Gardner Museum closes on 33rd anniversary of heist due to climate protest


Extinction Rebellion planned a “guerrilla art installation” at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, but the museum caught wind of the plan and closed.

On Saturday, Extinction Rebellion Boston activists held a rally outside the Gardner Museum. They held a “die-in” and talked about their cause. Courtesy

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum remained closed on the 33rd anniversary of its infamous art theft after reports that climate activists were planning to stage a ‘guerrilla art installation’ in the museum .

On Saturday, Extinction Rebellion Boston was to hold a protest at the museum to protest biodiversity loss. The activist group had alerted local media to the plan with instructions not to release the information until 1 p.m. Saturday, but the museum apparently caught wind of the plan earlier in the day and quickly closed.

The museum released a statement saying the decision to close for the day was made out of caution for the safety of staff, volunteers, visitors and its art collection.

“Isabella Stewart Gardner envisioned her museum as a place of art sharing, community and conversation. She was an advocate of all forms of art, as well as the environment, especially horticulture,” said Peggy Fogelman, director of Norma Jean Calderwood. “While our mission is to uphold Isabella’s values, we do not support this type of tactic which targets art institutions and could potentially endanger the Museum’s collection, staff and visitors.”

Museum ticket holders have been refunded for Saturday. The museum announced it would reopen on Sunday.

Extinction Rebellion Boston spokeswoman Susan Lemont told that activists never intended to close the museum and that organizers had no plans to harm any works of art. art.

“We were going to protest that everyone is still talking about the robbery 33 years after it happened… and nobody is talking about the loss of biodiversity. The loss of animals, the extinction event that happens,” Lemont said.

In light of the museum’s closure, activists instead held a rally outside the Gardner Museum. At this event, activists staged a “die-in” and spoke about their cause.

“We won’t stop calling for climate justice. We will not stop placing ourselves between the powerful and the vulnerable. We know how history paints us, in the end. No media can suppress the truth forever,” Extinction Rebellion said on its event page.

Organizers said the group’s original protest would have been non-violent and non-destructive, and that they “did not intend to damage anything”. Activists were going to install extinction-themed artwork on the museum’s empty frames. The artwork is said to have depicted an hourglass filled with the bones of endangered animals, with a message saying, “Stop Mass Extinction: The Biggest Heist.” Activists wearing animal masks also planned to hold a “die-in” in the central courtyard of the museum.

Gardner Museum closes on 33rd anniversary of heist due to climate protest
On Saturday, Extinction Rebellion Boston activists held a rally outside the Gardner Museum. They held a “die-in” and talked about their cause. (Courtesy)

The Gardner Museum has expressed concern that climate activists around the world are using museums as a stage to protest the use of fossil fuels. In some cases, these protesters have defaced valuable works of art, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and other works by Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet.

Saturday marked 33 years since the museum’s unsolved art heist in 1990 that cost 13 works of art, with an estimated total value of $500 million.

There is a $10 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the works. Tips can be sent to the FBI Art Crime Team by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or visiting

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