The March 18, 1990 heist of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston was one of the most infamous art thefts of all time. In the early morning hours, two men disguised as Boston police officers detained the Gardner museum’s security guards, claiming they were under arrest. They then tied up the security guards’ arms and legs, and handcuffed them to pipes in the basement. When the men gained access to the museum, they stole 13 works of art, including paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas, and Manet. The 13 works have been estimated to be worth up to $500 million.
The thieves made two trips to their car to get all 13 works out of the museum. The entire heist, from entry to departure, lasted a total of 81 minutes. The thieves were not caught and the museum security guards remained tied up until the police arrived shortly after 8:00 AM.
Given the value of the missing works, the Gardner Museum heist has been named the largest theft of private property in recorded history. All 13 works are still missing as of 2014. It is not clear if the thieves planned exactly which works they would take, as they left behind a great deal of works that were more valuable. In honor of the missing works, the museum hangs several of their empty frames to remind visitors of the crime that took place.
In March 2013, the FBI reported that they believed that the perpetrators were a part of a criminal organization based in the Mid-Atlantic and New-England. The FBI believes that some of the works may have been sold in Philadelphia in the years following the heist. However, the FBI does not know the current whereabouts of any of the works, and the investigation remains open