The Isabella Steward Gardner Museum in Boston shuttered early on Saturday, the 33rd anniversary of the theft of several famous works. The museum said it was informed climate activists from the group Extinction Rebellion were planning to a stage a “guerilla art installation” inside the museum, according to local media.
“Climate activists have been protesting around the world, unfortunately using
art museums as a stage to promote their cause,” the museum said in a statement.
“Isabella Stewart Gardner envisioned her Museum as a place of sharing art, community and conversation. She was an advocate of all forms of art, as well as the environment, especially horticulture,“ director Peggy Fogelman said. “While it is our mission to uphold Isabella’s values, we do not support this type of tactic that targets art institutions and could possibly put the Museum’s collection, staff and visitors at risk.”
The Boston chapter of Extinction Rebellion tweeted the local CBS News affiliate broke its embargoed press release and that it did not plan to damage any property through its nonviolent, nondestructive demonstration. According to photographer Lita Kelley, the group planned to hang original artwork that highlighted biodiversity loss in three empty frames in the museum’s Dutch room where paintings had been stolen.
As a result of the museum’s closure, the Extinction Rebellion protesters carried flags and red banners, and staged a “die in” in front of the museum on Saturday afternoon. Two people wore animal costumes.
On March 18, 1990, thieves dressed as Boston police officers broke into the museum and took 13 pieces of art estimated to be worth more than $500 million. The works included Johannes Vermeer’s The Concert, several by Edgar Degas, three pieces by Rembrandt, and Édouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni. The Isabella Gardner Museum is offering a $10 million reward to anyone with information that could lead to their safe return.
People who bought advance tickets to the Isabella Stewart Gardner were issued refunds and the museum reopened on Sunday.