The Rockwell Heist
The extraordinary theft of seven Norman Rockwell paintings and a phony Renoir—and the 20-year chase for their recovery from the Midwest through Europe and South America
Author Bruce Rubenstein
Minnesota Historical Society Press (March 15, 2013)
When a small midwestern gallery is burgled, artworks by an American icon disappear into the international market for stolen art, but the gallery’s owners refuse to give up the search.
In 1978 seven Norman Rockwell paintings and a supposed Renoir, later discovered to be a forgery, were stolen from Elayne Galleries in St. Louis Park. It is still the biggest theft in Minnesota history, and no one was ever convicted for the crime. This is the story of the theft, the investigation, and the twenty-year quest to return the art to its rightful owners.
The FBI suspected an inside job. Was it the scrappy working mother who owned the gallery? The owner of one of the paintings, who had a checkered past? Was a band of well-known and very talented Minneapolis burglars involved? And what about organized crime, which had the channels and expertise to fence the works or to hold them hostage? Tantalizing threads tied the case to the theft of another stolen forgery in New York City. But a sting operation fell short, and the trail for recovering the works ran cold. The bureau’s search for the paintings stopped, and it closed the case in 1987.
Gallery owner Elayne Lindberg and her daughter Bonnie, motivated in part by their desire to clear Elayne’s name, continued the hunt. Their story moves to shady connections and the international trade in stolen art, through Portugal, Argentina, Las Vegas, and Brazil, before its final dramatic resolution.
Bruce Rubenstein, a Twin Cities writer and editor who has covered crime and politics since the 1980s, is the author of Greed, Rage, and Love Gone Wrong. He has received numerous awards for investigative journalism.
Reviews and news
In the media:
“A fast-paced and engrossing exposé of the shady underbelly of the art world. A true story about the time and efforts it took to return seven of Norman Rockwell’s treasures to the world.”
Robert K. Wittman, New York Times bestselling author of Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures
“The Rockwell Heist is the true story of an unlikely caper in an even less likely locale, replete with odd twists, curious side trips, and a motley cast that includes dead artists, dodgy collectors, a sexy cocaine smuggler, a wannabe wise guy, and an entrepreneurial department store dick turned art dealer. Rubenstein’s deeply researched tale is as bizarre––and arresting––as the sight of a peacock atop a Minnesota snowbank.”
William Swanson, author of Black White Blue: The Assassination of Patrolman Sackett and Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson
- This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
- 192 pages
- 12 b&w photos
- 5.5 x 8.5 inches
- ISBN: 9780873518901