He would also steal champagne, his drink of choice.
The book thefts were a clever scam, Gibbons said. He would take an academic book from a shop and immediately flip it at another store, sometimes for a several-hundred dollar payout.
He went on to plead guilty in 1979 to a felony for stealing the Diebenkorn painting, and was offered a deal to complete a drug-treatment program in lieu of a prison sentence.
“The court gave me the opportunity of spending a year in a therapeutic community, or a year in Santa Rita jail,” he said.
Gibbons, raised in Providence, moved back to the East Coast and entered the McLean Psychiatric Hospital. When he completed the program in 1980, he spent a short time in a New York City halfway house and reverted back to his petty crimes, he said.
“The triggers were still there. I immediately went back to stealing books,” he said. “I was, as I say, conducting research, having experiences I could later distill into art.”
After five months in New York, Gibbons moved to Boston, where his avant-garde film career flourished as he made films based on his actual experiences, conflated for effect. “I used the circumstances that I found myself in as a base for fiction,” he said.
As he racked up parking tickets in Boston and in Rhode Island in the 1980s, his film A Fugitive in Paris opens with him jumping out of a window, running from the Boston Police after him because of them.
The film also goes on to explore another crime Gibbons had yet to commit at that point in his life: bank robbery.
His work in this period would be shown in New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Biennial. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship and received a range of praise and criticism from critics.
His most acclaimed work, Confessions of a Sociopath, was released in 2001. It includes a number of old recordings, shot at various points in Gibbons’ life, that show him appearing to break the law in different ways. In one scene he shoots heroin; in another he steals a book.
Gibbons earned the Guggenheim Fellowship soon after the film was released and started the most stable job he ever held: a lecturing position at MIT.
“I had ruled out teaching, but I’d gotten an MFA because the only way I could finish my film, The Genius was by getting a staffer’s loan,” he said.
He would spend nearly a decade in the lecturing role in MIT’s Art, Culture, and Technology program, but was forced to leave in 2010 because he didn’t earn tenure.
“I would’ve liked to continue there,” he said. “Nine years is the limit for a not-tenured.”
Gibbons returned to producing avant-garde films full time after he left MIT, but struggled to achieve the same success he had earlier in his career.
In November 2014, Gibbons walked into a Providence bank, stood in line, passed the teller a robbery note and walked away with almost $3,000, he said.
“I could just go in and stand in line. That’s what allowed me to follow through with it,” he recounted. “So I went through with it and it worked out as I imagined it.”
Gibbons’ fascination with crime was part of his motive, he said.
“Bank robbery was something that always had a mystique that represented to me the pinnacle of criminal achievement,” he said. “It sort’ve represented an achievement because it’s sort of the opposite of the way I was raised.”
After the Providence bank robbery, Gibbons traveled to New York, where he says he stayed in budget hotels in downtown Manhattan and drank heavily.
Weeks later, he was again out of money and options, he said.
“I ran out of people I could ask for money. I had to leave the place I was staying because either I couldn’t afford it or I wasn’t welcome there anymore,” he said. “What would be more stressful? Going to the men’s shelter at Bellevue or robbing a bank?”
He answered his own question by walking into a bank in Manhattan’s Chinatown on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve day 2014, standing in line before passing the teller a note demanding cash. Another customer happened to walk up to the counter at the same time and distracted the bank attendant. To refocus the attendant’s attention, Gibbons lifted his hands onto the counter and revealed a small video camera recording his heist, in which he walked off with $1,002.
After he was arrested days later, Gibbons told the NYPD he’d committed the Manhattan bank robbery, and also the one he’s now charged with in Providence. He pleaded guilty in the New York case in July 2015, and was sentenced to a year in jail with credit for the six months he had already served.
When Gibbons walked out of Rikers Island in September of 2015, he hoped he was due for a big promotion in his entwined film and petty crime careers.
His arrest had made a splash in the press after the New York tabloids first reported the crime. The story would go on to be covered in The New York Times, People magazine, and in an exhaustive Boston magazine profile. A documentary film crew even wanted to capture his post-incarceration life through their lens.
The myth of Joe Gibbons was growing again.
He earned a new nickname in jail—Joey Banks—that’s now the greeting on his cellphone voicemail. He’s identified himself as a “bank robber/insurgent artist” on LinkedIn.
Maybe he could write a book. Or make a movie out of this.
But catch up with Gibbons today and he doesn’t seem like an artist poised to make a comeback.
Since his release, he’s married Deb Meehan, also a filmmaker who currently teaches at Pratt University and who he’s known for decades. There’s visible friction between them, as she works to get him sober and keep him out of jail, and he drinks, confesses to crimes, and recounts his criminal past to reporters.
Gibbons was charged in the Providence robbery in July, pleaded not guilty, and posted a $50,000 bond, a Rhode Island court spokesperson said.
He shares a Greenwich Village apartment with Meehan, not far from a liquor depot where he buys boxed and canned wine. He carried a tote bag to fill on a recent afternoon trip to the store, and paid for the wine with what he said was his wife’s credit card, instead of pocketing it like he might’ve done years ago.
Even drunk and down on his luck, he transitions seamlessly in conversation from tales of his bank robberies to critiques of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.
And he still flirts with crime as material.
“I’m just out and about, practicing my trade,” he said in a recent email, attaching a photo of himself inside a Chase bank, holding up a deposit slip. “Robbery—large bills only,” was scribbled on it.
He signed the email: “Joey Banks.”
But drunk or sober, Gibbons’ eyes light up when he talks about the Gardner Museum. Like the writers who sat with him in February, he saw opportunity in his possible involvement in the famous heist. Not for cutting a deal with the U.S. attorney for a reduced sentence in his Providence bank-robbing case. Not for finally solving the decades-old mystery. But for an autobiographical fiction film. For rekindling the myth of Joe Gibbons.
“It was just better than gold,” he said, recounting his February confession.
Gibbons took a trip to the Gardner Museum with his wife after the interview, and playfully posed in front of the frame of the missing Rembrandt. His lawyer later told him he has a “dangerous sense of play,” Gibbons said. “I asked him if he knew someone looking for a Vermeer at cut-rate prices.
“I would like to reconstruct it,” Gibbons said of the heist. “I would re-enact it with the police uniforms. I don’t know how far I could carry it.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Gibbons donned a police uniform for one of his films. In a scene from Confessions of a Sociopath, a camera pans up to reveal a mustachioed Gibbons in full police regalia.
In a sketch released by police after the Gardner heist, one of the suspects sports a similar mustache and look.
Think about his criminal past, his films, his art theft, and an audience might see Gibbons in that sketch. They might believe for a second he could’ve been there, perhaps even with a video camera in hand, the night $500 million of art vanished.
That’s exactly what he would want.

Judge Orders Another Exam For Mobster Gentile, Who Remains Silent On Notorious Gardner Heist

A federal judge has ordered another competency evaluation of Robert Gentile, the geriatric Hartford gangster who authorities suspect is concealing information about history's richest art theft, the heist a quarter century ago of $500 million in paintings and other works from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
The 81-year-old Gentile's lawyer expressed concern about his mental acuity earlier this month, after he said Gentile was confused and belligerent when he appeared in court in Hartford for sentencing on weapons charges.
"Based on the representations of defense counsel concerning the defendant's symptoms, there is reasonable cause to believe he may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect that renders him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or assist properly in his defense," U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny wrote in an order filed Thursday.
Gentile's mental state has been a recurring issue in recent years, as FBI agents hit him repeatedly with drug and gun charges, pressing him — without success — for information that could lead to recovery of the works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and others that disappeared after the 1990 robbery.
His lawyer, A. Ryan McGuigan, said Gentile — who has been locked up for most of the last five years — has displayed signs of dementia as his physical health has deteriorated in jail. In court earlier this month, McGuigan said Gentile could not remember having pleaded guilty in April to the gun charges and became angry when told he had.
Federal prosecutor John Durham has suggested Gentile is feigning in an effort to avoid another long prison stretch. Durham said that Gentile seemed in control of his faculties in August when he was recorded on a telephone call to his wife from the state jail in Bridgeport, where he has been held since another competency evaluation last spring.
Durham said Gentile was able to explain to his wife why and how he would be sentenced. He also asked her to have money deposited in his prison commissary account, Durham said.
Chatigny ordered Gentile sent to a federal prison medical center — preferably the institution at Butner, N.C. — for a 30-day evaluation. How the court proceeds with the gun charges will depend on the evaluation. It will be Gentile's second visit to Butner.
His first was last year, after he became confused and was reported to be near death from a variety of ailments — notably obesity — while being held at a federal jail in Rhode Island. He made a remarkable recovery and lost about 60 pounds, according to close associates.
But they said his health has deteriorated and his weight has increased since his release from Butner and return to the Bridgeport jail.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist, Bobby "The Cook" Gentile Sentencing Delayed


Feds Say Gentile Feigning Mental Issues, But Gangster's Sentencing Postponed

The sentencing on gun charges of Robert "The Cook" Gentile, suspected of hiding information about the world's richest art heist, was postponed Tuesday after his lawyer questioned the Hartford mobster's competency and a prosecutor accused Gentile of faking dementia to avoid another long prison sentence.
The 81-year-old Gentile's mental state has become a recurring issue in recent years, as FBI agents have hit him repeatedly with drug and gun charges, pressing him — without success — for information that could lead to recovery of $500 million in art stolen in 1990 from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
His lawyer, A. Ryan McGuigan, said Gentile — who has been locked up for most of the last five years — has displayed signs of dementia as his physical health has deteriorated in jail. On Tuesday, McGuigan said Gentile could not remember having pleaded guilty in April to the gun charges and became angry when told he had.
McGuigan asked that the sentencing be postponed while Gentile is evaluated to determine whether he understands the charges against him and is able to assist in his defense. U.S. Judge Robert N. Chatigny delayed sentencing, but said he will decide how to proceed at a later date.

Federal prosecutor John Durham said in court Tuesday that Gentile sounds as if he was in complete control of his faculties a month ago, when he was recorded on a telephone call to his wife from the state jail in Bridgeport, where he has been held since last spring.

Durham said Gentile was able to explain during the conversation why and how he would be sentenced and asked his wife to have money deposited in his prison commissary account. Then, in a loaded disclosure almost buried in the argument over competence, Durham said Gentile also told his wife that "he knows where one of the paintings is" and wanted to talk to his lawyer about it.
Durham refused to elaborate afterward on what he called Gentile's reference to a painting. The prosecution offered twice to play the recording in court, but Chatigny chose not to.
Outside of court, McGuigan attributed his client's reference to "one of the paintings" to an almost laughable string of statements that began with an unsupported assertion by one of Gentile's fellow inmates — the kind of assertion McGuigan claims follow Gentile, whose mafia membership and ties to the notorious Gardner heist have made him a prison celebrity.

McGuigan said that the fellow inmate approached Gentile in jail in August and claimed to have seen what appeared to have been a stolen painting somewhere in upstate New York six years ago.
"Someone approached him about a painting," McGuigan said. "He called his wife to say he found the painting and needed to talk to me."
McGuigan and others said they believe the painting to which Gentile referred is not one of the 13 missing Gardner pieces — if it even exits.
Last year, Chatigny ordered a competency evaluation after McGuigan raised similar concerns. Gentile was judged competent, but the report by a prison psychologist said his mental ability to understand and participate in his defense could deteriorate if his physical condition worsened.
No long afterward, Gentile collapsed late last summer in a Rhode Island hospital and nearly died. He regained his health after a long recuperation at a federal prison hospital and was transferred last spring to a state jail in Bridgeport with a nursing facility.
Since his transfer to Bridgeport, Gentile's physical health seems to have again deteriorated. He is wildly overweight and was rolled in and out of court in a wheelchair.
The discussion of what to do about Gentile Tuesday turned on another notorious case, that of Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, the former boss of New York's Genovese crime family who became infamous for wandering around his Greenwich Village neighborhood in pajamas and a bathrobe.
Gigante claimed he was demented. The government claimed he was faking. Chatigny said in court Tuesday that Gigante's judge decided he was somewhat incompetent, but not sufficiently so to avoid being sentenced. In a compromise, Gigante was ordered to serve a prison sentence at the medical center where Gentile recovered.
Chatigny said he will decide between two options for Gentile: Sentence him, as was the case with Gigante, to a specific sentence in a prison medical center. Or, alternately, order a competency evaluation and proceed from there. He asked the defense and prosecution to submit arguments on the question.
Gentile, whose arrest record dates to the Eisenhower administration, has been locked up for 41/2 of the past 51/2 years on a succession of drug and gun charges constructed by FBI agents pressing him — futilely, it has turned out — to cooperate with their Gardner investigation.
He has remained mute. He insists he knows nothing about the heist or the missing art — in spite of old age, dire health, a $10 million reward, lousy prison food and a growing body of evidence to the contrary, much of it consisting of his admissions recorded by FBI informants.
Whether he is released because of age and health or spends years more in prison, authorities could lose any leverage they have over a formerly obscure gangster who many believe once possessed, at least briefly, two of the stolen paintings and is sitting on information that could jump-start an investigation befuddled by a series of dead ends.
The FBI believes it has identified the two Boston hoodlums — both now dead — who broke into the museum early on March 18, 1990. Acting with inexplicable violence, they battered frames from gallery walls and tore away canvases. They drove off with 13 pieces, including Vermeer's "The Concert" and Rembrandt's only known seascape, "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee."
Gentile landed in the Gardner case 20 years later, in February 2010. It happened when investigators interviewed the widow of Robert Guarente, a Boston bank robber, drug dealer and, as it turned out, longtime Gentile associate.
Guarente had moved to Maine after his last prison sentence, for drug dealing, and died in 2004. In 2010, the Gardner investigators suspected that he had, at some point, obtained Gardner art from the gang that stole it. The investigators went to the Maine woods in search of clues.
Guarente's widow, Elene, stunned the investigators when, without being asked, she blurted out that her late husband once had two of the Gardner paintings and that she had been present at a Portland hotel when he passed the paintings to a longtime associate from Connecticut — Gentile.
Gentile, to that point, was hardly known. He had been ignored by organized crime investigators in Connecticut as a knock-around hoodlum, undeserving of a spot on law enforcement's priority list. Elene Guarente changed his life. He became a target of intense investigation. It was learned that, while no one was paying attention in the late 1990s, he and Guarente were inducted into the mafia as soldiers on the Philadelphia mob's Boston crew.
Not long after Elene Guarente's spontaneous declaration, the FBI issued a rare public statement demonstrating, at least obliquely, its interest in Gentile:
"The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence that in the years after the theft, the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region, and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia, where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft. With that same confidence, we have identified the thieves, who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England."
In court and in interviews with The Courant, Gentile denies everything. He acknowledges that he and Guarente were pals for decades. He said they met at a used car auction in South Windsor. He said he visited Guarente in Maine repeatedly. But Gentile insists that neither he nor Guarente were members of the mafia. He said Guarente never had any Gardner paintings. Gentile said he certainly never had any and he has no idea who stole the art or what became of it.
No one was predicting last week what Gentile's sentence will be. The prosecution and defense filed memos with Chatigny outlining their respective positions. Such memos are routine and are often filed in public. They are sealed from public view, without explanation, like many other filings in the Gentile case.
A public legal filing shows that, under the advisory sentencing guidelines in federal court, Gentile faces as much as 89 more months in prison for the gun charges and for committing crimes while on supervised release from his previous conviction. However, the court has discretion to sentence Gentile beneath the guidelines if there is a strong argument about his age and declining health.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist, Anthony Amore, (Gentleman He Is), Politely Lays Down The Gauntlet To Arthur Brand !!

The Irish Republican Army Holds The Key to America’s Most Famous Art Heist, Claims PI

The Gardner's security chief tells artnet News otherwise.

Arthur Brand. Courtesy of Arthur Brand.
Arthur Brand. Courtesy of Arthur Brand.
Arthur Brand, a private Dutch investigator known as the “Indiana Jones of the art world” is making headlines once again. This time, it’s because of a CBS This Morning news segment in which he claims scientific certainty that a half-billion-dollar trove of paintings stolen in 1990 is currently secreted in Ireland.
“I’m 100 percent sure that they are in Ireland. Hundred percent sure. No doubt in my mind,” Brand told interviewer Seth Doane.
He says he has “leads” that point him to the current whereabouts of the masterpieces, taken 27 years ago during a nighttime heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston. And these leads point him to the Irish Republican Army, or IRA.
“We have had talks with… former members of the IRA—and after a few Guinnesses, after a few talks—you can see in their eyes that they know more,” Brand claims.
The FBI and Gardner security director Anthony Amore reportedly still believe the paintings are in the US.
 artnet News reached out to Amore following the most recent round of headlines. In an email this morning, Amore said: “We have explored all of the angles Arthur has mentioned many years ago, to their natural conclusion. Today, there is not one scintilla of evidence pointing to Ireland or the IRA. If Arthur has some new to share, I am always happy to listen.”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Arthur Brand Chasing Fake Gardner Art Sold By Michel Van Rijn To Irish Criminals InThe Netherlands/Holland

Art Hostage Comments:
Arthur Brand, claims in the article on Bloomberg, below he is negociating with former IRA members to recover the Gardner art.
These leads are Irish drug dealers who work out of the Netherlands.
Furthermore, Arthur Brand claims a Dutch criminal had photo's of the Gardner art back in the 1990's and was trying to sell them in Europe. This criminal was Michel Van Rijn and he sold them to Irish criminals, but sadly they were copies/fakes and Michel Van Rijn scammed the buyers, who could not get them authenticated for obvious reasons.
These fake Gardner artworks have been passed through many hands over the years and if they are ever recovered it will become clear very quickly they are good quality fakes. Therefore no reward would ever be paid out and the reason given will be because they are copies, true or false.
However, this is not to say some of the original Gardner artworks might be held by Irish people, but this latest attempt by Arthur Brand is chasing the fake Gardner art sold by Michel Van Rijn.

Cracking the Biggest Art Heist in History

For nearly three decades, detectives have sought to solve the theft of $500 million of artwork from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. They think the end is near. 
It’s still regarded as the greatest unsolved art heist of all time: $500 million of art—including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, and Manet—plucked from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston on March 18, 1990, by two men posing as police.
The museum had offered a $5 million reward for the return of all 13 pieces in good condition. Last month, the bounty was suddenly and unexpectedly doubled to $10 million.
For such a long-unsolved case, the investigation is surprisingly active into the disappearance of the artworks, which include paintings, a Chinese vase and a 19th century finial of an eagle. Anthony Amore, the museum’s director of security, says he works on the case every day and is in “almost constant contact” with FBI investigators. Tipsters still call all the time, with leads that range from the vaguely interesting to the downright bizarre. Among them: a psychic who offered to contact the late Mrs. Gardner’s spirit, and a few self-styled sleuths who reckon the paintings can be found with metal dowsing rods.
Most of those go nowhere. Whether the works will ever be recovered, or if they still exist at all, is one of the great questions that has divided the art world.
“Those paintings are gone,” said Erin Thompson, professor of art crime at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “Either because they were destroyed immediately after they were stolen, or because they’ve already been beaten up so badly by being moved around in the back of cars.”
But there is one outside detective respected by Amore—Arthur Brand, a Dutch private investigator—who believes not only are the artworks still intact, but also that he can bring them home. This year.
“It’s almost certain that the pieces still exist,” Brand told me. “We are following two leads that both go to the Netherlands, and we are now negotiating with certain people.”
Brand, 47, has become one of the world’s leading experts in international art crimes. A British newspaper once called him the “Indiana Jones of the art world” for his combination of crack negotiating skills and uncanny instincts for finding stolen art.
In the past few years, Brand has posed as the agent of a Texas oil millionaire to help Berlin police find two enormous bronze horses from the German Reichstag. He worked with Ukrainian militia members to secure the return of five stolen Dutch masters to the Westfries Museum in the Netherlands. He negotiated with two criminal gangs for the successful return of a Salvador Dali and a painting by Tamara de Lempicka, together valued at about $25 million, to the now-closed Scheringa Museum of Realist Art, also in the Netherlands.
Brand acts as something of a liaison between criminals and the police. Controversially, he’ll try to make deals that allow the culprits to go free, because he says his primary goal is saving the art from the trash heap.
“There are very few like him who understand the reality of this sort of crime,” Amore said.

René Allonge, the chief art investigator with the Berlin State Office of Criminal Investigation, said his team had been searching for Hitler’s bronze horses since 2013. He contacted Brand at the end of 2014, met him in 2015, and they conducted the investigation and searches jointly, “as far as it was legally possible.” Ultimately, Brand played a crucial role in the discovery of the bronze horses, as well as other populist bronzes from the Nazi era, he said. “He succeeded in penetrating a very closed scene of collectors of high-quality Nazi devotionalia, where we finally found the sculptures that we were searching for,” Allonge wrote in an email.
Brand’s reward in some of these high-profile cases is often the glory and nothing more. Scheringa had originally offered a €250,000 bounty ($280,000) for the Dali and Lempicka, but the museum had shut down by the time they were recovered. Brand was paid an hourly fee and had his expenses reimbursed, though he declined to say by whom. For finding Hitler’s horses, he got no cash at all, just a lot of free publicity, he says.
“He’s not the guy to charge you for every hour he works,” said Ad Geerdink, director of the Westfries Museum, for which Brand recovered five old-master paintings from a militia group in Ukraine. “He knew that we are a small organization with not many resources, so the fee was very, very friendly.”
The biggest bonus Brand’s ever received for solving a case was about €25,000, he says. He adds that he’s investigating the Gardner case for the glory. “It’s the Holy Grail in the art world,” he said.
It’s estimated that only 5 percent to 10 percent of stolen art is ever recovered, largely because the works are impossible to sell publicly.
“People will steal art first and then think about what to do with it second,” said Thompson, the art crime professor. “Often they’ll destroy the work of art to get rid of the evidence.”
Shortly after seven paintings by Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and others, valued in the tens of millions of dollars, were stolen from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum in 2013, they were burned by the mother of one of three Romanian thieves arrested and charged in the burglary. She confessed to investigators that she was scared after police began searching her village.
Alternatively, paintings are used as bargaining chips in criminal cases. That’s how Italian police recently located two stolen Van Goghs.
In 2002, thieves broke into the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam with a sledgehammer—just because they saw a weakness in the museum’s security, not because they knew what they were after. The opportunists sold the works for ‎€350,000 to alleged Italian mobster Raffaele Imperiale. (The art was said to be worth tens of millions—although it never came to market, so it’s impossible to know.)
In a seaside town near Naples, Imperiale stored the canvases in his mother’s kitchen cabinet for a dozen years until prosecutors closed in. In August, Imperiale disclosed their location in an attempt to improve his standing with the courts, his lawyers, Maurizio Frizzi and Giovanni Ricco, told me. Prosecutors subsequently reduced his sentence by about two years, they said.
But often, the thieves are only persuaded to let go of works if they think they’re going to sell them on the black market. This is where someone like Brand can come in. In 2014, he created a character to help solve the case of the missing Reichstag bronze horses. He pretended to be an agent for “Dr. Moss,” a fictional American collector who had gotten rich in the oil business, loosely based on the character J.R. Ewing from the TV show Dallas. He has also posed as the representative of princes and sheikhs, or even as a criminal himself. “Whatever works, works,” he said. He draws the line at wearing costumes.
Brand says he almost never deals with the original thieves. Stolen art tends to move through many hands. Sometimes, the ultimate recipient doesn’t know that what they have was stolen.
“In many cases, I have to deal with a person who has a problem: They’ve been screwed by another criminal group,” Brand said. “They can either pass art along to another criminal group, or they can burn it. That’s even worse. What they won’t do is take the work to the police and say, ‘We found these Van Goghs.’ Because the police will ask where they got them.”

That’s where Brand has an opportunity to become the middleman. He can promise the sellers they won’t get in trouble, then get assurances that the police won’t make arrests.
Brand’s style works particularly well for snaring amateur crooks, said Noah Charney, founder of the Association for Research Into Crimes Against Art. A lot of people who steal art assume there are collectors out there who buy on the black market, like characters in heist movies. In fact, almost none exist, he said.
“People have always collected art to show their erudition and to advertise their wealth,” he said. “If you buy something that you know or suspect was stolen, you can’t show it to anyone.”
Criminals don’t always know that. “They get desperate and then turn to someone like Arthur Brand,” someone they are willing to believe is the real deal, Charney said.
Six-foot-two, with a shock of blond hair and bright blue eyes, Brand could be played in the movie of his life by Liam Neeson or Ralph Fiennes. His sleuthing is an adjunct to his primary and less dramatic job—helping buyers who have been swindled, conned, or overcharged for art.
“About 70 percent of what I do is just in the office, visiting clients, visiting dealers, talking to people, and saying, ‘Give him his money back!’” he said. “The other 30 percent is walking around talking to criminals, talking to police, informants, and going undercover sometimes.”
Brand first became connected to the art world as a student, through collecting ancient Roman and Greek coins. “I found out that there were a lot of fakes out there, and I didn’t want to spend my hard-earned money buying fakes,” he said.
In 2002, Brand received the first of many tips, rumors, and leads about the Gardner case. He heard that back in 1991, people in Holland had photographs of the paintings in storage. By following up, he became convinced that the paintings were never sent to the Netherlands, but photographs were being circulated by people trying to sell the paintings to someone there.
Sometime around 2010, he heard that the works had ended up in the hands of former members of the Irish Republican Army. But he soon suffered a setback with the death of one of his top sources, a former IRA member.
Brand believes the original thieves were small-time burglars who sold the pieces to a criminal gang in the U.S. before they were killed in the early 1990s. At some point in the mid-1990s, he thinks, the works were shipped to Ireland by boat and ended up with top-ranking IRA commanders.
For the past 12 years, Amore and the FBI have worked around a theory that local gang members in the Boston area may have been involved. They are fairly certain that the two thieves who committed the crime died shortly afterwards, Amore said.
But Amore believes the works are still in the U.S. “Art that is stolen in America tends to stay in America,” he said. “I’d be happy to be proven wrong.”
The statute of limitations on the theft ran out in 1995, and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts has considered offering immunity for information that leads to its return. The museum mostly cares about getting the works back, Amore said. That’s partly why they raised the reward.
“It was important for the museum to show its commitment,” he said. “We’re telling the public this is how serious we are.”
Brand says the higher reward may help speed things up. He isn’t convinced, though, that the criminals involved will trust the FBI to live up to the deal, despite his assurances.
“For me, it’s not about getting people arrested,” he said. “We’re not talking about murders here. If a big criminal has them or the Pope, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to get them back.”
Brand says this case could be cracked within months. He won’t elaborate, but if his leads are good, he’ll have to work fast.
Amore also says that he and the FBI may be close to solving the case, and they have leads that are “making the haystack smaller.” He, too, declined to share specifics. “We feel we’re on the right path,” he said.
The FBI is more measured. “The investigation has had many twists and turns, promising leads and dead ends,” said Kristen Setera, an agency spokeswoman in Boston. “It has included thousands of interviews and incalculable hours of effort. The FBI believes with high confidence that we have identified those responsible for the theft, even though we still don’t know where the art is currently located.”
Brand is confident he can find out.
“Somebody I’m talking to knows something,” he said. “These people are not idiots. They know that they can’t just hand them over and walk away with impunity. They think even if they’ve been offered immunity, the police will have some tricks up their sleeves. What I can do is I can provide them a way to return the works without ever having contact with the police. I can even promise them that they can get the reward.”
Would Brand really hand over $10 million?
“If I can be the one who can bring them to the museum,” he says, “give me a good glass of Guinness, and that’s reward enough.”
—With assistance from Hugo Miller.