Five paintings worth €100 million ($135 million) including works by Picasso, Matisse and Modigliano, could have been tossed into a rubbish bin and crushed according to one of the suspects.

"/> Five paintings worth €100 million ($135 million) including works by Picasso, Matisse and Modigliano, could have been tossed into a rubbish bin and crushed according to one of the suspects.

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Stolen art works ‘crushed by rubbish truck’

Five paintings worth €100 million ($135 million) including works by Picasso, Matisse and Modigliano, could have been tossed into a rubbish bin and crushed according to one of the suspects.

Stolen art works 'crushed by rubbish truck'
Detail from Pastoral, 1905, by Henri Matisse

The theft in May 2010 from the Museum of Modern Art opposite the Eiffel Tower stunned the art world with its audacity. If true, news of the paintings’ demise will cause dismay.

The five works stolen were Dove with Green Peas by Pablo Picasso, Pastoral by Henri Matisse, Olive Tree near l’Estaque by Georges Braque, Woman with Fan by Amedeo Modigliani and Still Life with Candlestick by Fernand Léger. 

The paintings were stolen after an ingenious thief managed to climb through a window, avoiding thirty security cameras and ineffectual guards. 

After a year long search, the Serious Crime Brigade has now placed three men under official investigation, the alleged thief and two accomplices.

The alleged thief, a 43-year-old Serb known as Vrejan T, allegedly planned to steal a painting by Fernand Léger.

Three days before the theft the Serb, nicknamed “Spiderman”, planned his entrance by  loosening screws in a window. He then returned in the early hours of May 19th and climbed in.

Surprised that no burglar alarm sounded he then spent an hour wandering around the museum, helping himself to some of his favourite pieces. “He thought the Modigliani was the most beautiful of all,” said one source close to the inquiry, according to Sunday newspaper the Journal du Dimanche.

When police caught up with the alleged thief one of the accomplices, a 34-year-old watch repairer called Jonathan B, said he “panicked and destroyed the canvasses before throwing them into a rubbish bin.”

Police cannot confirm that the paintings have really been destroyed. 

“This theft was nonsensical,” said one investigator. “There was never any chance that paintings this well-known could have been sold on.”

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MUSEE D'ORSAY

Picasso’s $115-million ‘Young Girl’ to be loaned to Paris museum

Picasso's "Young Girl With Basket of Flowers," recently sold at a New York auction for $115 million, will be loaned to Paris's Musee d'Orsay for a Picasso exhibit opening in September.

Picasso's $115-million 'Young Girl' to be loaned to Paris museum
"Young Girl With Basket of Flowers" by Pablo Picasso on display during a Christie's preview. Photo: AFP

“We're very happy,” a museum spokesperson said Saturday in confirming the loan, first reported in The New York Times.

The painting was purchased at auction Tuesday by the Nahmads, a family of art dealers and collectors that includes Helly Nahmad, owner of a New York gallery, according to two sources quoted by the Times. Nahmad did not respond to an AFP request, through his gallery, for comment.

The Musee d'Orsay's “Picasso: Blue and Rose” exhibit is being organized in collaboration with the Picasso Museum-Paris and will focus on the artist's work from 1900-1906, encompassing his critically important Blue Period and Rose Period. It will run from September 18th to January 6th, 2019.

The exhibit will then move to the Beyeler Foundation near Basel, Switzerland, from February 3rd to May 26th, with a modified set of paintings. It is not clear whether the “Young Girl” will be part of that show.

The painting, from 1905, was part of a major auction by Christie's of the extensive collection of the late US banker David Rockefeller and his wife Peggy.

“Young Girl,” which the American collector Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo had purchased directly from the artist, was sold for the sixth-highest sum ever attained by a painting at auction, expenses and commissions included.

Four paintings by Picasso (1881-1973) have now been sold for more than $100 million each. No other painter has seen more than one piece of art reach that rarefied level.

Rockefeller, who died last year aged 101, was a grandson of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller. “Young Girl” was a centrepiece of his vast trove of artworks.

The Christie's sale brought in a total of $832 million, pulverizing the record for a single collection sale set in 2009, when the works of designer Yves Saint Laurent and his longtime partner Pierre Berge netted $484 million.

READ ALSO: Picasso's French Riviera mansion set to sell for 'bargain' €20 million

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