As an arts journalist John Wilson has covered the theft of many great paintings over the years, most never return but when they do it usually makes headline news, and a journalist like him will tell the story of how it was recovered, once the art is safely hanging back on a wall. However, in June 2019, Wilson got a tip-off from a reliable source promising to take him on a journey to recover paintings stolen in the world’s biggest art theft, works that so far have been missing for 30 years.
13 works of art including 3 Rembrandts and a Vermeer were stolen, their value is now estimated at around 1 billion US dollars. Wilsons contact Charley Hill, says he’s been told where they all are. It may sound incredible but Wilson has known Hill for many years, he is an ex-undercover detective for the Metropolitan Police’s Art & Antique squad who holds a record of recovering famous paintings estimated at $100 million, including Munch’s The Scream and a Vermeer stolen from an Irish stately home, but he now works as a private art investigator.
Charley Hill’s source is 99% certain that the art which was stolen in 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston will be found behind a wall in a house in west Dublin. That’s 3,000 miles from where the FBI has always believed they would find it. For the last 30 years, their investigations have focused on Boston on the premise that the thieves were Italian-American and that the art has never left America.
So does a violent Irish gangster hold the key to a 30-year mystery? If so this could be one of the biggest art stories of all time. This is a journey that promises to be fast-paced and high profile. But Charley has a warning for John too: ‘The problem is, and it’s a serious problem, is no-one gets maimed or murdered.’ That worry is never far away as John goes into a very different art world, one where good art is in the hands of bad men.
Directed by: Michael Waldman , Matthew Hill