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
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 Gallery 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.
- By: Bruce Rubenstein
- Format: Paper or Cloth, 192 pp, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 12 b&w photos
- Publisher: MNHS Press (March 2013 cloth, Sept. 2017 paper)
- ISBN Cloth: 9780873518901
- ISBN Paper: 9781681340739
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.