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Boston museum exhibit highlights stolen artwork

Published on NewsOK Modified: October 23, 2013 at 11:05 am •  Published: October 23, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — An exhibit opening at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on Thursday highlights some of the masterpieces stolen 23 years ago in one of the world's most infamous art heists.

No, the 13 works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet and others, have not been recovered.

Rather, the Sophie Calle exhibit, "Last Seen," features photographs of the empty frames and spaces where the paintings worth hundreds of millions of dollars hung, along with text from interviews with museum staff.

"It's like the rising of the phoenix," Pieranna Cavalchini, the museum's curator of contemporary art, told The Boston Globe ( "You have this terrible situation of what happened. Of death and loss and disappearance. And this idea that in this morass of sadness you can actually have this spark of creativity and create a body of work that is so beautiful and meaningful and will be lasting in time."

The first nine images created in "Last Seen" first went on display at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh in 1991 and have been shown around the world over the past two decades.

A recent expansion of the Gardner Museum means they can finally be displayed in Boston, along with five pieces never shown publicly.

Calle visited the Gardner often in 1990 while assembling her first solo museum show in the United States at the Institute of Contemporary Art. A few months later, the Gardner theft occurred and Calle called Anne Hawley, the longtime museum director, to see if she could visit.

Calle had heard that one of her favorites, Vermeer's "The Concert," was among the missing.

"I admired her work and thought it would be a wonderful way of injecting into this horrible situation a creative artist who would be very healing," Hawley said. "So I just agreed over the phone. I basically agreed to turn her loose."

"I just remember how striking it was to see such empty spaces in such a crowded museum," Calle said.

The exhibit runs through March.

FBI officials have said they think they know who stole the works in 1990, but none of it has been recovered.


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