In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, 13 pieces of art valued at over half a billion dollars were stolen from the Gardner Museum in Boston. Included among the works taken by thieves in the night were masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Degas. Join us for a deep dive into the world’s biggest theft of art from a single institution and how Connecticut may have played a role.
Featuring Stephen Kurkjian (journalist and author of the definitive book on the heist, Master Thieves) and Robert Wittman (retired FBI agent and author of The New York Times best-selling memoir, Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures). Architect, academic, and Fulbright Specialist Allen Swerdlowe will introduce the speakers preceded by a PowerPoint presentation of the museum, its founder, the stolen pieces of art, the suspects, and the theories in the world’s biggest theft of art objects from a single institution.
To this day, the mystery remains unsolved... or does it?
Stephen Kurkjian is one of the most acclaimed investigative reporters in the country. A forty-year veteran of the Boston Globe, he is the paper’s former Washington bureau chief and a founding member of its investigative Spotlight Team. Kurkjian has won more than twenty-five national and regional awards, including the Pulitzer Prize on three occasions. Kurkjian covered much of the investigation into the heist while in The Globe newsroom, and in 2015 wrote, MASTER THIEVES: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off The World's Biggest Art Heist (Public Affairs).
Kurkjian has remained on the story since then, co-producing the award-winning podcast LAST SEEN with WBUR-FM radio in Boston, and appearing in numerous documentaries on the case including THIS IS A ROBBERY, a four-part Netflix series, and others on the History Channel, CNN and television networks. He is a graduate of Suffolk Law School and lives in Boston.
Robert K. Wittman joined the FBI as a special agent in 1988 and was assigned to the Philadelphia Field Division. As a result of specialized training in art, antiques, jewelry, and gem identification, he served as the FBI’s investigative expert in art and cultural property crime investigations. During his 20-year career with the FBI, he recovered more that $300 million worth of stolen art and cultural property resulting in the prosecution and conviction of numerous individuals. In 2005, he was instrumental in the creation of the FBI’s rapid deployment Art Crime Team (ACT). He was named the ACT’s Senior Investigator and was tasked with instructing the team's founding members in cultural property investigation techniques. He has represented the United States around the world conducting investigations and instructing international police and museums in investigation, recovery and security techniques.
In 2010, Robert Wittman penned and published The New York Times best-selling memoir Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures, written with 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist John Shiffman. Priceless follows Wittman through his career with the FBI, providing a first-perspective account of some of the most well-known art heists in modern history and the undercover FBI stings that sought to foil them
Allen Swerdlowe is an Architect (FAIA), Academic and Fulbright Specialist. After graduating from Columbia University’s Master of Architecture program, he founded d7architects with expertise in designing residences, commercial spaces, and urban places. He has played significant roles in the reconstruction of the World Trade Center and the development of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Mr. Swerdlowe’s profound curiosity about obscure, eclectic, and diverse topics has taken him to 84 countries and 49 states, of which he has lived in six. His undergraduate work in history and first career as a journalist has led to a life consumed by deep research into WW2, the Manhattan Project, the 1990 Isabella Gardner Museum Heist — among many other subjects.
He was recently posted in Uzbekistan by the Fulbright Foundation and the State Department to consult with government, academia, and business leaders on urban and sustainable issues. His work has been published in various journals, made into a documentary for the Discovery Channel and most recently featured, along with Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for The New York Times, on National Public Radio.
In the fine arts, Swerdlowe has an extensive exhibition record with work in numerous collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the University of Connecticut. He brought up his family in Weston and currently resides in New Canaan.
Closings & Delayed Openings