Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Charles Vincent Sabba Sheds New Light on Gardner Art Heist

Gardner Bullets IV: Simmons College Robbery

This is a small excerpt of a much longer Your Brush With The Law exclusive interview that will be posted here in March for the anniversary of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum robbery. This interview with William Youngworth III is going to reveal never before discussed details of the robbery and shed light onto the case.

CVS: Please shed light on the Simmons College robbery that occurred right across the street from the Gardner Museum eight years prior (1982) to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum robbery.

WY: Well, that night was our first trip into the Gardner Museum, our second was in like 1986 or 87. My god, its all such ancient history now. First I would like to address this criminal attachment to my name. In 1977 I was given a 13 year prison sentence for something I was cold blooded innocent of. I was identified as a get away driver in an armed robbery that I did not do...........

CVS: You weren't doing anything illegal back then?

WY: I wouldn’t go that far, but in my world back then it was then as legal as I could make it. I was working with a close friend making fake I.D.’s. My friend was a genius at photography. We were making licenses for Joe McDonald’s crew who used them in a horse racing fixing racket around the country. It all came tumbling down right about then.

We got $500 a piece for our I.D. kit which were so good that they could take a call from a cop if someone got pulled over. We had made our equipment portable. We were using the same equipment Massachusetts DMV’s were using. We would rent hotel rooms never in the same place twice, call Joe’s guys and tell them where to come. We would make ten I.D. kits per session, collect our $5,000 and be gone. We did it a few times per week and making good money for back then....

CVS: So how did you end up in the Gardner Museum?

WY: We first were walked through and shown the Gardner and we cased the museum a second time in 1986. Some guy that wasn’t in our crew got our ID cameras busted in a drug raid. He had been dealing coke right under our noses, which put our operation in jeapordy. He met this girl in a bar and brings her back to our safe house. One thing led to another, she saw too much, went to the cops and we lose all our equipment. During this same week we had a major ID order to fill. My other friend is this super connected guy in Boston and he put the world out we need Polariod 707 ID cameras and will pay $10,000 each for them. In less then two days we had a lead on some. They were in Simmons College in Boston.

CVS: The Simmons College robbery isn’t that widely known is it?

WY: I did let it out when I was pleading with the Gardner to act fast because I was losing my toe hold on my ability to assist them without it becoming drastically more complicated. They didn’t listen. But your right it was basically brushed aside. Funny, I’ve never had to prove how guilty I was before! Each time we looked at the Gardner Museum, we were cautioned that some of the frames were very possibly wired into the alarms. There were a lot of unknowns we were waiting for answers on. Before those answers came I had gotten picked up on an old charge.

CVS: For our readers that don’t know Boston, or haven’t been to the Gardner Museum, Simmons College and the Gardner are directly across a small street from one another.

WY: Anyway, my friend’s contact was the night time guard of the Simmons. Since the plan would give us the control over the entire college we cleaned out their Audio Visual lab and got our hands on equipment we had been wanting to lay our hands on for years.

CVS: This gets a little hard to ignore. Please tell us how Simmons was robbed.

WY: Sure. The exact same way the Gardner Museum was in 1990. It was knock, knock, "open up it’s the police". "Were here over a distress call we received". It took four of us, including the guard about four hours to clean the place out. We had a connection that ran a large commercial division of a rental truck company and had to get the truck back by 6:30AM before the day shift showed up at 7:00AM. This was our first tour of the Gardner. Our guard and their’s were both musicans and social buddies. Truthfully I never knew about the place and it was the Simmons guard who turned us on to the score. We got in there that night after we got done at Simmons. We put a look out up the street and he gave us the all clear for us to take the truck from around back of Simmon’s loading dock, a few hundred feet down Palace Road and around the block re-connecting to Huntintgon Ave.

CVS: What was the guard’s story who was involved? And you know I need to ask about your first trip into the Gardner.

WY: Certainly we’ll get back to that but his statement was that uniformed Boston Police Officers had handcuffed him, took him down into a basement stairwell and re-handcuffed him to a railing.

CVS: I have done some checking into this. Simmons has no comment about this, the Boston Police have such a brief report that’s it ridiculous and two paintings in the Dean’s office were cut from their frames.

WY: I actually believe that the original report was much more detailed. Actually I am certain of it. Our guard brought us a copy. We were actually using it as an information on the items we ended up selling and didn’t need. And your information about two paintings being cut from their frames is 100% correct. When our guard saw my friends ’passion’ for art he told us all about what was right next door.

CVS: You cut paintings from the frames?

WY: Heavens no! When I saw what he did I was very upset. These really weren’t that big a deal paintings. They weren’t worth much. Just two nice late 19th Century portraits of old faculty members. They were portraits of men and this is a women’s college. I recoiled when I saw what he had done. He didn’t really care and simply rolled them up. You know what, in re-telling that story I recall I never knew what happened to those paintings.

CVS: So let me get this straight. Right across the street from the Gardner, where eight years later a $500 million robbery occurs 100 feet away where the guard says he was summoned to the door by persons claiming to be police, the police over power the guard, hand cuff him in a basement, take control of the place and cut paintings out of frames...and that wasn’t a clue to investigators?

WY: That is correct.

For the rest of this exert please visit: Roll Call

Rembrandt; oil on canvas; 2010; detail of larger canvas by Charles Sabba

Van Rijn; oil on canvas; 2010; detail of larger canvas by Charles Sabba

Storm on Sea of Galilee; Rembrandt Van Rijn; Stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Gardner Bullets V: A Sealed Case

Lets talk seriously now, and after over twenty years I think serious discussion is overdue since many of the principles have passed away, and if the few who are left go as well, they may take the secrets the possess with them, such as where the stolen art is (and we do believe the authorities know everything except WHERE the thirteen stolen items ended up). Seriously, the Gardner Museum security at the time of the robbery was a joke, so the museum administration and board members need to be held accountable and owe something to the American art loving people. They can rectify their negligence in the protection of our national treasures by taking drastic actions to recover the stolen art works. The head of security at the time of the robbery was incompetent and the guards were broken down valises who knew nothing about museum security. Why did these guards get off the hook so easy? Burnout musicians who opened the door to the museum even though the museum's policy clearly stated that they should never open the door for anyone. The Gardner guards allowed the robbers in and, after being duct taped up and secured to pipes in the basement, slept comfortably. Does a reasonable citizen relax enough to fall asleep into sweet dream land in this kind of situation while going through this kind of horrible ordeal? Then, after being discovered and liberated, these guards gave ridiculous descriptions to the police which culminated in those terrible composite sketches.

Two composite sketches of suspects: After Neville BPD; fingerprint ink on fingerprint card; Charles Sabba

Please recall (and refer to Gardner Bullets IV) that the Simmon's College guard was completely in on the 1982 robbery. Supposedly, the people who planned the Gardner heist never knew about the place until the Simmons guard turned them on to the score back in 1982, when he was covering for his pal at the Gardner Museum (the guard at the Gardner, a musician, was at a gig and the Simmon's guard was making his rounds).

It appears that the authorities are protecting these guards. The Gardner guard has never caught any public heat. These kids were no criminal masterminds, they could have never withstood the heat that they should have had to endure. I am positive they were pissing their pants in fear, being stuck between very dangerous underworld figures and the authorities/possible legal troubles. Please note the one little blurb in Tom Mashberg's & Anthony Amore's book about stolen Rembrandts that in Museum robberies it is usually an employee that is involved with thefts. There is usually an inside connection (and most museum security experts agree).

Where are they now? The Simmons guard died in the motor cycle accident. One of the Gardner guards supposedly died in France. One of the Gardner guards lived right around the corner from one of your William Youngworth's Allston antique stores at the time of the robbery. He allegedly was assaulted (reported recently in the Boston media) in front of the Allston antiques store. I personally would like to find and question all of the guards.

CVS: Why did Mashberg write about the guard living around the corner from the store on the twentieth anniversary of the heist?

WY: Who knows. Maybe its true. I didn’t know the guy. I vividly recall the argument I got into with Mashberg that started his attacking me the very next day. He probably printed the story to bait me into saying something about it. That was not so much a robbery as a gimme (staged robbery). I never saw two security guards on duty at anytime. That’s not to say there wasn’t but the security was a joke. In 1986 my friend had his own relationship going with a Gardner night security guard. The Gardner was just another score in the 80’s. In 86 we were just waiting for some security information. ...

CVS: During the negotiations with the Gardner Admin and the authorities, negotiations that eventually failed, did the authorities ask you to describe any of the circumstances of the theft? How about the condition of of the paintings? Did they ask to describe the backs, edges or under where the frame would hide?

WY: In the initial part of the negotiations they wanted me to describe things about the backs of the paintings I just did not know. They asked me about identification aspects that at the time I really never had a reason to note. They expected me to leave and go find those answers under intense surveillance. They obviously wanted me to access the package and lead them right to it. Now, many years later, as I understood it there was a Bernard Berenson tag on the piece and there were seals, or labels, that went between the stretcher bars and the canvas. The paintings were broken out of their frames and the seals were broken in the process.

These seals are designed to be like a seal indicating the actual artworks were original to the frames of that institution. Many museum collections do this. Its sort of a security/integrity feature ensuring the art work hadn’t been moneyed around with.

Read the full exerts at

Coming soon Gardner Bullets Six and Seven

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stolen Art Watch,Gardner Extention , "It's a Kind of Vast Municipal Fire Station A Monstrous Carbuncle on the Face of a Much-Loved and Elegant Friend"

Museum renaissance

Gardner to unveil grand new wing at reopening

In her will Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) stipulated that her museum, which she founded in 1903 and where she idiosyncratically installed her collection of fine and decorative art, remain largely unaltered. A copper-clad, four-storey-high building where a coach house formerly stood was never part of her vision, but this 70,000 sq. ft extension has been added to the museum that bears her name. Due to open on 19 January, the wing has been designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano and has cost $118m.

Anne Hawley, the museum’s director, says that her trustees decided to expand six years ago mainly because attendance had reached 200,000 visitors a year. The pressure on the building and the collection was too great, Hawley says, and limited space curtailed events and activities. When Gardner was alive, only 2,000 people enjoyed her recreation of a 15th-century Venetian palazzo, filled with paintings, tapestries, furniture, manuscripts and textiles, complemented by concerts in its music room.

Piano’s solution is a modern building that is not as tall and stands 50ft from the original museum. He compares the relationship between the buildings to that of “the great nephew to the great grand aunt”, says Hawley. Old and new buildings are linked by a glazed passage. The extension houses a 300-seat auditorium, a 2,000 sq. ft exhibition space, a cafĂ©, conservation labs and staff offices. It also provides a new, larger entrance.

Building the extension has been controversial, not least because Gardner designed the carriage house, which was demolished in July 2009. The Boston Globe revealed in May 2009 that concerned members of staff felt Hawley was suppressing debate over the building’s historical significance. The newspaper cited an essay by former curatorial fellow Robert Colby, in which he describes how the carriage house held symbolic value for Gardner. Hawley responded to objectors by saying the carriage house was “never part of the visitor experience” and was not protected by Gardner’s will.

The carriage house had been used to accommodate visiting artists, a function catered for in Piano’s extension, which includes two artists’ apartments. The museum’s board of trustees unanimously voted for the demolition and the city and the state’s preservation agencies, including the Boston Landmarks Commis­sion and the Massachusetts Historic Commission, did not object. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled the demolition “in the public interest” because the museum’s plans for an extension would “extend the life of the [original] building” and fulfil Gardner’s will to establish a museum “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever”.

“For the first time we will have a real exhibition space to focus on certain objects in our collection,” says Oliver Tostmann, the museum’s research fellow, who is due to become the collection’s curator in April. He plans to select one or two objects from the collection each year and show them alongside objects from other institutions in the new space. The opening exhibitions will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the museum’s artist-in-residence programme.

Gardner was able to build a museum for her growing art collection when she inherited $2.1m from her father in 1891. He made his wealth in the Irish linen trade and later in mining investments. Gardner’s peers—and rivals for work by Titian, Botticelli and Michelangelo—included the likes of JP Morgan, Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Mellon, or the “squillionaires”, as she called them. “I’ve got the picture habit. It’s as bad as the whisky habit,” she confessed in 1896.

This isn’t your grandma’s Gardner.

Boston’s beloved Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum reopens next week with a design update and double the size, thanks to a new 70,000-square-foot wing, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano.

“You can keep the life and beauty there, but you can tell a new story,” said Piano, who sat for an -interview in the new wing’s Living Room.

The sleek addition, connected by what Piano calls an “umbilical cord,” is four stories of glass and copper, and even the fire escapes are aesthetically pleasing. The museum opens to the public Jan. 19, with three community days of free admission.

Restoration of the Palace
Since 1990, the Gardner Museum has completed significant restoration work on the historic palace building to stabilize its structure and help accommodate increased programming and attendance. Projects have included replacing the skylight over the courtyard with thermal pane glass and installing a climate-control system. Construction of the extension complements preservation work that is ongoing within the historic building, including a decade-long lighting project to protect sensitive artwork and improve the visitor experience.

A centerpiece of the Museum preservation project is the Tapestry Room, which has been restored to its original glory after being used for 85 years as a temporary concert hall. As the Museum’s world-class concerts will now take place in the new wing’s Calderwood Hall, the Tapestry Room has been returned to its former configuration to be experienced as a grand tapestry hall. Conservation treatment of the space included the cleaning of its Mercer-tiled floors, restoration of the French medieval stone fireplace, reinstallation of select art and furniture objects, replacement of historic textiles with reproductions, and new lighting.

Art Hostage Comments:

Restoration of the Palace started in 1990, h.mmm, same time as the Gardner Art Heist ???

Of course we have been told from the get go the stolen artworks were not insured, h,mmmm ????

Then of course twenty years after the Gardner Art Heist $180 million is raised for this new extension, h,mmmm.

Again, of course we have been told the stolen Gardner artworks were not insured, h.mmmm ??????

The cost of the new extension is reputed to be around $118 million, h,mmmm, $62 million left in the pot, h,mmm.

Could the existing reward offer of $5 million for the recovery of ALL the stolen Gardner art "in good condition" be diverted from the left over $62 million to an escrow account and that news made public to tempt those who may hold the stolen Gardner art to come forward to collect the $5 million ?????

In light of the fact the $5 million reward offer was made all the way back in 1997 and the value of the stolen Gardner artworks have increased two three fold, increase the reward offer to $10 million and put it in an escrow account to show a sign of good faith and the willingness of the Gardner Museum to appear sincere ??????????? Would still leave $52 million in the pot.

In support of the doubling of the reward to $10 million and putting that into an escrow account, Could the FBI and Assistant DA Brian Kelly issue a complete immunity for those who recover the stolen Gardner Art and just focus on recovering the iconic Vermeer The Concert, Rembrandt's Storm On The Sea etc ???????

This would lead to the certain recovery of the Stolen Gardner Art and confirm the art is all that matters, as the public has been told numerous times by both Law Enforcement and the Gardner Museum.

Upon another note the Tapestry Room looks wonderful and bears testament to the legacy of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

However, the New Wing looks like "a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend" to quote Prince Charles.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Dr No Hans Heinrich "Heini" Thyssen-Bornemisz’s Collection Returns Stolen Art, Sadly Not Gardner Art

Hans Heinrich "Heini" Thyssen-Bornemisz’s Stolen & Looted Art Collection

Jan. 5 – Somewhere between 1970-1985, a piece of art valued at $218,000 was stolen from BYU campus. After being stolen the “Silver Chalice” was sold between a number of different art dealers before finally landing in Switzerland with Count Thyssen-Bornemisz’s collection. BYU negotiated with Thyssen-Bornemisz’s estate and the piece of art was returned to BYU.

Art Hostage Comments:

Alex Boyle, in an exclusive Art Hostage interview last summer, makes the connection between the Gardner Art Heist and the end destination for some of the elusive Gardner art being the Hans Heinrich "Heini" Thyssen-Bornemisz’s Stolen & Looted Art Collection:

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art, The Man Who Can, Patrick Nee

The Man Who Can Recover Some Gardner Art

Art Hostage Comments:

Give this man, Patrick Nee, blanket immunity from prosecution and a cast iron guarantee he will not have to testify against or reveal any sources, then the Gardner Art will surely be on its way home.

The small matter of the reward offer can be resolved by placing the $5 million in an Escrow account to show good faith and once the Gardner art is recovered then the payout is made.

Patrick Nee was not involved in the actual Gardner Art Heist or subsequent handling of the Gardner art, an honest broker who commands respect right across both the criminal and Law Enforcement Underworld.