Sunday, July 19, 2020

Heists & Break-Ins

The last issue of Business Week Magazine that I received was called “The Heist Issue”. I thought, Wow! Not much business news.  Then I became more interested when they had an article on the Heist from The Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990 where 13 works of art were stolen, 6 paintings including 3 Rembrandts and a Vermeer all cut out of their frames.  The works have never been found.   When Isabella Stewart Gardner made her gift to the City it was with the proviso that everything remains where it was.  What bothers Museum staff is that people come and stare at the empty frames rather than look at the 16,000 other works of art in the Museum.

That started me thinking of robberies that we have been the victim of.  Happily, nothing serious ever happened but in retrospect there were some interesting and even funny aspects to our personal experiences.

I will start with our most expensive attempted robbery that occurred at our home in Santa Fe when they broke our garden door getting in.  Then the alarm scared the perpetrator(s) off. Nothing was missing but it cost us $3,000 to replace the door.

The most fortuitous was probably also here in Santa Fe when potential thieves attempted to break in through a window. No one was in the house, the door was unlocked, and the alarm was not set, so they could have just opened the door and cleaned us out.  Instead they threw a rock managing to hit the window contact point and activating the alarm system. Happily, it scared them off.  Now we never leave without locking up and setting the alarm. 

We did once arrive home at our apartment on the top floor of a New York brownstone to see our wooden door broken through.  We lost cameras and a single fake cufflink from the Metropolitan Museum Shop.  What went through the thief’s mind?  I realized I had left my camera case with equipment in it on the chair in the living room so that was easy, but one cufflink???

Definitely the most bizarre break in was at that same apartment.  A thief running across the rooves from brownstone to brownstone to escape workmen who had discovered him jumped through our kitchen skylight.  In the next room was our baby son (he is 40 now) in the arms of his nanny.  The man did not grab anything, just ran out the front door.  But nanny, still holding baby, chased him down 5 flights of stairs and into the street.  When I heard the story, I thought thank goodness she did not catch up with the perp! 

There is no accounting for what people will do.  My gallery on 57th Street in New York was on the 5th floor of a 15-story business building. The building was locked at night, as were the elevator doors, and there was a watchman.  In this case, they placed a plank from the window of the next-door building to the ledge of the window of my wife’s office and got in. I don’t know what they thought they would find in our gallery. How could they get back over that plank with a piece of French 18th Century furniture or a large old master painting?  What did they take was a Louis XVI gilt bronze clock which was on the table in the elevator hall of the gallery?  They probably thought it was gold. Curiously they also took the $15 electric clock on my wife’s desk.  Guess the thief wanted to make sure he was in time for his next heist! The coda to this story is, when the police came one of the cops wanted to know whether we wanted them to say that the clock had been inside the gallery.  Not police violence but police corruption?  

Later that day I was speaking to a British colleague.  When he asked how things were, I told him fine, but we had been robbed.  He said congratulations and I didn’t understand.  He said, “well you were insured, weren’t you?  Then you made a sale!”  When was the last time you thought that would solve all your problems if the business caught on fire?  By accident, of course!

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