On March 18, 1990, two thieves posing as police officers stole 13 artworks estimated at $500 million from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. In Rotherwas Project 2: Kota Ezawa, Gardner Museum Revisited—on view at the Mead Art Museum through June 1—artist Kota Ezawa gives the disappeared Gardner artworks new life in the form of dynamic and colorful drawings set in glowing light boxes.
In the following interview, Ezawa talks with Assistant Professor of Art and the History of Art Niko Vicario about the FBI case that sparked his interest in the Gardner Museum heist and led him to recreate the 13 still-missing artworks.
Niko Vicario: What attracted you to the Gardner theft as a starting point for these works?
Kota Ezawa: I started out creating re-makes of paintings from the FBI online database of stolen art in the summer of 2015. Among them were the Rembrandts from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. While I was making these drawings, a surveillance videotape from the Gardner Museum surfaced in the media. It was said that the tape contained potential evidence that could lead to the whereabouts of the stolen paintings. I immediately thought that this tape was the perfect companion to the paintings and that the two together would make a compelling subject for an exhibition. This is one of the cases where one could really say “the idea came to me” rather than “I had this idea.”