SHARE
COPY LINK

ART

‘Spiderman’ burglar gets eight years in prison for stealing $100m worth of art from Paris museum

A thief nicknamed "Spiderman", who snatched five masterpieces from a top Paris museum, was sentenced to eight years in prison on Monday over one of the biggest art heists in recent years.

'Spiderman' burglar gets eight years in prison for stealing $100m worth of art from Paris museum
Vjeran Tomic in Paris. Photo: AFP
Vjeran Tomic (pictured below) and two accomplices were also jointly fined a whopping €104 million ($110 million) over the theft of the paintings by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Fernand Leger and Amedeo Modigliani from the
 
Musee d'Art Moderne on the night of May 20, 2010.
 
The fine corresponds to the estimated value of the artworks, which are still missing.
   
A lawyer representing the City of Paris, which runs the museum, call their disappearance an “unspeakable” loss to humanity.
   
Tomic, a 49-year-old seasoned burglar of Croatian origin, admitted robbing the gallery, which is home to more than 8,000 works of 20th-century art.
   
On his arrest he told police he was asked to steal Leger's “Still Life with Candlestick” from 1922, and never imagined he would be able to grab four more.
 
Security lapses 
 
The case revealed extraordinary security lapses at the museum in the ritzy 16th district, on the banks of the Seine.
   
The motion-detection alarms had been out of order for two months when Tomic, who staked out the building for six nights, slipped inside after using acid to dislodge a window pane.
   
After grabbing the Leger without creating a disturbance he went on a stealing spree, taking Picasso's cubist “Dove with Green Peas” from 1912 — alone worth an estimated €25 million — Matisse's “Pastoral” from 1905, Braque's “Olive Tree near Estaque” from 1906, and Modigliani's “Woman with a Fan” from 1919.
   
Three guards on duty failed to spot him. His silhouette popped up only briefly on a security camera.
   
The paintings were only found to be missing from their frames when the museum reopened the next day.
   
Jean-Michel Corvez, a 61-year-old antique dealer who admitted to ordering the theft of the Leger on behalf of an unnamed client, and Yonathan Birn, a 40-year-old watchmaker who admitted to hiding the paintings for a time, were given sentences of seven and six years respectively.
  
On top of their collective fine, the three men were given individual fines of between €150,000 and €200,000 each.
   
Corvez also had his home seized and was banned from dealing in antiques or art for five years.
 
'Bored with his bourgeois life'
 
During the trial Birn told the court he had dumped the paintings but the court expressed doubt over that claim, noting the lack of proof of their destruction.
   
An art lover, he had admitted to becoming enraptured with Modigliani's “Woman with a Fan”.
   
His lawyer had described him as an impressionable man, who was bored with his “nice little bourgeois life”.
   
Tomic, a master burglar, said he took five paintings because he “liked” them.
   
Athletically built and 1.90 metres (six foot 2 inches) tall, he had gained his nickname by clambering into posh Parisian apartments and museums to steal valuable gems and works of art.
   
He was spotted by a homeless man as he roamed around the museum in the days leading to the theft.
  
Police arrested him after receiving an anonymous tip and tracking his mobile phone.
   
There has been a spate of art thefts in Europe in recent years.
   
The most recent, in 2015, involved the theft of five paintings worth €25 million by renowned British artist Francis Bacon in Madrid.
   
Spanish police arrested seven people last year suspected of being involved in that theft.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

ARCHITECTURE

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles

Rising high beyond an ancient Roman arena in Arles, a tall, twisted tower created by Frank Gehry shimmers in the sun, the latest futuristic addition to this southern French city known for its World Heritage sites.

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles
Gehry's Luma Tower opens in Arles, France. Photo: H I / Pixabay

The tower, which opens to the public on Saturday, is the flagship attraction of a new “creative campus” conceived by the Swiss Luma arts foundation that wants to offer artists a space to create, collaborate and showcase their work.

Gehry, the 92-year-old brain behind Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum and Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, wrapped 11,000 stainless steel panels around his tower above a huge glass round base.

It will house contemporary art exhibitions, a library, and offices, while the Luma Arles campus as a whole will host conferences and live performances.

From a distance, the structure reflects the changing lights of this town that inspired Van Gogh, capturing the whiteness of the limestone Alpilles mountain range nearby which glows a fierce orange when the sun sets.

Mustapha Bouhayati, the head of Luma Arles, says the town is no stranger to
imposing monuments; its ancient Roman arena and theatre have long drawn the
crowds.

The tower is just the latest addition, he says. “We’re building the heritage of tomorrow.”

Luma Arles spreads out over a huge former industrial wasteland.

Maja Hoffmann, a Swiss patron of the arts who created the foundation, says
the site took seven years to build and many more years to conceive.

Maja Hoffmann, founder and president of the Luma Foundation. Photo: Pascal GUYOT / AFP

Aside from the tower, Luma Arles also has exhibition and performance spaces in former industrial buildings, a phosphorescent skatepark created by South Korean artist Koo Jeong A and a sprawling public park conceived by Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets.

‘Arles chose me’

The wealthy great-granddaughter of a founder of Swiss drug giant Roche, Hoffmann has for years been involved in the world of contemporary art, like her grandmother before her.

A documentary producer and arts collector, she owns photos by Annie Leibovitz and Diane Arbus and says she hung out with Jean-Michel Basquiat in New York.

Her foundation’s stated aim is to promote artists and their work, with a special interest in environmental issues, human rights, education and culture.

She refuses to answer a question on how much the project in Arles cost. But as to why she chose the 53,000-strong town, Hoffmann responds: “I did not choose Arles, Arles chose me.”

She moved there as a baby when her father Luc Hoffmann, who co-founded WWF,
created a reserve to preserve the biodiversity of the Camargue, a region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Rhone river delta known for its pink flamingos.

The tower reflects that, with Camargue salt used as mural panels and the
delta’s algae as textile dye.

Hoffmann says she wants her project to attract more visitors in the winter, in a town where nearly a quarter of the population lives under the poverty line.

Some 190 people will be working at the Luma project over the summer, Bouhayati says, adding that Hoffman has created an “ecosystem for creation”.

SHOW COMMENTS