the art life

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The Art Life

“One last score, then I’m out…”

They do things differently in Norway. After two paintings by Edvard Munch were stolen by thieves in a ‘brazen’ walk in, walk out ‘raid’, it was revealed that neither The Scream nor Madonna was insured against theft. As Agence France Press explained:

“‘The pictures were insured in case of fire or water damage from water but not for theft or burglary,’ said John Oeyaas, of Oslo Forsikring. ‘They are irreplaceable… it makes no sense to insure them against theft.” Experts have said that The Scream is worth up to $100 million.”

The painting isn’t priceless, there’s another four versions of The Scream and they were only worried about flood and fire. The whole story was already odd, but became stranger still when it was revealed the extent of the ‘security’ at the Oslo museum, as reported by ABC America

“’What’s strange is that in this museum, there weren’t any means of protection for the paintings, no alarm bell,’ a French radio producer, Francois Castang, who saw the theft told France Inter radio. ‘The paintings were simply attached by wire to the walls,’ he said. ‘All you had to do is pull on the painting hard for the cord to break loose which is what I saw one of the thieves doing.’”

Although there was a photo taken of the two masked men carrying the paintings to a waiting car – and the vehicle was later found full of fire extinguisher foam to hide the evidence – Norwegian police have been caught flat footed.

Now, we don’t know much about police work, but we’ve seen a lot of movies, so we were thinking that detectives should be looking at someone with opportunity, motive and enough knowledge to pull off such a daring heist…Then we realised that someone already known to us has an unusual amount of knowledge about the whole affair. It turns out that Sebastian Smee knows details of the theft as he had been at the museum just a few weeks before. As Smee explained in his article from London’s The Telegraph:

“No museum can afford to turn itself into a fortified bunker, but the Munch Museum on the quiet outskirts of Oslo is an unusually open and informal home for one of the most valuable paintings in the world. Edvard Munch’s The Scream […] was hanging on a low, portable partition wall only two dozen paces from the museum entrance when I visited several weeks ago. It was surrounded by other masterpieces of the 1890s and 1900s. Even the most meticulously guarded museums are vulnerable to well-planned thefts… ”

Quiet part of town? Unusually open and informal? Only two dozen steps from the entrance? Sebastian Smee is currently assisting Interpol with their inquiries.

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