A crime uncracked

Investigative journalist Stephen Kurkjian discusses reporting on Boston art heist


Shaun Soman '17

Investigative reporter Stephen Kurkjian recounts his experience reporting on the art heist at the Boston Stewart Garden Museum.

Caroline Saltzman

Even 25 years was not enough time to solve the world’s biggest art heist.

On Sept. 28, Boston Globe investigative journalist and author Stephen Kurkjian visited campus to speak of the heist and his new book about the mega-theft at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.

The veteran journalist was invited to campus by Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication Toni Locy.

“I wanted our audience to hear from a journalist who is passionate about serving the public because he not only cares deeply about the community where he lives, but he also knows his community, including the rich, the poor, and those who operate on the other side of the law,” Locy said.

Beginning with a brief history of the museum, Kurkjian recounted the story of the theft.

At the time, the museum had a low-tech security system, which allowed the thieves to trick the two security guards on patrol to go into the basement. This enabled the thieves to roam around freely so that within the hour, the thieves successfully stole 13 pieces from the museum’s collection, worth $500 million total.Kurkjian

Kurkjian posed these unanswered questions to the audience: Was the security guard who answered the door in on the theft? What was their motivation? Why did they steal what they stole?

After retiring as a journalist, Kurkjian worked another two years trying to solve the crime. However, the case still remains uncracked.

Caroline Blackmon, ‘19, was impressed by his determination and dedication to solving the mystery.

“My favorite part of the lecture was his enthusiasm in investigating,” Blackmon said. “He is a journalist but he felt the need to do years of research and talk to as many people as possible before sharing his opinion, which is something not many people do in today’s news. They just find one source of information and publish that.”

According to Kurkjian, the only way these painting might be found is if Boston gets involved.

“Our children haven’t seen these paintings, and neither have our grandchildren,” urged Kurkjian.

He believes that once the citizenry of Boston truly understands the volume of the missing masterpieces, some secrets may be uncovered.