Over this weekend there was a wonderful development in the world of art. The Scream a painting by Edvard Munch, that is famous worldwide was stolen just over 2 years ago. The robbery itself is something that makes anybody who works security cringe examining how easily the painting was purloined. The details of the robbery are fairly simple, two masked men grabbed The Scream and The Madonna from the wall of the art gallery and walked out of museum, threating staff with a gun to make their escape. They then jumped into a car and drove off, never to be seen again. Three men were eventually convicted in May of this year of charges related to the theft, although the actual robbers have never been caught and the paintings had not been recovered, until this weekend.
On Thursday, Norwegian police reported that the paintings had been discovered and were both relatively undamaged. This was one of the largest fears of museum curators, owning to the fact that when the paintings were stolen, one of the paintings was observed being banged around in the theft. After experts observed the paintings on Friday, reported on the paintings authenticity and that the works were returned “with hardly any damage” and that all damage could be completely repaired.
The largest fear with any famous artwork that is stolen and not recovered is not that it would be sold on the open market and the museum would be unable to collect its rightful property, rather, that the artwork would reside in someone’s private collection for decades and would be treated improperly and would in time be damaged to the point of no return. Any famous artwork such as The Scream could never be sold openly simply because the piece is too widely known to be stolen and any reputable auction house requires both proof of ownership and of authenticity. A private auction would also cause problems for the world of fine artwork in this price range is a small one, and any painting that is known to be stolen and goes up for auction faces exactly the same problems as a public auction. So, since you can’t sell the painting all that you could do with art this expensive and valuable is to hold onto it until the statue of limitations run out, which in many European countries for artwork can be several lifetimes.
The police in this case deserve the extolment of both the art world and the public at large, The Scream is considered by many to be one of the most recognizable pieces of art in the world. A large part of the whole world’s culture today now is safe once again. Hopefully the Munich Museum will this time take better and more through security considerations in place when the painting is put back on public display. Tomorrow’s post will discuss what are some very simple techniques to protect famous artwork while still allowing the general public to see and interact with art and not cost museums millions of dollars on security.