Chasing Art

Vermeer, The Concert

The Concert, Vermeer
Taken from the Dutch Room gallery in the Stewart museum in 1990

Will we ever recover all of the great art that’s been lost over time? Sometimes I’m drop-jaw about what sometimes can happen to art. How can people be so clumsy as to “fall into a Picasso” at an art museum, which is what just happened on Friday with “The Actor” at the Met. All this art being dropped, shredded (Sotheby’s in London), thrown out for trash (immpressionist paintings in Manhatten), cannonized by a wrecking ball (the Netherlands), tripped over by a shoelace into a Ming vase (UK), or knocked to the floor to smithereens by an errant elbow (Tavern on the Green), is giving me anxiety!

And how about all of the art that’s been stolen? I just finished reading “The Heist”, a great read on the heist of the Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas, et al. at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston in 1990. So many people went on the hunt, but all leads have run dry. There are many eccentricities about the Gardner museum and the case that make it unique — that per her will, all of the art remain on the walls as it was in Gardner’s time, that the thieves may not have discriminated which art they chose to take (several of the most expensive pieces were left untouched), etc. etc. It’s a fascinating romp, complete with the Boston mafia and the IRA. Interested in a moderately fascinating read? Check out the FBI’s Art Crime Team website: http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/arttheft/northamerica/us/notices.htm.

I’m surprised that people seem to be so good-humored about these travesties (at least that’s the way the press spins it), but then again, we’ve got some great artists now creating some great art. Not that it will replace, but it will make up for what we’ve lost in a different way.

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