Bank-Robbing Artist Joe Gibbons Sentenced to a Year in Prison

Gibbons had filmed the heist as part of a performance art work.

Joe Gibbons.
Photo via the Facebook group "Friends of Joe Gibbons."

Former MIT art professor and filmmaker Joe Gibbons has been sentenced to a year in prison for a bank robbery that was part of a film in development.

“This whole thing has been one long project about discovering the disenfranchised portions of society,” Gibbons told the New York Post in a jailhouse interview in January, citing Arthur Rimbaud as an inspiration. He also said he did it because he was broke, and pleaded guilty in June.

Gibbons, 61, entered a Capital One Bank in New York’s Chinatown on New Year’s Eve in 2014, handing a teller a note that read, “This is a robbery. Large Bills. No Dye Packs/no GPS.” Though he made off with $1,002, a dye pack did explode as he fled.

Gibbons had filmed the heist as part of an elaborate piece of performance art. For years, he’s made films with titles like Confessions of a Sociopath (2005). He had held up a Rhode Island bank the previous month.

Art-world advocates have rallied around the filmmaker-turned-bank robber. Light Industry, a Brooklyn venue for showcasing film and electronic art, held a benefit in February for Gibbons, who is a veteran of two Whitney Biennials.

Gibbons’s sentence includes time served since he was arrested on January 8 at the Bowery Grand Hotel, not far from the bank he robbed. Gibbons pleaded guilty to third-degree robbery, and Justice Laura A. Ward handed down the sentence Monday.

Gibbons had confessed to the crime in a seemingly tongue-in-cheek, deadpan phone message, he claims.

“I left a message with my girlfriend’s sister and I told her, ‘Yeah, I’ve got into the city, I’ve got myself a room at the Bowery Hotel, I filed for Social Security, I robbed the bank and I went to the drugstore,’” Gibbons told the Post. “I told them, but they just didn’t pay any attention to the ‘robbed the bank’ part.”

Gibbons also told the Post that a former student turned him in.

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