Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Monday, May 14, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Museum Art Heist Boston, Fact Over Fiction Lecture, Charles Sabba, Salmagundi Club, Truth Revealed

Charles Sabba’s Visual Investigation into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist
Patron's Gallery, May 13, 2012 - May 19, 2012

Art Cop Charles V. Sabba, Consultant Director of Unitel’s Art Loss Recovery Division, has been involved with the Isabella Stewart Garnder Museum Heist investigation for some years and has even gotten close enough to many of the suspects to paint their portrait. These portraits as well as other works by Mr. Sabba will be on view May 13-19.

On Wednesday, May 16 2012 at 8pm, Mr. Saba will also be giving a lecture about the heist and its many unanswered questions. Click here for more information:

Charles Sabba Statement:
As an artist, I am a flaneur, that idling stroller of city streets that Charles Baudelaire made famous. I like to leave my front door with no particular destination, intent on gathering real life experiences in the city streets, and force close relationships through true social interactions with the people I find in those streets. The norm today among the world's modern populace is to get most of its social interaction, life experience and intellectual stimulation from a screen or an electronic means of conveyance. I reject this and crave to interact with people face to face and my only mission on these urban excursions is to connect to those people I meet and depict them in my art. As both a police officer and an artist, I am a trained observer and I use my skills from both my metiers to observe and paint people. Much like the great poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire, I find the most interesting strolls those that lead me down the darker, seedier streets and back alleys. Baudelaire plunged into the depths of Paris in search of experiences that could fullfill his passion for seeing and feeling. He loved Paris for its bandits and prostitutes, "its monstrosities blooming like a flower," where he could depart, indeed escape, the boundaries of ordinary society and bourgeois existence. On my artistic vagabond wanderings, I choose to plunge into the depths of the art underworld. It is here, among the bandits, detectives, and seedier characters of the art world, that I conduct my visual investigations.
-Charles Sabba-

When Art Theft becomes art itself

When you ask him how as a policeman he got started in art, Charlie will politely correct your perception. "It's the other way around. I am an artist first and then a policeman," he states with a refreshing mix of artistic exuberance and sensibility that emits only from those who are clearly established 'in their element'. Actually, artist Charlie is a police sergeant, an art theft investigator and art loss consultant as well, formally speaking. Even though as Unitel's Consultant Director of Art Recovery Consultancy Unit, he's concentrated on some of the largest art theft mysteries in human history, not as traditional law enforcement does, but more akin to the enigmatic world of intelligence gathers, which is an unusual offshoot of the crime solving industry to begin with, leave it to an artist to take things to a whole new level. And this particular art theft consultant has done just that. On May 16th at 8pm, Charles Sabba will seamlessly blend both careers and present to the public some behind-the-scenes insight on the search for the thieves via The Gardner Museum Heist Exhibition-lecture at the Salmagundi Club in NYC.

Accompanying Charles at his lecture will be an 8' x 10' Isabella Stewart Gardner Heist freshly painted depiction, which includes many of the prominent figures that were and are involved in the 22 year old 'unsolved' case. If ever there were a way to artfully document this fascinating study of human behavior at it's worst and best - it is through Mr. Sabba, who paints with the unusual edge of an insider's eye. The estimated heist price was $500 million and included works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas and Manet. It connected an heiress, mobsters and politicians, and a host of prominent business men and women spanning over a few decades and continents. The incredible irony of this long-running hi-end drama and the upcoming unveiling in May is that the original criminals actually kicked off the heist - dressed in police uniforms.

Mr. Sabba, who can often be found in his art loft at The duCret School of Art, located in Plainfield NJ, is a typical artist only in that - as artists often do - he has managed to put a whole new and rather lighthearted twist on the redundant theme of 'humans stealing from other humans'. It temporarily lifts a soul's focus away from the similarly unsolvable political and banking industry foibles of recent years. Perhaps in the very near future, someone might even be savvy enough to commission Mr. Sabba to paint the connected-iconic figures involved in creating and proliferating the 'disappearing money syndrome' that became a devastated world economy!

Both the upcoming lecture and exhibition at the Salmagundi Club are open to the public and the admission is free. In the name of the world's largest 'whodunit' art theft case, this should be one very interesting crowd to mingle amongst. A reception party will begin at 6:30pm and the lecture will begin at 8pm. The Salmagundi Dining Room and bar will be open to the public during the exhibition. For dinner reservations, call (212) 255-7740. Dinner is served Tues - Fri, 6 - 9pm with the bar open Mon - Fri, 5:00 - 10:30pm. The Salmagundi Club is located at Forty-Seven Fifth Avenue | New York, NY 10003. For more information regarding Charles Sabba, contact duCret school of Art at 908-757-7171 between 9am - 4pm or

Mafioso's widow confirms husband gave art to ‘friend'

The widow of a Mafia associate, whose Maine home the FBI searched three years ago as part of the investigation into the Gardner Museum art heist, told authorities that she saw her husband give a painting to the Connecticut man who has become the latest person of interest in the notorious theft, the Globe has confirmed through several sources, including the woman.

The information was the basis for the recent thorough, repeated searches of the man's home in Manchester, Conn., according to his lawyer.

Elene Guarente confirmed in an interview Friday that she told Boston-based federal investigators during a trip to her home in 2009 that she saw her husband, the late Robert Guarente, pass a portrait to a man she did not know at the time, who she later learned to be Robert Gentile of Manchester.

She said her husband had only told her of Gentile that "we've been friends for 30 or 40 years."

Guarente, 61, said in a reluctant interview Friday that she provided her best recollection of the piece to the federal agents and later to a federal grand jury investigating the theft. She told the Globe that her recollection of the painting did not match any of the paintings and sketches authorities showed her.

"That was the only picture that Bob gave ((Gentile)) that I know of," she said. She said she saw the picture only once, in the early 1990s, at her Madison, Maine, home when her husband took it out of a tube he was carrying and showed it to her. She said he never explained how he had come into possession of the painting or what he intended to do with it.

Guarente would not describe the piece of art that she viewed to the Globe.

She said that several years later Gentile, accompanied by a second man whom she declined to identify, visited Robert Guarente at the Maine house for a hunting trip. At some point, following the trip, Guarente gave the painting, still in its carrying tube, to Gentile, she said.

"I didn't think anymore about it until they came and began asking me questions about what Bob may have known about stolen paintings," she said.

Earlier Friday, Guarente had denied any knowledge of the paintings to the Globe until she was told that Gentile's lawyer and associate had provided different accounts of her testimony to authorities.

Their accounts now provide the backdrop for the latest activity in an investigation that has captivated the art community and the general public for years, and which seems to have been amplified in recent weeks.

The theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the Fenway section of Boston remains one of the most scandalous art thefts in history and perhaps the most sensational in Boston.

Two men dressed as police officers conned their way past security guards in the early-morning hours of March 18, 1990, tied the guards up, and went on to steal priceless masterpieces, including three by Rembrandt and five by Degas.

The case has become a priority for the US attorney's office and the FBI in Boston since the arrest last year of fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger.

The pieces of art would be virtually impossible to move even on the black market because of the high-profile investigation, authorities have said.

Gentile, a 75-year-old Mafioso with ties to Boston crews, is in prison awaiting gun and drug charges, but his lawyer has maintained that the charges are a ruse, that authorities are trying to pressure him into providing information about the artwork.

Armed with a warrant allowing them to look for guns, federal authorities on Thursday searched Gentile's Manchester home, the second time since his arrest in February.

The authorities used ground-penetrating radar and specialized dogs in the search. But Gentile's lawyer, A. Ryan McGuigan, accused authorities of covertly expanding their search to look for the paintings.

Investigators have not commented on the search but were seen leaving the home with boxes and bags.

Authorities found guns in both searches, his lawyer said. But McGuigan argued that his client, who is ailing, has told authorities and a grand jury everything he knows and that his client would take advantage of the $5 million reward if he had any more information.

"He has told them what he knows - he knows nothing more - and they're insisting that he does," McGuigan said.

McGuigan said his client met with authorities Friday and that he knows the significance of the case.

"My client has said from the beginning that he wishes he could help them find the paintings, not only for the $5 million, but also because my client understands the artwork is not only important to the Gardner Museum, the art world, but he also understands it's important to society at large. He just doesn't have any more information."

Andrew Parente, 76, and Gentile's co-defendant, is out on bail and said in an interview Friday that his childhood friend has told them that investigators have asked about the paintings based on Elene Guarente's account, but that he knows nothing more.

"Believe me, we don't know nothing about no paintings," he said. "If I knew where they were, I would have gave them up in a minute."

He said he met Robert Guarente only once years ago through Gentile when they visited his strip club in Connecticut after watching a baseball game.

Guarente was one of 11 men indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of stealing $227,000 in eight holdups of banks in Greater Boston from November 1967 to July 1968. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

He returned to Maine and was convicted again of being a past felon in possession of a handgun. At the time, he penned a letter to a judge asking for a lenient sentence; Guarente reminded the judge that the judge had once called him a "changed man" since returning to Maine in 1986.

Attorney: Grand jury probing art heist

The ever-expanding search for the missing masterpieces pilfered from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has led not only to new searches of suspected stash houses, but also to a fresh grand jury probe, according to lawyers representing men caught up in the FBI’s dragnet.

Brockton lawyer Martin Leppo said he is representing a “potential witness” summonsed to testify before a federal grand jury sitting in Boston since last fall and hearing testimony into the 1990 theft of 13 masterworks worth $500 million.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston said she could neither confirm nor deny if a grand jury is investigating the Gardner theft.

Leppo, who declined to identify his client but said he advised him not to testify “at this point,” doubts the reinvigorated push to uncover the stolen paintings will lead to anything.

“It’s law enforcement just chasing their tails,” said Leppo, who in the past represented Carmello Merlino and David Turner, both long suspected by the FBI of pulling off the largest art heist in history.

Merlino died in a federal prison in 2005 while serving a 47-year sentence for a scheme to rob an Easton armored truck depot in 1999, a crime for which Turner is serving 30 years, and two other men got 51- and 13-year sentences.

“There are a bunch of guys doing long bits ... You’d think if they knew where (the paintings) were, and they’re the prime suspects, they would have given it up,” Leppo said.

Patricia Gentile, wife of jailed reputed mobster Robert Gentile, 75, whose Conn-ecticut home and yard was scoured Thursday by federal agents in what her husband’s lawyer called a “fishing expedition” said she would have collected the $5 million reward long ago if she knew where the art was stashed.

“I knew where they were, I’d turn them in. At this age, we’re too old for games,” she said.

The raid of Gentile’s home followed a similar search in November of former safecracker Anthony Carlo’s Worcester duplex, whose walls were cut open in a fruitless hunt for the paintings.

Robert Gentile’s attorney, A. Ryan McGuigan, said his client has been called at least once to appear before a federal grand jury in Boston, where he was questioned about the missing art. The lawyer said he expects authorities to again subpoena Gentile’s wife, who he said has been summonsed to Boston three times, only to be dismissed each time.

Charles Sabba Explains Gardner Art Heist:

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