Longtime Incredible Fukn.us readers may remember the bungled attempt at stealing three reproduction Munchs’ last year…that article made mention of this crime but didn’t go into quite the same detail about the ‘brutality’ the thieves showed in smashing the painting from frames….
I would like to point out that there are actually 2 versions in the hands of private collectors…one of them being the one that is still missing…
You have to wonder, is it some Lex Luther like person that only shows his most priveliged guests his stolen art? Is he so evil that he doesn’t worry about them anitching? Or is it in one of the extra bedrooms of one of Bill Gates extra houses?
THE thieves struck on the morning of Aug. 22, 2004, not long after the Munch Museum had opened. Many of the 80 or so visitors there were clustered in the ground-floor gallery, where the collection’s most precious paintings were on display.
The late-summer Sunday doziness was broken by the sudden shouting presence of two men in balaclavas who burst in through the main entrance. They came so unexpectedly, so brazenly, that at first it was hard to know what was happening. Using a gun to force the museum guards to the ground — neither security guards nor police officers are routinely armed in Norway — the intruders wrenched two paintings from the main gallery wall. They treated them with so little care, banging one repeatedly against the ground to dislodge it from its frame, that witnesses spoke afterward of their shock at the brutality of the assault as much as of the theft itself.
The whole thing took less than five minutes, and by the time the police arrived the thieves had long since disappeared. So had two treasures from the museum’s huge collection of works by the Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch. One was “Madonna,” a lush, erotic portrait of a long-haired, bare-breasted woman. The other was “The Scream,” Munch’s classic embodiment of existentialist horror, angst and despair.
The crime, and the ease with which it was pulled off, were seen across the country as a humiliating blow to Norway, which regards Munch’s paintings — along with, perhaps, the music of Edvard Grieg and the plays of Henrik Ibsen — as among its most precious cultural assets. The police threw themselves into the job of finding the thieves, and the city of Oslo offered $386,000 for the paintings’ return.
One and a half years on, six men stand accused of the crime; their trial is set to begin tomorrow. But the laborious, complicated investigation has stumbled in a fundamental and profoundly frustrating way. The police may have the thieves, but they don’t have the paintings.
“It’s no secret that we don’t know where they are,” Morten Hojem Ervik, the police prosecutor who is coordinating the case, acknowledged in an interview.
Sitting on a wooden bench outside an Oslo courthouse before yet another wearying pretrial hearing, Mr. Hojem Ervik tried valiantly to put a positive gloss on the situation. But the fact that the paintings are still at large is as much a source of embarrassment to Norwegians as is the original crime.
“These paintings are national treasures, but also international icons,” Jorunn Christoffersen, director of communications at the Munch Museum, said in a recent interview.
Followers of this sort of crime may remember that “The Scream” was stolen once before, in 1994. But that was a different version, the one owned by the National Art Museum across town (there are four versions in all, each a slight variation of the others; one is in private hands and one is a work on paper). And that theft was risibly amateurish, involving a ladder propped up against a second-floor window and a thief so nervous he fell off, nearly braining his accomplice. Timing their crime for maximum public exposure on the morning of the first day of the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, the thieves escaped with “The Scream” and left a snide little note behind. “Thanks for the poor security,” it said.
That story had a happier conclusion. The police recovered the painting four months later after an elaborate undercover sting operation, and it once again hangs in the National Art Museum (away from the windows).
But the 2004 theft was slicker and more violent, and the ensuing investigation has proved to be that much more difficult. From the beginning, everything seemed to conspire against the investigators, starting with the glaring lack of security at the Munch Museum, which had not so much as a cordon to keep people away from the art on the walls. “As easy as robbing a kiosk,” one police officer was quoted as telling reporters.
The police took so long to arrive that by the time they did, the crime scene had been contaminated with additional visitors, and many of the witnesses, including tourists sick of hanging around, had already left. Although the closed-circuit television cameras in front of the museum were working, they showed only grainy hooded figures moving swiftly across the grass — no help for identification purposes. The Case of the Missing Munchs – New York Times