• gerard van weyenbergh

From "Pest Exterminator" to "Art Mogul"


Considered to be one of the most surprising figures to have plagued the art market over the past three decades, YV, known as "Le Taupier" ( aka the gopher exterminator), died on February 13 of cancer at the age of 60. He made a colossal fortune through many breaches of trust but also incredible discoveries.

With his imposing build body and his cobra look, he intimidated his interlocutors. He started his career as a gopher exterminator at age16, gradually making a place for himself in the sun by grabbing works of art at prices that he often forgot to pay to those he borrowed them.

Illiterate, he showed himself off as an idiot when he appeared in court for a memorable theft committed fifteen years ago. The "Taupier" then managed to bounce back and get a hold on an important Belgian collection, including works Brancusi which had brought him no less than 50 million euros.

Leading the way, he dealt on an equal foot with the greatest dealers and some of the world's leading experts.

At the same time, auction houses rolled out a red carpet for him to obtain pieces resold for tens of millions of euros that had allowed him to acquire many properties in France or abroad. He grew an impressive heritage, particularly by placing part of its assets in tax havens only to find himself later involved in the business of "Panama Papers" before being the victim of a helicopter crash in 2016 and falling seriously ill.

In business he showed little scruples towards those who had the misfortune to cross his path, the "Taupier " was above all motivated by the need to shear the backs of naive people, with the desire always to accumulate more money to apparently compensate for a childhood spent in poverty and nothing stopped him, sometimes to the point of believing himself to be allowed everything.

Flanked by young ephebes, this imposing-looking character moved around in luxury cars, passing himself off alternately as the cousin of a great gallery owner, a close friend of the Saudi royal family or a close friend of the Wildensteins to far exceed the famous crook Fernand Legros whose fortune accumulated through sales of false paintings to American gogos really did not weigh heavily in comparison with the 800 million euros he boasted of having earned. His latest find: Duchamp's famous bidet, which disappeared after being exhibited in New York in 1913, which he claimed to have rediscovered in a warehouse at the Steinway piano factory in a suburb of the American metropolis, a blow that would have established his celebrity.

The most astonishing thing is that this type of bipolar type managed to forge close relations with many big merchants who treated him with deference without thinking for a moment to look into his murky past. He often came in the crosshairs of the 'OCBC which he had succeeded in fooling just as much as certain experts he put in his pocket by inviting them to great restaurants to make them flexible at will after a few glasses of Petrus or Lafite-Rothschild.

In short, this incredible predator did not live long to take advantage of his wealth except that for about thirty years, he will have scoured the art market by leading the existence of a mogul after leaving behind many people abused by his actions.

Artcult.com article from 2017 by Adrian Boy Darmon