March 18th, 1990 – St Patrick’s day in Boston, 13 priceless art pieces go missing (Robbed) from the Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Museum. Fast forward almost thirty-one years later – paintings are still missing. The empty frames are still hung in the museum expecting the art pieces to show up someday.
This is the premise of the docuseries ‘This is a Robbery’ from Netflix. Watching the four-episode series felt like the slow unveiling of an intriguing painting. For example, one of the stolen paintings was Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. The Storm on the Sea of Galilee is the only seascape ever painted by Rembrandt. It depicts Jesus calming the waves of the sea, saving the lives of the fourteen men aboard the vessel. Of these fourteen men, Rembrandt included a self-portrait of himself in the boat, next to Jesus and his twelve disciples.
There is a lot of items that happen in the series – reporters who find informers, get clues; Museum guards who are suspects, hippies; Mafia people who get murdered and some are still suspects; Museum staff like director, boards and their corporate politics; even two passersby who were the only witness; FBI, Boston police who are trying their best – But no paintings.
Often, you hear the characters say – that if this happened today, things would be different. In those days catching a mafia don was more critical than finding art. In those days, climate control in the museum was more critical than security. Those days the protocols around missing evidence were not as advanced. Isn’t that true always? Hindsight is always 20-20.
What caught my eye in this whole series were the following things.
First, it is not easy to see the accurate picture – you have to see multiple sides of the story before you even get a sense of what is going on.
Second, art is sacred to the people who understand it. The passion and zeal in people’s eyes when they talk about the painting strikes a resonant chord in your true being.
Third, corporations or big companies can only play at being nimble. There is something inherently faulty with the way they work. Museum knew that their security was vulnerable and that the mobs were casing it – but still, it didn’t click.
Last but not least – everything is temporary. Imagine your photo album. Right now, you look at it and see two people on a canoe. It is your white water rafting trip. A few years down, your grandkids know that photo as their grandparent’s canoe trip. A few years down the line, it is just a photo of two people doing what was cool years ago. It makes you wonder what is life all about. What I was ok at ten years ago – I am a lot better today. And something I was excellent at years ago – not so much now. What matters is the moment – ‘the NOW’ when you are doing it.
How in the world did this blog end here from the Robbery – I do not know. But, I guess this is what looking at an authentic piece of art feels like.
What are you doing in the NOW?