The first time I visited the Gardner back in 2009, I didn’t know about the theft. Seeing the beautiful courtyard for the first time, the terraces, mosaics, balconies it was easy to appreciate the idiosyncrasies of ISG’s opulent vision and to marvel at the bizarre juxtaposition of her wildly varied collection.
On this, my second visit, having read most of the literature I can find about the theft, I still see the beauty but it’s overshadowed by the notoriety and ultimately that makes me feel sad. You see, I can’t go to the Met or even the Rijsmuseum and see a bunch of Rembrandt’s other seascapes because well, there aren’t any. He only painted one – The Storm On The Sea of Galilee was it. It was unique and now, it’s gone.
By way of sticking to the letter of Gardner’s will that none of the works in the museum be moved after her death, the empty frames remain on the walls.
Since that first visit back in 2009, The Gardner has evolved and blossomed. The new wing reorientates the museum with the new entrance on the side and revitalizes by adding more galleries, a concert hall, a restaurant, a larger shop and an interesting ‘living room’ space designed to bring people into the museum and give them a place to relax. I also noticed how the staff make an real effort to welcome and greet visitors and I was left with the impression of a place that is both thoroughly well-loved and cherished.