Art News


Welcome to Jo Chard's new weekly column, examining weird and wonderful events in the art news. This week looks at the biggest art theft of all time and how it all ended up in a Parisian dump.

By Joanna Chard | 13 Oct 2011

I’ve watched many films on bank heists, some of which end in the thief reigning victorious and undiscovered, others concluding with the robber behind bars. Recently, the Parisian authorities have been unravelling an art theft that has made clowns out of Paris' Musée d'Art Moderne and ended with the French bin men taking away rubbish worth £400 million.

In May of last year, a 34 year old Serbian man, nicknamed “Spider Man” for his ability to scale apartment buildings, stole five paintings from  the Musée d'Art Moderne. Included in the hoard were Picasso's ‘Dove with Green Peas’, Braque's ‘Olive Tree Near Estaque’, as well as paintings by Matisse, Leger and Modigliani. The thief, named Vrejan T, described how under cover of darkness, he scaled the balcony and opened the window. After placing one of the paintings in his car he returned, perused the halls and galleries for over an hour, and cut four more paintings from their frames. Thanks to a faulty alarm and three sleeping security guards, the 'Pink Panther' of art thieves escaped undetected. 

The Parisian Police attempt to identify the stolen works at the dump

Vrejan was subsequently placed under suspicion and during police questioning, implicated the antique dealer Jean-Michel C, claiming he had offered a fee of $40,000 for Leger’s ‘Still Life with Candelstick’. Also accused was a 34-year-old watch-repairer, who told police that in blind panic, he had ripped up the canvases and tossed them in a bin on the street.

Part of the stolen hoard - Picasso’s ‘Dove with Green Peas’

So the question still exists…is there really a torn up, dismembered Braque somewhere in a Parisian dump..? Or maybe they’re on display in someone’s toilet in Tel Aviv. But what I really want to know is who’s going to play the Serbian in the film - Brad or George? 

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