Netflix series takes a look at Isabella Stewart Gardner museum art theft

It’s the world’s most infamous art theft, an unsolved mystery that over the past three decades has inspired articles, TV news, books, documentaries, podcasts and even projects. artistic.

Now, the theft in 1990 of 13 works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is dealt with by Netflix: “This is a theft, A four-part documentary series created by Boston-area native Nick and Colin Barnicle.

The project, which begins April 7, had been in the works for years, as the Barnicle brothers searched for legal documents, looked at 30 years of leads and tricked sources into sitting down for on-camera interviews.

Director Colin Barnicle said that while they’ve looked at “every possible theory,” most of that research doesn’t show up on screen.

“We were trying to do a roadmap, but not one where you can go out like 18 different exit ramps,” he said. Rather, they wanted to show “the most likely idea of ​​what happened that night and in the first year after the crime”.

Yet the question remained: how to shed new light on the heist of Gardner, the great white whale of artistic crime, in which a pair of thieves disguised as police officers stole works by Rembrandt, Degas and Vermeer in the early hours of March 18 , 1990?

“We wanted to bring the viewer through it as if it was happening right now,” Colin Barnicle said. “They have all the ups and downs to get closer to art. You get really high and then you just fall apart because it’s like it’s going through your fingers.

The documentary series is a first for the Barnicle brothers in more ways than one. The brothers (son of journalist and former Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle) are best known for producing sports and music films, including New York Emmy Award-winning Billy Joel: New York State of Mind.

Filmmakers Nick and Colin Barnicle.Noa Griffel

It is also their first Netflix project and their first collaboration with executive producers Jane Rosenthal and Berry Welsh. Linda Pizzuti Henry, CEO of Boston Globe Media Partners, parent company of the Boston Globe, is also executive producer on the project.

But Nick Barnicle, who along with his brother is listed as an executive producer, said they had been working on the documentary for so long that it didn’t feel like new land anymore.

“Even though we were kind of known as the sports guys, we were still working on this in parallel,” said Nick Barnicle. “We’ve always been interested in this.”

Colin Barnicle said the series builds on the work of previous investigators who “laid the groundwork” and includes interviews with a number of current and former Globe reporters, criminal investigators, museum workers and other people associated with the case.

Nonetheless, the brothers say they’ve discovered some tantalizing new clues as well.

“Even if you’ve read all the books, if you’ve heard anything about it, there will be new things in there,” said Colin Barnicle. “And we come to a conclusion.”

Johannes Vermeer’s ‘The Concert’, one of the works of art stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.REUTERS

So who did it?

“This is a case that lends itself to a lot of mystery,” said Colin Barnicle. “I would say we identify the people who entered the museum.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has made a similar complaint in 2013, when he announced that he had identified the thieves, but refused to name them, citing the ongoing investigation. Still, there has never been an arrest, and the location of the art, valued at $ 500 million, remains a mystery despite a $ 10 million reward.

The Brothers describe the series as a treasure map, giving viewers powerful clues and a good grasp of what happened that terrible night in the Fenway 31 years ago.

“I think we are casting the brightest light possible on every detail,” said Nick Barnicle, who said he was hopeful Netflix’s massive reach could help solve the crime. “At the end of the fourth episode, you have so many different details available to you… who knows?

Malcolm Gay can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @malcolmgay.

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