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    Munch's Famous 'Scream' Painting StolenSecurity Criticized at Museum in Norway
    By Alister Doyle, Reuters

    OSLO, Norway (Aug. 22) - Norway's art security came under fire on Monday as too lax after gun-waving thieves stole Edvard Munch's masterpieces ''The Scream'' and ''Madonna'' from a crowded gallery and walked out the front door in broad daylight.

    Police said they were following up tips phoned in after Sunday's theft in front of dozens of tourists at the Munch Museum. The getaway car and bits of the wooden frames were found abandoned after the third theft of Munch works since 1988.

    ''Almost as easy as robbing a kiosk,'' the daily Aftenposten said in a front-page headline. The works were not even insured against theft. ''Some of our national treasures are too poorly protected,'' said the daily Dagbladet.

    ''The Scream,'' an icon of existential angst showing a waif-like figure against a blood-red sky, is the Norwegian artist's most famed work and ''Madonna'' shows a mysterious, raven-haired woman with bare breasts.

    He made several similar versions of both.

    The museum has unarmed guards and the pictures are attached to the wall with wires that sound an alarm in a nearby police station if pulled. No alarm sounded in the gallery.

    Police said one of the thieves spoke Norwegian. Norway has a range of criminal groups who might be interested in seizing the pictures, perhaps to try to wring a ransom from the government.

    Most speculation was that Sunday's thieves would seek a ransom for works worth millions of dollars and too well known to be sold openly.

    It was the third theft of Munch masterpieces since 1988, when the ''Vampire'' was stolen. Norway vowed to step up security when another 1893 version of ''The Scream'' was stolen by thieves who simply broke a window of the National Gallery in 1994.

    Both paintings were later recovered.

    ''We have to consider every possibility,'' said Gunnar Soerensen, head of the museum, when asked about security options like airport-type metal detectors at the entrance or bullet-proof cases like around the ''Mona Lisa'' in Paris.

    NO ONE HURT

    ''We have to think about the public, keeping an open museum yet one secure against robbery,'' he told Reuters. He said he was happy that no one had been hurt and that, for instance, security systems did not automatically lock the main door.

    ''Think about the scenario, a closed door, desperate robbers with a gun in a closed room,'' he told Reuters. ''What would happen then?'' The gallery would stay closed indefinitely.

    Visitors to Norwegian galleries are not routinely searched.

    The thieves also seemed clumsy. They dropped a painting on the ground twice as they scrambled to their getaway car and threw bits of smashed frame out of the window as they drove around the city.

    One art expert said that there were no shadowy art collectors who might order such a heist.

    ''There's no market and there's no secret Dr. No or Mr. Big or anybody like that out in the Venezuelan jungle, or Captain Nemo aboard the Nautilus,'' said Charles Hill, a former British Scotland Yard detective who helped recover ''The Scream'' in 1994.

    ''There's no one like that. These guys steal these things as trophies and then they don't know what to do with them,'' he told Norway's NRK public radio.

    The man behind the 1988 and 1994 thefts, now out of jail, denied any involvement. ''Weapons are not my style. I have always used the methods of a gentleman,'' Paal Enger told Verdens Gang.


    08/23/04 04:20 EDT

  • #2
    I solemnly promise I'll look out for the picture.
    Google ergo sum

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