OCD Art Thief Accused of Amassing an ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ of Stolen Works in France—and Carefully Labeling Each One
The thief was caught after a 20-year career of stealing art—and taking copious notes about it.
The 20-year career of a prolific and highly unusual art thief may have come to an end in Avignon, France, in recent days when police raided the home of a 45-year-old man. Inside, they discovered a massive trove of stolen artworks that authorities have described as an “Aladdin’s cave” of treasure.
“There were pieces everywhere, piled on top of each other,” local police captain François Toulouse told Le Parisien. “He stole purely for pleasure, for the buzz he got from the act, and he never sold the stuff he stole but rather piled it up in his home.”
The alleged serial thief specialized in targeting local art collectors in the Vaucluse region of France but appears to have ventured as far as London and Paris, ripping off hotels and shops as well as museums and galleries. Helpfully, he took the time to cataloge his ill-gotten gains, tagging them with notes about the date and location of the burglary, as well as the estimated value, according to the Telegraph.
In the hopes of tracking down the hoard’s original owners, police have compiled an online database featuring over 500 photographs of the recovered paintings and sculptures, as well as rare books and vinyl records found in the house. To date, 40 works have been returned to their owners; five had been listed as stolen by L’Office Central de lutte contre le trafic des Biens Culturels, a French agency which investigates art theft.
The thief allegedly disguised himself with a big coat and hat to carry out the robberies. His undoing was revisiting an Avignon hotel two months after stealing two paintings there—the receptionist recognized him and called the police. He reportedly cooperated with authorities and claimed to be a kleptomaniac.
An initial trial, over the theft of two paintings in Avignon, is scheduled to take place within the coming months.
Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.