A mysterious masked man using the pseudonym “Fantômas” has been mimicking a fictional 20th century master of disguise to drop toe sculptures in art galleries in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sporting a white suit, waistcoat, bow-tie and a top hat, the masked man has been breaking gallery rules, sticking life-sized toe art on the walls of some of the city’s best-known cultural venues. The unknown man also leaves behind a hand-written calling card bearing the name “Fantômas,” the title of an infamous villain from a series of 32 pre-World War One French thrillers written by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain.
The motives of the man remain a riddle.
It is understood his signature toe and card were first spotted at a student exhibition at Tent Gallery, ECA, though artists at the event did not catch a glimpse of the elusive character.
He then appeared at the opening night of the Luc Tuymans’ exhibition at the Talbot Rice Gallery a week later.
James Clegg, the curator of the show, confirmed a man arrived wearing a mask and stuck a toe up on the wall, though the artistic body part was taken down immediately.
It has also been claimed that Fantômas has also placed toes on a wall at the Ingleby Gallery, though a spokeswoman strongly denied this.
The National Galleries of Scotland confirmed the that the man did visit the Scottish National Gallery, “wearing a mask and leaving behind a small plaster item”.
A spokeswoman said: “On his return he was advised by security staff not to deposit items in the galleries, and that visitors wearing a mask or disguise would not be admitted to the premises for security reasons.
“He was not evicted from the galleries or barred from returning.”
Fantômas also posts YouTube messages.
In his latest he claims security guards at one of the National Galleries of Modern Art caught him in the act, at which point he was forced to give up his true identity.
Fantômas said in the clip he “will fall into the shadows, for now, until the dust has cleared”.
An informed source, who wished to remain anonymous, revealed that Fantômas had thrown the city art world into turmoil.
He said: “He is causing considerable alarm. The question is why is he doing this at all. Is he a critical artist, making a comment on the galleries? Perhaps there is some profound message behind the toe. Is he just a prankster?”
The fictional criminal commits appalling crimes: substituting sulphuric acid in the perfume dispensers at a Parisian department store, releasing plague-infested rats on an ocean liner, or forcing a victim to witness his own execution by placing him face-up in a guillotine.