It was just a few days ago that we mentioned how the FBI was refocusing their efforts on the greatest unsolved art heist in American history—a 1990 invasion at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum that claimed five Degas oils, three Rembrants, a Manet, and, most notably, “The Concert” by Joannes Vermeer. In it, we referenced FBI Special Agent George Kelly who said, “after doing this for eight years, my feeling is that it was some local guys, a quick score in and out.” Well, in your quest to find the info that could win you the $5 million reward offered by the FBI, you can cross one very famous “local guy” off your list of suspects—the Southie Boston mob kingpin and inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s turn as Frank Costello, the villain of Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning pulp bloodbath, “The Departed”.
James “Whitey” Bulger, a Boston-area crime-scene fixture for over 55 years, has been the center of much speculation regarding the case. Known to both local and federal investigators as the violent, erratic center of organized crime in South Boston beginning in the late 1970s, Bulger seems a logical suspect for the mastermind behind the daring, rough heist most agree was perpetrated by “local guys”. However, after questioning Bugler’s surviving associates, U.S. Assistant Attorney Brian Kelly has determined that “Whitey” was most likely not involved—a judgment that removes another layer of sexy, urban-legend patina from the case. We were actually kind of hoping that thereported psychopath and former CIA test subject would wind up being the man pulling the strings of art’s most famous heist—it would have neatly dovetailed our coverage of Vermeer from our latest title, “ART + TRAVEL EUROPE: Step into the Lives of Five Famous Painters” with our coverage of movie locations as found in our FILM + TRAVEL guidebooks. We’d already had a wonderful walking tour of the Gardner combined with a street survey of locations from “The Departed”. Oh, well. By the by, if you do happen to run into Bulger during your world travels, note that the 81-year-old former boss is still on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List with a $2 million reward on his head.
Images (left to right): “The Concert”, Joannes Vermeer, c. 1664, courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, James “Whitey” Bulger in a 1984 FBI photo.