Top 10 Art Heists

Posted: Nov 22, 2006 10:09 AM

The FBI is tracking them.

And, it may have helped in the recovery of a Goya painting this week:

The recovery of a stolen Goya masterpiece by the FBI this week cleared only one of the 10 stolen masterpieces on the FBI's most wanted art crimes list, and the remaining nine will be much more difficult to recover, according to the FBI.

The FBI says the thieves who stole the Goya dumped it after realizing it was too hot to handle, especially after the FBI put it on its Top 10 Art Crimes list.

Goya's "Children with a Cart," valued at $1.1 million, disappeared in transit from one museum to another earlier this month. Pipcture of the painting, here.

The Art Crimes List includes the 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, in which two thieves dressed as police officers made off with more than $300 million in Rembrandt, Degas, and Vermeer works. Most of the canvases were cut from their frames, leaving nothing but ragged edges behind in the frames. The empty frames still hang on the walls, but nothing from the heist has ever been recovered.

ABC did a recreation of the robbery, which took 81 minutes. It ain't exactly cat burglary.

Hours after St. Patrick's Day festivities wrapped up in Boston on March 18, 1990, two men dressed as police officers knocked on the security entrance side door of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum at 1:24 a.m.

"The policy has always been that you don't open that door in the middle of the night for God. Why on this one night they opened the door no one can explain," Lyle Grindle, the museum's current head of security, told Access Control & Security Systems, a security industry trade publication. Grindle was not in charge of security at the time of the 1990 heist.

Just minutes after letting them in, the guards quickly learned that the late night visitors weren't real cops.

Though they apparently did not brandish any weapons, the intruders managed to overpower the two guards. They handcuffed the guards, bound them with duct tape and left them in the basement.

In the fewer than 90 minutes that followed, the bandits went through the museum's Dutch Room on the second floor and stole three Rembrandts, including the Dutch artist's only seascape, "Storm on the Sea of Galilee."

They opened the door after St. Patrick's Day celebrations, at 1 a.m.? And, the burglars subdued the security guards without weapons? Bizarre.

The CNN link has a long, fascinating story on the heist. The IRA and the Boston mob are suspected to have been involved. The museum had no insurance, so they've regained none of what was lost. No insurance at an art museum? How does that happen?