The Gardner Heist and Stolen Art

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, ca. 1634, one of the works stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston on March 18, 1990. (Image:; click for full size.)

Post your comments below

The biggest museum art theft in history happened twenty years ago next month — half a billion dollars worth of art stolen in the middle of the night from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston by thieves dressed as police officers.

Guards handcuffed and bound with duct tape. Paintings — of Rembrandt, Degas, Vermeer — grabbed from frames and whisked into the night.

They’ve never been recovered.

Global art theft is big business. So where are these paintings? The museum is still on the trail. We’ll ask what they know.

This hour, On Point: we’re chasing down the biggest art heist in history.


Anne Hawley, director of Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum since 1989.

Anthony Amore, director of security for the Gardner Museum. He joined the Gardner in 2005 and is responsible for recovering the 13 works of art stolen from the museum two decades ago. Before joining the Gardner he worked at the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration’s Security Division.

Robert Wittman, former senior investigator and founder of the FBI’s National Art Crime Team. He spent 20 years with the FBI, and recovered $225 million worth of stolen art and cultural property. He now runs the art recovery and protection firm, Robert Wittman Inc. His forthcoming book is “Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures.”

See a photo gallery of the artworks stolen from the Gardner Museum in 1990.

The Art Loss Register allows you to check a global registry of lost or stolen art.

Host Tom Ashbrook and On Point producers toured the Gardner on Tuesday with security director Anthony Amore.

Anthony Amore, the director of security for the Gardner Museum, gives On Point host Tom Ashbrook a tour of the basement where guards were handcuffed by thieves on March 18, 1990. (Photo: WBUR)

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Dec 2, 2015
Tents are erected outside of Princeton University's Nassau Hall, where students are staging a sit-in, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, in Princeton, N.J. The protesters from a group called the Black Justice League, who staged a sit-in inside university President Christopher Eisgruber's office on Tuesday, demand the school remove the name of former school president and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson from programs and buildings over what they said was his racist legacy. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The hot debate over Woodrow Wilson’s legacy and whether his name should be removed from the Princeton campus for his racist views. It’s now a national debate. Plus, protests drive Chicago’s police chief to resign.

Dec 2, 2015
This Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 file photo shows Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel in Los Angeles. The social media company is one of many so-called "unicorn" startups valued at more than $1 billion in what some see as an over-heated tech market. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

The herd of tech startups valued at more than a billion dollars – so-called “unicorns,” Airbnb, Uber – and whether their bubble is about to burst.

Dec 1, 2015
In this 2010 file photo, Dr. Tom and Ann Earley work a Salvation Army kettle with their dog, Bocce, in an Atlanta, GA-area shopping center. (Flickr / Vicki DeLoach)

On #GivingTuesday, we’ll explore the trends in giving now from crowd sourcing to big charities and beyond.

Dec 1, 2015
Bethany Winder, a nurse who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., plants a sign in support of Planned Parenthood just south of its clinic as police investigators gather evidence near the scene of Friday's shooting at the clinic Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, in northwest Colorado Springs. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Women’s health, American politics and gun violence after the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Where Did #GivingTuesday Come From, Anyway?
Tuesday, Dec 1, 2015

Today’s #GivingTuesday. But how — and where — did it start?

More »
Fresh Ideas For Your Thanksgiving: Recipes
Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015

Did our Thanksgiving 2016 episode make you hungry? Good news — we’ve got recipes right here.

More »
Karl Rove Still Won’t Get Involved In The 2016 G.O.P. Primary
Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015

Karl Rove may say he’s not endorsing or getting involved in the 2016 G.O.P. presidential primary, but that won’t stop from offering advice on how to beat Republican front runner Donald Trump.

More »