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The 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum endures as a frustrating, tantalizing enigma. The 13 artworks stolen — including Vermeer’s “The Concert” and Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” — had an estimated combined value of $500 million, yet to this day the perpetrators remain unknown, the works unrecovered. It’s enticing true crime material, and the recent Netflix miniseries This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist is a solid recounting of the many strange twists and turns the case has taken over the decades.
The show is at its most fun when it grapples with the stranger details of the theft. Why were some items that were for the most part worthless also taken, while plenty of other next-to-priceless paintings were left alone? And of course, there’s the possible Boston mob connection. Like many Netflix miniseries, the show overextends itself, and likely would have made for a stronger movie than a longform project. And the biggest stumbling block is the same one that many true crime shows about unsolved cases face; ultimately, it doesn’t manage to offer any compelling possible answers (or at least, none that I find convincing).
This Is a Robbery is available to stream on Netflix.