Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sensational Art Heists

The Stolen Scream

The Scream, Munch
The Scream, Munch
 

Edvard Munchs world famous work of art, The Scream was one of a series of paintings in his Frieze of Life, which also included works depicting sickness, death, anxiety and love. The painting, housed in Oslo, Norways Munch Museum was one of the countrys most-prized possessions. That is, until it was stolen in a daring daylight raid in August 2004 along with another of the artists masterpieces titled The Madonna, the BBC reported. It was a heist that shocked the art world and sparked a worldwide hunt for the priceless art treasures.

The Madonna, Munch
The Madonna, Munch
 

The theft marked the second time Munchs The Scream was stolen. The first time occurred in February 1994 when during the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, a gang of thieves broke into Oslos National Gallery and stole one of the four versions of the painting. The robbers left a note behind at the scene saying, Thanks for the poor security, the BBC said. Luckily, the painting was recovered several months later in a police sting, which led to the conviction and imprisonment of four men.

In the August 2004 robbery, two masked men entered the Munch Museum through the café. One of the robbers held back frightened visitors and museum employees with a handgun while the other man ran through the gallery towards the targeted works of art, tearing them from the walls before running out the door. Witnesses watched in horror as both men jumped into a black Audi driven by another man, speeding off with the paintings in tow.

Munch Museum robbery, outside
Munch Museum robbery, outside
 

According to the BBC, one of the witnesses, Texas businessman Richard Marcus was quoted as saying that the police took a long time to respond to the raid, although police refuted the claim. The museum heist was documented as the first ever in the country involving the use of a gun. It is almost certain that it would not be the last.

Munch Museum, police
Munch Museum, police
 

USA Today suggested that the theft stirred a debate across Europe over how to protect art if thieves are willing to use deadly force to take it. Museum spokeswoman Nicole Richy was quoted saying that unfortunately, "Museums are never completely safe from such a theft. If an armed gang came into the museum with machine guns, there's not a lot that can be done." The best way to protect the paintings and museum visitors is by increasing the overall security, which might deter robberies. 

Part of frame recovered, Scream
Part of frame recovered, Scream
Not long after the thefts, the getaway car was discovered several kilometers from the museum. The paintings frames, although smashed, were also located close to the museum. However, neither the paintings nor the culprits were ever found. It is likely that the thieves might try to offer the works for ransom because the paintings are too well known and would prove difficult to sell. All investigators can do is await a lucky break that might lead to their discovery.

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