Munch paintings “could be in Sweden”

Not too far afield, Norway lost a few national treasures this week. It seems that when the Munch Museum opened in Oslo on Sunday morning, two masked men with guns ran in and took two of Edvard Munch's best-known paintings.

Dagens Nyheter reported that one of the men threatened museum staff with a gun while the other grabbed ‘The Scream’ and ‘Madonna’ from the walls. The two men ran outside to a third accomplice, who waited in a stolen car. The car and the two paintings’ frames were found a few hours later near the museum.

The paintings had not been insured for theft and were together worth around 650 million Norwegian crowns. Norwegian National Museum director Sune Nordgren explained to Dagens Nyheter that paintings so well known would be difficult to sell, so the thieves will probably demand money for their return.

In fact, another version of ‘The Scream’ was stolen from that museum in 1994, and the perpetrators demanded ransom (though an anti-abortion group also claimed that it could return the painting if an anti-abortion film was broadcast on national television).

Aftonbladet speculated on Tuesday that the paintings could already be in Sweden – or could at least be on their way over the border. Tommy Lindström, formerly with the Swedish police, told Aftonbladet that investigators should keep an eye on Gothenburg where “there are a lot of dodgy art dealers”. Customs are reported to be watching the Norwegian borders more closely than usual.

Finally, Svenska Dagbladet reported this week the story of a Swedish artist whose work has been removed from a Denver exhibition due to impropriety. Artist Madeline Hatz sent a work titled “Blood for oil” to an exhibition called “The luggage project” at Denver international airport.

The work consisted of a suitcase filled with bricks, splattered with red, and decorated with a bumper sticker reading “Blood for oil – Billionaires for Bush.” After two days on display, the exhibition organizers took Hatz’s work out of the exhibition. Airport chief Vicki Brunagel told the Rocky Mountain News that the artwork was inappropriate.

Hatz countered in an interview that “One can’t just take away an artwork because people are upset. They don’t have to stop thinking because they’re in an airport”.