Spider-Man’s $100m Art Theft from the Paris MOMA

Spider-Man’s $100m Art Theft from the Paris MOMA
Vjeran Tomic, the thief who loved paintings In May 2010, Vjeran Tomic did not need his infamous climbing skills to rob the Musée d’Art Moderne (MOMA). He simply unscrewed a window, cut through the lock holding a grate in place with bolt cutters, and crawled inside the museum. The act itself was quick and efficient but had required lots of preparation; Tomic had meticulously returned to the window over the six previous nights to get ready. He stripped each screw of rust and paint before carefully removing them— the holes filled with modeling clay the exact color of the window frame. He even had a brief trial run: entering the museum, avoiding the motion detectors that were still working, then leaving the museum and waiting 15 minutes on the banks of the Seine to make absolutely sure that no alarms had been triggered. (The security system was overdue an overhaul and Tomic had noted on an earlier recce, the motion detectors that no longer functioned.) Tomic had only intended to steal Fernand Léger’s 1922 “Still Life with Candlestick,” on “order” from his sponsor, Jean Michel Corvez, a French businessman and fence, who had a list of discerning clients with a taste for paintings and jewelry. (Tomic had been only too happy to steal to order.) But once inside the MOMA, with the Léger safely removed from its frame, Tomic went rogue. Fernand Léger, Still Life with Candle Stick, 1922. He became entranced first by a Matisse painting, “Pastoral,” then by Modigliani’s “Woman with Fan,” and unable to stop himself, he then took Picasso’s “Pigeon with Peas” and Braque’s “Olive Tree Near L’Estanque.” Tomic had been about to steal another Modigliani (“Woman With Blue Eyes”), but sensed that the painting had spoken to him, warning him that he would regret taking it for the rest of his life. He heeded the warning and put it back. Although it was a few hours before dawn and the streets of Paris were deserted, Tomic made two trips into the museum and even sat in his parked Renault in the Avenue de New-York, still thinking of his reaction to the “Woman With Blue Eyes.” Tomic said he had been “chilled with fear.” Corvez, doubtless realizing that the heat from the theft of five paintings would be even more intense than just one, was less than impressed when Tomic produced the Léger and the four others. He agreed to take the Modigliani as well as the Léger but Tomic wanted to keep the other three for himself but nevertheless asked Corvez to store them for him. Pablo Picasso, 1911, Le pigeon aux petits pois (Pigeon with Peas)

Lead photo credit : Raoul Dufy’s La Fée Electricité. Photo courtesy of Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris

More in Art, Art Theft, Paris art museums, theif

Previous Article Interview with Awarding-Winning Translator Sandra Smith
Next Article Paris Restaurants: Where to Eat in February 2022

After some dreary years in the Civil Service, Marilyn realized her dream of living in Paris. She arrived in Paris in December 1967 and left in July 1969. From there she lived in Mallorca, London, Oman, and Dubai, where she moved with her husband and young son and worked for Gulf News, Khaleej Times and freelanced for Emirates Woman magazine. During this time she was also a ground stewardess for Middle East Airlines. For the past 18 years they've lived on the Isle of Wight.