Anthony Amore, Gardner Museum
Director of Security
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Mrs. Gardner opened this museum in 1903, and did so because she felt that the United States needed a great museum and this was really a gift to the public for its enjoyment and education forever, she said. And a part of her will when she passed on was that nothing in her collection could be moved or changed. The Gardner museum is a collective work of art, this is Mrs. Gardner’s work of art. So when pieces are removed from it, it leaves her collective work not whole, so with these 13 pieces that we’ve lost, Mrs. Gardner’s work is not complete. So it’s very important, especially important considering the history of this museum, that these pieces be put back where she left them.
People come here from all over the world to see it because of its unique nature. There are around 3,000 pieces of art here, they cover a vast number of styles and periods. Great artists’ best works are on display here. We have Rembrandts and Titian and Boticelli and Sargeant works. People who were contemporaries of Mrs. Gardner are represented here, great artists from the Baroque period are here, as well as a real eclectic type of collection of pieces that you don’t see in other museums. Everything here is really authentic first of all. It’s the rare institution that was designed by and named for a woman, which makes it unique in itself. And it’s special because Mrs. Gardner put everything here where she felt it was best suited.
The monetary value of the pieces in the museum is something that comes up a lot. And I’ve seen reports that the stolen items are worth $500 million or more. And pragmatically that’s a fair estimate. However, I like to point out that the pieces that were stolen from the Gardner really are the true definition of pricelessness because they can never be sold, they can never be replaced. So when you lose a piece from this particular collection, the museum can’t just go out and acquire another masterpiece to put in its place. It has to remain empty, the spots have to remain unfilled until Mrs. Gardner’s purchases and her items are put back into their proper place in the collection. If we get, when we get, our Vermeer back for instance, it can’t be sold, it’s impractical to put a price tag on something like that. It’s one of 36 works and one of the world’s greatest artists. But more importantly to me, it’s an essential part of Mrs. Gardner’s collection as well, so it’s almost a fool’s errand to try to ascribe a dollar value to it. It’s much more important than money could ever express.
We don’t go on television and go public with rewards as a folly; we’re doing it because we’re making an earnest effort to return these priceless pieces of art to their rightful home. We stand behind these offers that we’re making and I can’t say it any more clearly than that.