It was an art heist that was truly stunning in its size: on the morning of May 20, 2010, five paintings with a total value of €100 million ($134 million) were stolen from Paris's Musée d'Art Moderne. Now, three people have been arrested in connection with the audacious crime — though the works of art have yet to be recovered.
According to AFP, one of the three, a woman, has been arrested in connection with the theft, and the two others are suspected of handling stolen goods. In a statement, Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë called the arrests "very positive news" and expressed hope that "this stage will now allow the works themselves to be found as quickly as possible."
The missing paintings are Picasso's "Dove with Green Peas," Matisse's "Pastoral," Braque's "Olive Tree Near Estaque," Modigliani's "Woman with a Fan," and Léger's "Still Life with Chandeliers." According to the mayor's deputy for culture, Christophe Girard, the stolen Picasso alone, a Cubist work from 1912, is worth around €25 million ($33 million).
"To get into the museum so fast by disassembling a window, choose five specific works, and then slip out unnoticed by the guards, that is quite impressive," Girard told AFP.As ARTINFO previously reported, the museum's security system was not functioning, which allowed the intruder to avoid detection. The thief cut the five paintings from their frames and rolled them up before escaping.[content:advertisement-center]
In a move that surprised the art world, the case was investigated by the Brigade de Répression du Banditisme, an anti-gang squad. At the time, Christophe Girard justified this by describing the theft to Le Figaro as "extremely sophisticated" and "an organized crime operation." And indeed, one of the three people arrested has now told police of having "acted on orders," Le Figaro is reporting. Since such high-profile stolen works could not be sold on the open market, the thieves' motives will remain murky until the investigation develops further.