This is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist

Photo courtesy of Netflix
Rating 7.6
Streamer Netflix
Seasons 1
Episodes 4 x 50 mins

Over four episodes, this docuseries tells of the seemingly unsolvable case concerning the 1990 heist of Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, where two thieves dressed up as police officers managed to pinch $500 million worth of art, never to be seen again.

Sounds a bit Johnny English, doesn’t it? But nope, this heist is very real, and even though it happened in 1990, it is as yet unsolved. And these aren’t just those famous-amongst-critics paintings that you see in a gallery and go ‘my dog could do that,’ here we’re talking about the big boys – among the missing works are paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Manet and Degas. Everyone with a GCSE in art knows those names. In fact, so precious are they, that if you were to take a trip to Boston today and pop into the museum for a visit, you’d still see the empty frames hanging on the walls, a visual reminder of the mystery surrounding the works.

And you’ve got to wonder how, in a world of Reddit threads and internet detectives solving the unsolvable, this one hasn’t had any new information in so many moons. What’s even stranger, is that the works haven’t appeared on the black market, and no arrests have been made.  What was the point in stealing all this art if you aren’t planning to flog it? Maybe there’s someone living in a dingy flat somewhere, with peeling plasterboard walls adorned with some of the most revered masterpieces of all time.

You may be wondering what the point is in making a four-part series that doesn’t give us any new info, and fails to solve the mystery? Well, if we’ve learnt anything in our time of TV writing, it’s that people go barmy for true crime. And after watching this, those internet detectives we mentioned earlier may well go into overdrive. So, stay tuned, we might solve The World’s Biggest Art Heist yet…

Variety’s Daniel D’Addario praises the series’ “notably good access,” and says it paints “a fascinating portrait of an incident that lives on in the memory of a city that has both high culture and organized crime encoded in its DNA.” The Guardian’s Adrian Horton agrees, saying This is a Robbery “takes a comprehensive a look at a case barely thawed in 30 years; it consults crime scene photos and evidence logs, interviews key journalists and legal figures, and studies several theories for a deep dive that, like other media investigations such as the 2018 Boston Globe and WBUR podcast Last Seen, arrives at plausibility in lieu of certainty.”

First shown April 2021. You can watch the trailer here:

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