Watch Behind-the-Scenes of the Gardner Museum Heist With Chief Investigator, Anthony Amore.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the infamous Gardner Museum heist in which 13 objects and works of art were stolen on March 18, 1990. The Chief Investigator and Director of Security, Anthony Amore retraces the steps of the thieves during this horrific heist and discusses the on-going investigation
Read below for a full transcript of the conversation.
Todd Rassiger - Good afternoon and thank you for joining us today. My name is Todd Rassiger, I'm the regional Managing Director of First Republic in Boston. I'm also a very proud advisory board member of the Gardner Museum and you're all in for an incredible treat today. Well, you're showing up because you're intrigued by the infamous Gardner heist and we're marking its 30th anniversary from that heist. I will say that the best part of the museum is what remains and the magic that is there and the incredible works of art when you walk in the door and experience. So I hope if you haven't been there, that you find your way to it. And if you have that you come back, Anthony will tell you the Gardner's opening its doors tomorrow so thrilled to welcome people back. Just setting the stage a little bit. So shortly after midnight, on March 18th, 1990, two men broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum and committed the largest art heist in history. And just to give you a scope, one, they stole a dozen masterpieces worth approximately $500 million and those masterpieces still remain missing to this day. We are joined by the Gardner's chief investigator and director of security, Anthony Amore. He is among the world's leading experts in the field of art crime and security. Prior to joining the Gardner, Anthony was the assistant director with the transportation security administration and helped lead efforts to rebuild security at Logan International Airport following the tragic events of 911. He's also written two bestselling books, "Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories "of Notorious Art Heists" and "The Art of the Con" the most notorious fakes, frauds and forgeries in the art world. Join me in welcoming Anthony as I'll trace the steps of the Gardner Heist. And once again, thank you for joining us, everyone, Anthony.
Anthony Amore - Thank you, Todd, that was a great introduction. Thank you to First Republic. I want to give my personal thanks to the organization which has always been so supportive and such a great partner with the Gardner museum so thank you for that and thank you for having me. Todd, you said something that's near and dear to my heart about the museum but I'm going to talk about the heist. One of my favorite things to mention to people who have never been to the Gardner is that sometimes people do come here to see what's not here. They'll come to see empty frames or they'll have heard about the empty frames through the media or one of the endless documentaries or podcast or what have you and it's a striking thing to come and see what's not here but when people leave the Gardner, regardless of why they came, what they remember is what is here. And they remember this amazing courtyard. They remember this collection that Mrs. Gardner left to the world, which is one of the greatest philanthropic gestures in history. And tomorrow people will be returning to the Gardner museum after about four months of being closed because of the pandemic. So we're very excited and we have a big turnout scheduled for tomorrow within state limits on occupancy. So I will speak to you about the Gardner theft, and tell you how it happened. So as Todd started saying on March 18, 1990, so people always think it was on St. Patrick's Day heist nut it was actually St. Patrick's Day had just turned into the next day. So it's March 18, 1990 and its 1:24 in the morning and a car pulls up to the employee entrance. And those of you who live in Boston or are bent to the Gardner Museum know that next door was on one side is Simmons college. So the employee entrance used to be on the Simmons College side of the museum on palace road. So the car pulls up and there are two guards, overnight guards on duty at the museum. They started at 11:30 that night. One is sitting behind the watch desk, and the other was doing rounds walking around the building because overnight guards are here primarily to make sure that there's no fire or water damage occurring. That's the biggest threat to a collection, frankly. Obviously fire causes damage that can't be repaired in most cases. So they're doing their job and it's just another night and at 1:24, the employee entrance intercom buzzer rings and the guard answers it, the guard at the watch desk. And over the Intercom he hears, "Boston police "We're responding to a disturbance in the compound." And the guard then buzzers police officers into the building. Now, when he did that like most catastrophes, human error was involved. He was trained not let the police into the museum overnight. What the guard was supposed to do is if the police come to the museum and you have not called them, you then dial 911, it's a failsafe. If they're supposed to be there, the dispatcher will tell you if they're not supposed to be there, the real police will be on their way but he failed to do that and the two men came in and they approached the watch desk. And one of the officers did all the talking. He spoke to the kid behind the desk, and I'm sorry for using the term kid. It's a generational thing that guards were in their early to mid-twenties. And he said to him, "We got a report of the disturbance "in the compound." And the guard behind the desk said, "I haven't heard anything tonight." And the police officer said, "Well, you're working alone tonight?" The guard said, "No, I have another person on duty with me." So the police officer said, "Well get him down here, please" And the guard radioed for his partner and he said, "Could you come downstairs?" So it took about 30 seconds maximum for the guard to get to the watch desk, the second guard. And once both guards were there, the police officer looked at the guard behind the desk and he said, "You look familiar to me. ”Do I know you from somewhere?" The guy said, "I don't think so." And the officer said, "Yeah, let me see your ID." So the guard hands over his driver's license and the police officer looks at him and he says, "No, I do, I thought I knew you. “There’s a warrant out for your arrest, "step out from behind the
at desk," and the guard did. Once he stepped out from behind the desk, he was away from any opportunity to contact the outside world, the alarm company or the Police Department. At that point, he was defenseless and overnight security guards at museums are not, they're not Navy seals, they're not here to put up a fight. They're not armed, they're here to observe and report. Once the two guards were away from the desk, the police officer that was commanding the situation said, "You too, you're under arrest, assume the position." And some of you who were from say my generation or older then you remember that stuff used to hear on police shows on television all the time, assume the position. The bad guy would get up against the wall with two hands against the wall to be frisked. They did that and the police officers handcuffed the guards. And at that point, once they were securely cuffed, the police said, "Gentlemen, this is a robbery. "Do what we say, you're not going to be harmed. "We're not here for that, we're here for the painting. “Don’t put up a fight." And the guard who let them in and said, "They don't pay us enough to put up a fight." And it sounds like a sarcastic thing. And I don't know if I would have said that myself but its true, their job was not to fight people if they came into the museum. So the thieves took the two guards, they put duct tape around their eyes, they put duct tape over their wrist, took them into the basement of the museum, which is an interesting thing because the museum's basement is a place where very few people go, At the time, especially it was dark. It's sort of like a labyrinth and they took the two guards down there. And that's something that's tells me that perhaps, one of the many things, actually it tells me the thieves had some inside information about our facility because the experienced thief would not go into an old building's basement unless they knew it was safe for them. Because in an old building, you don't have two points of egress and they didn't hear. So when they went into that basement, if the police were behind them, they weren't coming out of the basement without being arrested. So they went down there, they took one guard and they placed them on the floor, sat them on the floor and they handcuffed his cuffs to a pipe on a wash thing. And they took the guard who let them in about 50 yards away from the first guard. They sat them on a ledge and they handcuffed him to pipes there as well. And that's really interesting to me because the area that the thieves took this guard and sat him is a spot in the museum that I would say even now of our, I don't know, 120 employees, I would say maybe five, including myself, have ever even walked down there. So it takes a lot of gumption to do that. So the thieves take the guards downstairs, they have subdued them, they've secured them. They make their way upstairs. And Laura, could you put up the first slide please? Thank you, so this image, you're looking at the courtyard, which is never boring to look at that's for sure. And if you look straight ahead in that image, right there you can see a staircase. Now to help you situate yourself, looking at the courtyard from this angle. This is the East cluster, in that corner, the area you can't see in the corner to your left is where the watch desk was. The guards are downstairs in the basement beneath this courtyard. The thieves come upstairs and they walk up that staircase you see in front of you and they go to the second floor and you can see that second floor in front of you right in the center, upper center of that image and they walk that way heading towards your left. That's end route to the Dutch room. And the reason I'd like to show this image is to give you a sense of the way they went but also because when they get to that second floor in the upper center of your picture, that's what the alarms first go off. Now, when I see alarms, these are internal only, they're motion sensors. So the only place that these alarms were registering was to the mainframe computer at the watch desk that was now abandoned. So that computer is sitting there and across the screen and on a dot matrix printer, if anybody remembers those, a message is coming across, and it's saying someone is in the second floor hall, investigate immediately and it's just going off but there's no one there to read it. Motion sensor alarms don't go to police departments, generally speaking, except in the rarest of occasions and I've never seen because if they did any time, say a mouse ran through the museum, the police would have to respond. So the motion sensors are going off. So we know where the thieves went and when. So we know that they went to the second floor at 1:48. And if you remember, I mentioned that the thieves came in at 1:24, so they spent 24 minutes in the museum before they had even stolen anything. Now I've studied around 13 to 1400 different art heists in my time here, shows you I have no personal life but what I've learned from that examination is that most art thefts at the museum, we're talking about three to five minutes, maybe nine minutes on the long end. 24 minutes is a lapse and the thieves haven't stolen anything yet. And that points directly to the fact that they knew the police weren't coming. And for them to know the police weren't coming, they had to have some sort of information about our security system. 90% of all museum heists involve some sort of inside information. Now I must stress though, that inside information doesn't necessarily mean someone on the inside was complicit, it could mean that the old world war II adage I've just wrote about in my blog is that loose lips sink ships, and people who worked at the museum, security is a high turnover type position. Someone might've said the wrong thing in front of the wrong person, we don't know but what we do know is that thieves are walking to your left along that second floor at 1:48. Laura, could you go on to the next slide please? Thank you, that's a picture of the guard tied up in the basement. So this is the guard that let the thieves in. He's down there, there's nothing he can do at this point. I'd like to show this picture because it reminds me to tell the audience that I was not the security director in 1990. I always mentioned red cornrows would never be something I allow. And that's not a regulation haircut either. So this is just to give you a sense of what the guards were like at the time, Again, this wasn't seal team six, this was Berkeley dropout who was a security guard at the museum at the time. And just that last slide, please, thank you. So it's 1:48, the thieves are going directly to the Dutch room and for those of you who've been to our museum, you know the Dutch room is on the second floor. You could go one of two directions when you caught that staircase, you can go straight ahead to the early Italian, but this is the room that the thieves went to. And it doesn't surprise me at all, from the motion sensors, we know that they came straight into this room and from the way the frames were laid on the floor, we can tell that they went directly for our Rembrandts and Rembrandt is arguably the world's greatest artist painter, arguably the world's most famous painter. And for those reasons, combined that with the era in which he painted, people know, anybody knows his name, everybody knows that his paintings are valuable. And as a result, if you look at each artist who's ever painted, if you look at their body of work, no one's art per capita has been stolen more frequently than Rembrandt's. Every major city in the country has a Rembrandt. Every major city has had some sort of Rembrandt theft as well. And the reason I say this because when I started this job, inside of researching art theft, I looked at Rembrandts primarily because we had four and the thieves took all four down from the walls and made off with three of them. What you're looking at, in this image is the South wall of the Dutch room, Sort of in the center there, you see, well, you see three frames, three empty frames, The large empty frame in the center held the painting, "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee" by Rembrandt. And it's an incredibly important painting, it's quite large. That frame, there is for a five foot by four foot painting to give you a frame of reference. It's oil on canvas, it was painted in 1633 and it's pictures Christ just before he calms the sea with the apostles on the boat, on the sea of Galilee panicked over this crashing waves and a serene Christ is about to calm the sea. And what makes it interesting, especially are two important points about it. Number one, it's the only seascape known of Rembrandt's entire body of work, which makes it spectacularly valuable and historically important. And number two, amongst the 12 disciples in Christ, Rembrandt painted himself in this painting, right in the center, looking at you, the viewer, That frame was taken from the floor, it was laid down in front of those chairs, like you see, and cut from its frame. It was cut with what I believe to have been a box cutter based on what we could see that was left behind on the stretcher, around which the canvas was wrapped. You could see a very thin, very deep cut, very even too, no jagged edges. So the thief, if you look at that frame, he put the blade along the inside of the frames right there and cut a rectangle, To your left, the far left, you see another empty frame, slightly smaller, another Rembrandt that was portrait of A Lady and Gentleman in Black. And it's more of a typical double portrait by Rembrandt, a gentlemen, standing in the center, his wife seated to his left, the view was right, dressed in black, very traditional looking scene, stolen in same way to frames taken from the wall placed in the floor and the canvas is cut. Those are the two paintings that were cut from their frames. People always mistakenly believed that the painting, all the paintings were cut from the frames, and those are the two and the reason was because those are large and the stretchers they were on were large and heavy and would have been very difficult to carry those out of the museum. Now, along with what I just told you, another myth is that the paintings were rolled. There's no reason to believe they were rolled, the evidence points away from them having been rolled. There are no paint chips on the floor that make us think that these brittle canvases were rolled and they would have been difficult. Think of them as sort of like corrugated cardboard over the years. And if you started to roll cardboard, you quickly realize it's a fool's errand. So those two paintings are taken but when you think about the way the crime was perpetrated, you have to think there are two guys and they stole paintings from three rooms. So methodically, they went together into this room, the Dutch room, and they took the frames down. And while one of the thieves went to work, when moving the paintings from their frames, his colleague went to another room called the short gallery, which is not pictured here and took five watercolors by Diga and an Eagle Finial from a Napoleon flag. Very interosseous in terms of the dollar value, that Rembrandt Storm on the Sea of Galilee is the second most valuable stolen item in the world. Its worth, whatever you want to say its worth, the price tag would be enormous. Another painting that was stolen that was in that picture was the empty frame to your far right, was the Vermeer, the Concert. And though, pick the painting that usually comes to people's minds when they think of the Gardner heist is the Storm in the Sea of Galilee, the most valuable painting in terms of dollars that was stolen was the Concert by Johannes Vermeer. That painting, you could literally put any number on it and make an argument for it. We often say that the art stolen from the Gardner museum that night was somewhere in the range of $500 million. You could probably put that price tag pretty close to the Vermeer itself. When the Leonardo painting, Salvador Mundy was sold three years ago, I think now for 450 million that told you that this Vermeer, which is definitely a Vermeeer without any question, and intact, not the subject of a lot of conservation work, that's probably in the same range if not more than the Leonardo. So the amounts in terms of dollars that were stolen from the Gardner that night is just staggering but it's even more troublesome. People always ask when paintings are stolen, the first question is how much is it worth? And I know I work for museums, so it sounds like I'm biased, but there's an intrinsic value to art that exceeds its dollar value. When you think about the only seascape painted by Rembrandt being out of the public's view for 30 years now, that's troublesome and you could go online and look at the highest resolution image of that painting and have not seen it because to see a painting in person, as opposed to a high res image somewhere, there's no comparison. And those of you who are art lovers and frequent museums understand this. There's a Rembrandt painting called a Portrait of a Woman in a Gold-Trim Cloak that was stolen from the MFA in 1975. And I couldn't get anything but an image of it for years, black and white image. And then I finally got a color image and I thought I knew what that painting looked like. And then I saw it in person and it's night and day. I mean, to see the painting in front of you, three dimensions, and to see the way the light plays on it and the way the brushstrokes are and to know you're standing approximately as far away from it as Rembrandt did, it's just an unbelievable experience. So that Vermeer, the Concert is one of only 36 known Vermeers, staggeringly beautiful, the only one in New England, one of his larger works one of his last work. So, beyond all of this, in terms of dollars, if you don't know, you should know that the Gardner museum, when Mrs. Gardner passed away, her will said that nothing in the museum could be changed or sold or added to. It had to remain the way she left. We can't move anything, it has to stay exactly as she left it. So what was stolen from us are pieces of a larger work of art that she created. Her work of art is missing 13 parts of it. That's an important loss. And on a bigger scale, you've lost these pieces of these artist's body of work. The Gardner paintings, in many museums, when a theft happens in most museums, the museum they make an effort to look for it. They count on the police and they go into the storage and they put another work there. Here we can't, the spaces to stay empty. So when you talk about the true definition of pricelessness, you're talking about the Gardner paintings, because again, that Leonardo, that sold for $450 million is referred to as priceless but it's not, there is a price, it was $450 million. The Concert by Johannes Vermeer had never be sold. It's indeed priceless as are all 13 of our works. And that's something for you to contemplate and think about why our loss is not only the biggest loss in the history of mankind in terms of property theft based on dollar value but also based on intrinsic value. One of the stranger things about the heist is that I described to you the theft of 12 pieces but at some point during the evening, somebody went into the blue room in our museum, which is on the first floor. So all 12 pieces that I mentioned were stolen on the second floor. The thieves never went to the third floor with Titian's Rape of Europa gaze. They went to a room in the first floor called the blue room, and they took a small painting about eight by 10 by Edouard Manet called Chez Tortoni. And they took that painting from its frame as well. They left that frame, not in the room in which it hung but they left it in a security office that they broke into to take the old VHS tape that had the security footage on it. So if you look at the crime from a holistic view, 12 pieces were stolen using one emo, one piece was stolen using an entirely different emo. And what does that tell me? It tells me why I have sleepless nights. This is an incredibly complex crime to which we have many more questions than we have answers. 2:41 that evening, the first thief left the museum, probably carrying some of the items. Four minutes later, the second thief left. So they left in two waves, probably because the first ventured outside, wait until the coast was clear and told the second one, he could then come outside. So by 2:45, the thieves were gone. 81 minutes had elapsed. Remember I told you, these thefts are usually three to five minutes, maybe nine. This theft was nine times longer than your typical long heist. I've spoken to more art thieves and I wish I ever had to. I have spoken to a lot of criminals. They'll tell you that when you're pulling off a caper, three minutes seems like 30 minutes because you just don't know if the cops are coming. These guys knew the cops weren't coming. I think they probably had police scanners but even still, that's not enough for you to be that comfortable. So they were entirely sure that no one was coming and they were gone at 2:45 and the rest of the night elapsed, the guards that tied up in the basement, not knowing what their fate would be. The next morning at around 7:30, the next shift of guards arrived for work. They couldn't get into the building, no one was responding. They called their supervisor. The security director said, call the police. The Boston police came, supervisors showed up. They entered the building, they searched for the guards and found them. And then to their great relief, the guards were unharmed but to our everlasting dismay, the paintings were gone. What you're looking at in my background here is a photograph of the Dutch room at the Gardner museum during Mrs. Gardner's time. And it's in reverse but right here is portrait of A Lady and Gentleman in Black. And right here, little blurry is Storm on the Sea of Galilee. And on this little table right here was a Chinese beaker, about a 12 inch bronze beaker that was stolen as well. The paintings remained missing, all 13 works are gone. We work every day looking for them, and that's not an exaggeration. This pandemic has put a real dent in our ability to work and go out and interview people. It's been a depressing time to be totally frank because we'd like to stay active. I've been looking for these paintings myself personally, for 15 years. I never dreamt it would be that long but it's a mission worth fighting. The Gardner Museum has put forth an effort to find this lost art that no other institution in the history of art form has ever put forth. From day one, we pledged the work to get these paintings back. We've had a reward that was $1 million in 1997. It went up to $5 million and in 2017. We increased it to $10 million, which is the biggest private reward ever offered for anything. We will not ever stop looking for our art. It's an everyday endeavor. If I could show you my phone right now, you'd see a number of calls to me from the FBI. We work on it every day. I have a partner in the case named Jeff Kelly. I would encourage you in closing to, rather than read stories online about the theft, I would encourage you to look at the art and look at what was missing, that is remains missing. The reason I say that is because you could read all the stories you wish, and none of them tell you more than 5% of the real story. Most of them have mistruths and outright lies in them. The books that have been written about the theft are inaccurate, some wildly so but the art is true and it remains the same and I would hope that you would stop and look at these paintings on our website, on gardnermuseum.org examine the art, come to the museum, see the setting name we're in. And I think if you do, you will be reminded of the words I opened with, which were, you might come to see what's not here but when you leave, that will not be what you will remember. You will remember what you saw in this incredible museum, built and designed and dreamt of by a remarkable woman. One of the most remarkable women in American history, Isabella Stewart Gardner. So I thank you for logging in, tuning in whatever the vernacular is. And I'm grateful to First Republic again, and I'm willing to answer whatever questions you might have to the extent possible, it is an ongoing active investigation.
Todd - That's great, thank you so much, Anthony. So we do have the ability to receive questions. There's a box, depending on your screen, there's a Q and A box in which you can submit questions. So we'll try to take them as they come but as they're starting to load up Anthony, I'm curious, there's a fasci... What do you think people's fascination is with heist? Not just the Gardner but in general, movies, books. There's something intriguing romantic about it, there is definitely a fascination with heists.
Anthony - That's a complex question Todd. There's a couple of things. First of all, the way heists are depicted in movies is wildly inaccurate. There's no shred of truth in say the Thomas Bowman Theater or these wild heist movies where you have these Deviney or dashing type thieves, master criminals coming up with these plots. Furthest thing from reality but it does give people this romantic vision of heists, big heist like this, and big score. The second part, I think people look at, especially our heist that's almost like a lottery like you'd be using these price tags are so enormous. It's like a get rich quick scheme. And again, people have the impression it's a victimless crime, which is so far off patient. Buzzfeed did a YouTube video about the theft. It was kind of snarky, it’s for a millennial audience and to my dismay, it had something like 20 million views. And in it, they talk about how they liked what the thieves pulled off because these paintings belong to some rich family. And this is sort of like a blue blood elite victim. People should remember, museums are egalitarian, a museum is set apart so you can see the world's greatest treasures yourself up close and enjoy them, and they’re not tucked away. It's a crime against all of us when someone steals something from a museum. I think the myth of this romantic Robin hood type criminal that you see in films and that people imagine, which is so far from the truth, is what attracts people to heists.
Todd - Thanks, Anthony. So a few other questions that are centering around that, the market for stolen art, and then is it for personal pleasure? Is there a black market for this where it's being sold and traded? How does that work?
Anthony - Well, there's two parts to this. You have to think about paintings, maybe a very loose grouping of three sorts of paintings. And this is wildly loose grouping. One would be masterpieces, highly recognizable artists works that everyone would know like a Rembrandt, like a Vermeer, like a Picasso, even Andy Warhol. It's not a coincidence that big name artists are the ones whose art stolen most frequently. Those are the masterpieces. Then you have lesser value art but when I say lesser value, I'm talking tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars as opposed to tens of millions. And those are beautiful works by Hudson River Valley artists and those sorts that are valuable and expensive but don't necessarily make the headlines if they go missing. And then the third part would be art that's very low value. Those second two groups are the sorts of paintings that can be stolen and sold because it's hard to keep track of what's stolen. Where would you check? That you're not spending as much money on them, they get fenced a bit more easily. And they get fenced to eBay or sometimes to auction houses that don't know the provenance, all of those posts to check, to private dealers, private sellers but we talked about masterpieces. The motivation is always money. Thieves think they're going to steal a hundred million dollar painting and sell it for 10 million they'd be rich. The fact is there's no precedent for that ever happening. So they steal them thinking they're going to become rich but there's nowhere to sell them. No one is going to give you 10 cents on the dollar, or even a penny on the dollar for $100 million painting that can only land them in jail and that they can never show anybody. Let's just go buy a real painting. So the true art of art theft is not stealing the art, it's trying to fence it when you're talking about masterpieces. There's no market. Our paintings are not in Saudi Arabia on some Sheikh's wall. They're not in Japan on some industrialist's wall. They're probably hidden in attic or a crawlspace or a basement somewhere.
Todd - Anthony, how did you eliminate the guards or not you but how were the guards eliminated as suspects? And did they keep their jobs after the heist?
Anthony - That's a complex question too. One guard resigned after the heist because he was traumatized. The guard who let the thieves in had given us two weeks’ notice before the heist. As far as eliminating anyone, we've never eliminated anybody the only people I would say with certainty, didn't do it are Whitey Bulger, who everybody likes to think did do it, and Anne Holly, who was the director of the museum at the time and myself. So aside from those three, all 500 of you out there are suspects.
Todd - Well, so if you mentioned you're getting, if you look at your phone, you've got calls from the FBI, it's an ongoing police investigation. So how do you, if you're getting these inquiries every day or bits of information, describe the process for how do you decide which leads to pursue?
Anthony - That's a great question. So what we do is, well, first I would say with the caveat that after all this time, the FBI agent I've worked with has been in the case for 17 years so combined, we have 32 years’ worth of experience on this and we can snip out a bad lead right away. Nevertheless, we let them all. And the first step is when I first started on my first day, I created the database. Into it, I fed every bit of known information we have, anyone who's ever contacted the museum about the heist, any suspect, any person of interest, their associates, just so anytime a new name comes up because there's so many, where you are going to quickly say, wait, this guy's name popped up in 2001, November in relation to these other people. So we have the information on our fingertips to quickly vet and prioritize the leads that come in. If I didn't have this fake background behind me, you'd see a mess of an office with literally tens of thousands of pages, worth of stock about the heist and people and facts and records and such. We work on the things that come in new that seem hot. We work on things that we've had for a while that are plausible, and we work on leads that we've developed our self, and try to bring these things all together and find the commonality so that's the basic approach.
Todd - Well, a lot of people Anthony want to know how you got into this line of work and more detail about your background.
Anthony - I spent the first 15 years of my career in as a fed. I started with the, with the INS, if anybody remembers the INS, the old Immigration and Naturalization Service and I became an Intel officer with them at port of Boston. Then I went on and I was a special agent with FAA security, which is also no longer around. And that was the key to me coming over to this job. I had gained experience in investigations and facility security. Most people don't realize that those are two distinct realms FBI agents don't do security, Security professionals don't do investigations, I happen to have done both. After spending five years as a special agent with the FAA 911 struck, I was asked to help rebuild security at Logan with Homeland security and I spent about five years there too building up security at Logan Airport. And when I felt it was where it needed to be, and our missions were accomplished, I happened to cross a job announcement at the Gardner museum and my vision was I had worked at the place from which the biggest terrorist attack in the nation's history have been launched and rebuilt security there and now I can come to the place where the biggest property theft in world's history took place and build security. I would never believe that be here 15 years though. It is probably be here until we get these paintings back but that's my career journey.
Todd - Yeah well, in fact, thank you for your service, particularly around 911. In terms of your work now at the Gardner, So it is security but also a piece of this is trying to solve this crime. So is there a split in terms of how you divide your work? Does it depend on the day that week? How does that work?
Anthony - Excellent question. Basic terms, when I come to work, you are security director, you put your vision for security in place, you put your policies and procedures and you evaluate your risks and set forth your program that way. Then I have a staff that manages the boots on the ground and enforces my policy and procedures. So when I come in every day, the first thing I do every day is as I read a daily situational report which tells me even the most mundane things like did a door open in the middle of the night. And if it did, I want a video of why and who and everything else, it doesn't happen. So we evaluate the day before, we look at the day ahead in terms of our personnel and how we'll be staffed and what unique things will be happening at the museum. And then I evaluate any risks for instance, and it's no secret that when we open tomorrow, everyone coming to the museum will be dressed like they're going to rob a stage coach with a mask on, and that's a security challenge. So we are putting counter measures in to protect us. Once have that stuff in place and the doors are open and people are coming in, either putting out fires and working on the investigation. It's not a 40 hour a week job and when I get home at night, I'm still working on the investigation. So it's incredibly time consuming, takes over your life but I consider it an honor to be part of Mrs. Gardner's tradition.
Todd - Well, a lot of people Anthony in the Q and A are asking about the architecture of recovery, not just in terms of the Gardner heist but how these crimes get solved. What goes into them, how do you pursue leads? What is there, is there a typical thread of what this looks like in terms of these types of crimes?
Anthony - Yes, well, frankly the majority of art, and I talked mostly masterpieces but the majority of art, heists, major heists you hear about, first of all, the story reading the papers almost never accurate. You'll always see, this was the work of experts and such and that's never the case but basically masterpieces are recovered either right away or a generation later, there's almost no in between. We're at the generation later stage. The reason that's true is because people, to use the street term, they rat on each other. So let's suppose a painting is stolen today, God forbid at X, Y, and Z museum in some city, and it's a Rembrandt. The police run the investigation, they process the crime scene, they look at likely suspects but if they're others, they're hoping someone's going to call and give them a tip. Tips are so incredibly important. You need that information unless, except nowadays we don't have the advantage of this in regard to heists but you might have some forensic information left behind. Fingerprints useless in our case because the frames are so ornate, you're not going to get a footprint. There was no DNA evidence left behind that we could process but nowadays you have that advantage in a lot of cases. That second group of paintings that are recovered a generation later are recovered because the scariest guy involved is no longer so scary or a husband becomes an ex-husband. And I use that expression because it's always men who steal this stuff, just like all the ugly crimes, it's always men. And somebody calls and says, "My father, who I was strange from, "he had those paintings in his living room. “They were there, he hid them in the basement. "He took them," and then that's how the crime was solved. And the child is able to come forward because it's not afraid of their dad as much anymore. Now he's in a home or he's just not the scary guy he once was. So most of the time, I'll give you this one quick anecdote. Jeff Kelly from the FBI and I work with an FBI agent in Philadelphia sometimes on some art related stuff. And the newspaper had a story about how he recovered a Norman Rockwell painting and he got it just like that. And we here a sitting back like my God, all these years we're looking and he gets his painting back. Well, the real story was a guy had the painting. He called his lawyer and said, I want to give it back. The lawyer walked into the FBI office and said, I have a client who has stolen Rockwell, let's give it back. That's his investigation and God bless him and I'm glad it happened but he's not knocking on doors. One of the biggest parts of my job is talking to bad guys, simply put and asking them what they've heard and going to bad guys from the late eighties and early nineties and asking them what they do. So that's how you gather this information. It's constant processing, and analyzing and collecting in terms of the investigative efforts, is that clear answer?
Todd - Yes, so someone has a follow-up, which is, this is the concept of, until the arts found, are all leads dead ends? How do you know, until you have recovered something? Is there a pattern which you're moving towards solving a crime in which clues lead you to something or is it basically anything that doesn't lead to it is a dead end?
Anthony - Well, we keep an open mind. We always look at every lead that comes in. We, Jeff and I have our own theory and we think it's a good one. And nothing that we've learned in our 15 years of working together has deterred us from our theory it's always lent itself to us being correct. I can't share it but I'd say what happens a lot of times with leads is you'll investigate it to death and you'll find out a lot of times you find out, yeah, this guy had a stolen paintings, different one. I've recovered 55 stolen paintings, they're just not the Gardner paintings. I worked with the DA's office to recover another 50, just not ours. So that happens a lot, there are other paintings. We deal with an enormous number of con men and you can smell them pretty quickly. I wrote a book about con men, not a coincidence. So you could see that pretty quickly that you have these con men you're dealing with. And then other leads just Peter out. It's because they are a weak lead but we never dismiss it, we keep it and five years down the road, something might come up that lends itself to that information five years earlier, and we process it. So we don't throw anything away, except the fourth group we have is we do have a lot of unstable people who contact us with their theories. We always say we don't want theories, we just want facts. We've heard all the theories. And there are people that won't let go of the theories and they take up a lot of our time and they contact our trustees, they contact the head of the FBI, the senators, the congressmen. There's something wrong with them and they just can't let go of their theory. So there's scary element to it as well.
Todd - So since you joined the museum and you follow this closely, how has museum security changed over the years?
Anthony - Well, I can only speak to the Gardner's and that's because museum security is not regulated, so there are no standards. You could come to our museum and see how we do things and you could go to the MFA and see how they do them. You might find that they're pretty different. I don't trust anybody with our security information. If another museum security director wants to come in and see how we do things, I respectfully tell them, I'm sorry but no, because I reiterate loose lips sink ships and no one needs to know. The technology is really incredible. The things that are out there now, we employ, one thing I will tell you because it's obvious it happens. We have cameras. There's a thing called an object detection camera so the camera watches your room but in the software, you're able to literally draw on the item and identify the item. And if someone goes to touch that item, an alarm will go off and not only does it deter the person from touching, because traditionally what would happen is the person touches it, then the guard reacts. In over hundreds of years, all those touches ruin objects. So now it stops the person before they do, it captures the video of who it was. We could do all sorts of analysis about what's getting touched and the Gardner, when we can't move anything so we look for different ways to try to protect the item. So that's the coolest technology that's out there right now, object detection but I would assure other people who are tuning in that we have things in place that, when you secure anything, whether it's the president or Fort Knox or this beautiful museum, you set lighters so that you have no, when the museum was robbed, there was no layer between the mistake by the guard and catastrophic loss. Now we have multiple layers. First of all, the theft could not be replicated today, supposing it was, there's still so many layers a thief would have to get through just to get to our paintings and even might steal them. That would slow them down enough that the police would come. So that's how you look at museum security, at least that's how I do.
Todd - That's great, thanks, Anthony. A few folks want to know how they can, how they could help this in terms of, is there a reporting hotline, how would they get in touch if they've heard anything?
Anthony - Okay, well I will reiterate that we look for facts, not theories. So I stay disrespectful to anybody who wants to help because it's kind of thing to want to help. It's not a bad thing but we've heard every theory. So we don't need anybody emailing me saying, you know what might've happened? What we're looking for is facts, I know this happened, I've seen this painting. I've heard this person say they had something. That sort of thing, though that sort of information, we have an email address. It's easiest email address in the world to remember, email@example.com. So if you have information, specific information like to share, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. In a larger scale, what I always ask people to do, and they always say, "Oh my God, yes, of course I'll do it." And they never do is everyone uses Instagram and everybody uses Facebook. If you would post our missing images on these platforms, not only will your friends and followers enjoy this beautiful art but people will recognize it if they see it or have seen it. It's very possible that someone's grandson saw one of these paintings hidden in the attic or a basement Let me just give you this anecdote. I speak to a lot of police officers and prosecutors, including Boston and I just had, what I did earlier in the year, I asked a hundred Chiefs of police to come into the museum and I gave a presentation on the theft with the FBI. Great guys, it was great of them to come. You all know you have much more important fish to fry in terms of your daily security than just stolen art but they came, and of this hundred officers, I showed the Concert by Vermeer, the world's most valuable missing item stolen in your state. I put the image up there and I say, "How many of you know what this is?" And I would say that maybe five or 10 hands went up. If the police don't know what it looks like, how are we going to find it? If you are online, listening to me today, then you have the internet. And if you have the internet, you have social media. Think about putting some of our objects up on your social media feeds. It would be more helpful than you can imagine. You might put something on Instagram that the right person sees, and that person calls me. And just like that, 30 year misery ends. So if you would do that, I would be so deeply appreciative.
Todd - So Anthony, let's be positive and say that moment will come and it will come while you're still at the Gardner. In your mind, is there a bottle of wine you've been waiting to open up champagne, some sort of celebration that you have in your mind when that moment happens?
Anthony - Well Todd, I'll tell you I had a bottle, for that reason, Johnnie Walker Black Label I've been here 15 years, I can tell you at a certain point, you have to open it and you have a different reason to drink it because of this investigation. We are haunted, in some cases vexed in this investigation by just bad luck. I can't tell you how many times we've gotten a lead and a name and we drive out to see the person that day to find that the person died a week earlier. It just happens constantly to us. And when I get these paintings back and I believe I will, or I would resign, I will oversee the restoration on them, just watch it every day. And I'll see those paintings back in their frames and I'll feel like I've accomplished something with my life and that's the goal.
Todd - That's great, that's a great goal. My suspicion is you may get a few bottles of Johnny Walker Black for me. Someone in this...
Anthony - Crack with the champions.
Todd - You have a few minutes left. Someone wants to know where you an art appreciator before you joined the Gardner. And also, what are some of your favorite pieces of the museum?
Anthony - Well, that's a good question, thank you for asking. I always enjoyed art but I grew up between two housing projects in Providence, Rhode Island and never went to an art museum in my life until late in life, a school trip to the Risley Museum but I always appreciated art. And I always loved art and created art myself. I took art history in college. As I mentioned, I worked at Logan airport after 911 and many of you have been to Logan and you know when I came here for an interview, I said to myself, I can work in this place and look at this every day. My favorite pieces are, of course, the missing pieces and my office is filled with them, so is my home but the pieces that are extended here, my favorite is Botticelli's, Madonna of the Eucharist, which is in the long gallery in the third floor. I love Zorn's Omnibus in the blue room. And, any rendering of Mrs. Gardner, because I just have a passion for Isabella Stewart Gardner. I think she should be on $20 bill. Anything of her specialty Sargent, of course, and the Zorn in kindness, I love those pieces.
Todd - Some folks were asking for one, I don't know if in our presentation, do you have any photos of the stolen paintings?
Anthony - It's not going to work. So I was going to show you the Storm on the Sea of Galilee on my desk. The images are beautifully placed in high resolution, on our website @gardnermuseum.org. You can't see a better image of our art than those. Oh, there you go, there's the Concert right there, Absolutely, so you see, which is looking in the middle of this, The Concert by Vermeer, to the left of it, your left of it is Chez Tortoni by Manet, The Portrait of a Young Artist. It's a two inch by two inch etching by Rembrandt. Of course, the Storm in the Sea of Galilee and A lady and Gentleman in Black, remarkable works. That Vermeer is just. These are the sketches by Edgar that you are looking at, in front of you. And then the Napoleon, Eagle Finial, an odd piece that was stolen. The thieves probably thought it was gold, it's bronze. There's no real rationale for stealing that. And then of course the Finial, I'm sorry, the Gu, the beaker, which was the oldest thing in the museum at the time of the heist.
Todd - I think Anthony, this is a perfect way to end is by giving everyone a little bit of a view of some of those precious works of art. Thank you for being with us, thanks for sharing the story and we wish you success in finding these amazing pieces of art and returning them to the public so people can enjoy them. And I'll encourage everybody too, and leave the last word to come to the museum. It is an amazing place, it's reopening tomorrow. Our cultural institutions need us, particularly during these times to support them. So, Anthony, thank you for being here. Thank you everyone for joining us. Anthony, anything to take us out?
Anthony - Todd, thank you personally, for your support of the museum. Thank you First Republic for your support of our institution and all of you that tuned in today. It means you care about art and I thank you so much for tuning in. And take care during this pandemic, you and your families.
Todd - Great, thanks everyone, be well.