The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum announced Thursday that its offer of a $10 million reward for information leading to the safe recovery of masterworks stolen decades ago has been extended indefinitely.
“This reward demonstrates the commitment of the Museum and its Board of Trustees to the recovery of these important works,” Steve Kidder, president of the museum’s board, said in a statement. “We are the only buyer for these works, and they belong in their rightful home.”
The museum doubled the reward to $10 million last May, but said at the time it would revert back to $5 million on Jan. 1 if no one came forward to collect the windfall before then. When announcing the increased reward with an expiration date, museum officials said they hoped it would send an urgent message to anyone withholding information about the artwork’s whereabouts and dispel any doubts about their intention to pay it.
“We’re still optimistic,” Kathy Sharpless, a spokeswoman for the museum, said Thursday. She said the increased reward triggered “a few new pieces of information and interesting leads.”
The brazen heist — the largest property crime in US history — occurred in the early-morning hours of March 18, 1990. Two robbers disguised as police officers claimed to be investigating a disturbance when they showed up at the museum’s side door on Palace Road in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.
They were buzzed inside, where they tied up the two security guards on duty and spent 81 minutes slashing and pulling masterpieces from their frames. They fled with 13 items, worth an estimated $500 million, including Vermeer’s “The Concert”; three Rembrandts, including his only seascape, “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee”; and works by Flinck, Manet, and Degas.
Twenty-seven years later, the FBI, the US attorney’s office, and the museum say efforts to find the stolen works remain a priority. No one has ever been charged in the crime, and none of the artwork has been recovered. The statute of limitations on the theft expired years ago, but authorities could still bring criminal charges for hiding or transporting the stolen artwork.
“One good piece of information might just lead us to a recovery,” said Anthony Amore, the museum’s director of security. “We are looking for quality, not quantity — and facts, not theories. We hope anyone with knowledge that might further our work will come forward.”
A number of books have been written about the heist, but in March the museum is poised to release its own for the first time. The book, “Stolen,” is designed to be a pictorial essay and guide to the 13 missing works of art, according to museum officials.
Shelley Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.