Anthony Amore ’89 is charged with solving the biggest art heist in history and protecting the multi-billion dollar collection of over 2,500 artworks housed in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
If it’s the middle of the night, chances are Anthony Amore is up, going over the details of his case, yet again, or meeting a shadowy figure in an obscure bar, hoping this person knows something. As director of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Amore is charged with cracking the single largest property theft in recorded history.
“These two are the banes of my existence,” says Amore, displaying black and white sketches of the suspected art thieves, who entered the museum in the middle of the night on March 18, 1990, disguised as police officers, and made off with 13 works of art. Among the abducted was “The Concert” by Jan Vermeer, one of only 36 known paintings by the artist, making it the most valuable stolen painting in the world. Also taken was “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” Rembrandt’s only known seascape, and a Manet, Degas etchings, a Chinese ku, and an eagle-shaped finial topping a Napoleonic flag. Together, the 13 stolen pieces are valued at a half billion dollars. “It was the biggest heist in history,” says Amore. Recovering the artworks dominates his time, both at and away from the museum: “I’m obsessed with the investigation!”
“Researching this book tells me that the art is definitely out there. We can get it back. It’s just touching on the right points and talking to the right people.”
When Amore, a Providence native, came to orientation at URI in 1985, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. Interested in writing and literature, he declared English as his major and ended up in a class taught by Professor Lois Cuddy. “I was one of those students who would sit there and look at her like she was the great oracle,” Amore smiles. “To this day, I still send her an email at least once a year thanking her for everything she taught me because it’s served me so well.” He didn’t know this at the time, but the skills he formed as an undergraduate at URI would play a large role in shaping his future career path. “The ability to write a solid report, to articulate what happened and make a strong case for your opinions, is what sets you apart from other people. It is paramount in this field,” he says.
After graduating from URI, Amore followed his interest in federal law enforcement to Boston, where he worked as an inspector and port intelligence officer for the Department of Justice’s Immigration and Naturalization Service. He spent five years boarding ships to look for stowaways, processing refugees, and looking for evidence of fraud. From this, he transitioned to a position with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Security Division working out of Logan Airport overseeing six airports in the region.
After earning a master of public administration degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Amore briefly went into private consulting in transportation and security assessment. Seven months in, he was at a meeting in New Hampshire sitting at a sports bar in a cocoon of TVs, watching planes go into the World Trade Center in New York. Shortly after, the federal government asked him to return to the FAA. “With my background,” he explains, “I couldn’t say no.”
Amore was in the vanguard as the FAA transitioned into the newly-created U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA). “Everything went from private screeners to federal screeners,” he explains. “Checked baggage didn’t used to be screened. Then, the next day, it all had to be screened.” Amore was directly involved in this monumental shift seven days a week, often for 14 hour stretches: “I didn’t take a day off for five or six months.”
Once airport security was revolutionized, Amore was asked to take over the inspections division, evaluating security breaches. This would prove the perfect segue into his next role of art heist expert: “After five years, things get stale for me,” Amore explains. “I felt I had accomplished all I needed to.” When he came to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to interview for the director of security position, he had a difficult time focusing on the person talking to him. Instead, he was captivated by the verdant interior garden and courtyard modeled after a 15-century Venetian palazzo: “There was so much to look at!”
Today, Amore is in charge of protecting the multi-billion dollar collection of over 2,500 artworks housed in the Gardner Museum. The practical security considerations that are second nature at airports have provided an excellent template for running security at a museum. At the Gardner there are paintings by Rembrandt, Titian, Raphael, Degas, and Sargent to protect. Walking through the rooms in the museum, Amore can readily explain the background and provenance of many of the pieces: “I have such an affinity for this collection. I’m really honored to be the person in charge of protecting it. It’s really something when you can get up from your desk and look at a Rembrandt or Botticelli. Few people get to do that.”
A significant amount of his time is spent checking every lead on the continuing art heist investigation, great or small. Tracking them down has led him into many a dark alley or mysterious manor. Amore pursues every one of them. “Every time you close a lead, you get a little closer,” he says.
Amore is returning to his English background as author of an upcoming book, Stealing Rembrandts, due out this summer from Palgrave Macmillan Publishers: “Researching this book tells me that the art is definitely out there. We can get it back. It’s just touching on the right points and talking to the right people.”
And so the dominant theme to Amore’s life remains solving the biggest art heist in history. Every morning, as he sits down to check email and voice messages, it is with the fresh anticipation that this might be the day. “I don’t know who might call me today,” Amore says, the thrill of the hunt still gleaming in his eyes. A $5-million reward remains in place for information leading to the recovery of the stolen artworks. Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact Amore at 617.278.5114 or email@example.com.
By Bethany Vaccaro ’06