The Billion Dollar Art Hunt

Rating 7.3
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 1
Episodes 1 x 60 mins

The Billion Dollar Art Hunt is sort of like Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries, but instead of a disappearing dad or suspected extra-terrestrials, we’ve got an unsolved case from 1990, when a billion dollars’ worth of masterpieces were stolen from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. And we’re not talking your kids’ fridge art here, among the missing masterpieces are five Degas, three Rembrandts, a Vermeer and a Manet. So, whilst they don’t have the secret families or burner phones that Netflix’s crime capers are offering, this has some big names and a plasterboard wall in Dublin. The drama! Journalist John Wilson and his band of merry art detectives are on a mission to crack the case. After years of the FBI believing the theft was a mafia job, a tip off leads Wilson to Ireland’s capital. Unfortunately, we already know the outcome of the search, because even in the media whirlwind of 2020, $1 billion worth of art being recovered would be squeezed into the news, somewhere between the ongoing apocalypse and the US election. But nevertheless, watching Wilson wonder whether he’s on a wild goose chase or a real-life treasure hunt, makes for great telly.

The Telegraph’s Anita Singh says the hour-long programme is a “fun journey,” with a “tantalising end,” despite the case remaining unsolved. Lucy Mangan in The Guardian calls it a “fine, compelling story,” where the “the stakes are so fabulously high.” The Times’ Carol Midgley says it was “entertaining and frustrating” and “the value was less in the destination…and more in the ‘journey.’”

First shown October 2020.

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