One of the four versions of "The Scream" by Edvard Munch was stolen along with "Madonna" from the Munch museum in Oslo, Norway on August 23, 2004. The theft has been attributed to the lack of security and an ineffective surveillance system. Great works of art are generally stolen for ransom, publicity, or a contract job for a wealthy collector.
Together, the Expressionist’s works are worth $100 million. They were insured against fire and water damage, yet they weren’t insured against theft. Why not?One reason is that these oils on canvas are irreplaceable. What could the Oslo museum purchase to replace them? Another reason is that government funded museums in Europe and the U.K. are restricted by tight budgets and are not allowed to use funds for commercial theft insurance policies.
You may ask, "How would an American museum have handled a similar situation?" A U.S. museum is run like a business with a board of directors and trustees who may have donated art themselves. If a painting were stolen, the museum would be able to buy a similar painting or use the funds to upgrade security.
As of yet, no ransom demands have been made. The police are searching for DNA clues and looking at photos of the thieves taken by Oslo locals. If the stolen painting is never recovered, we may have to remember "The Scream" only from the items produced: T shirts, mugs, and posters.
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