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August 31, 2006

'Damage was much less than feared'

Edvard Munch: Madonna

It's the end of the month, and we all know what that means: time for an obligatory monthly post.

Blogging from work is tough at the moment, but when you're looking to beat Chicago's resident Munch theft fetishist Erik Wenzel to the newsfeed punch, you gots to hop to it...

So, without further ado, the good news out of Oslo:

Norwegian police have today recovered The Scream and another stolen masterpiece by Edvard Munch two years after they were stolen from an Oslo museum by armed men.

It is believed that they were recovered by undercover police officers who had spent months posing as potential buyers of the stolen works of art.

"The pictures came into our hands this afternoon after a successful police action," said Iver Stensrud, head of the police investigation at a press conference, who said he would not elaborate.

He said his officers had been working for two years to find the paintings. "All that remains is an expert examination to confirm with 100-per cent certainty, that these are the original paintings. We believe these are the originals."

He said that the "damage was much less than feared" and that he believed the paintings had been in Norway the whole time.

"We feel we have been hot on the trail of the paintings the whole time, but it has taken time," he said

Police have been hunting all over the world for the priceless art works and the City of Oslo, which owns the paintings, offered of a 2 million kroner (154,500) reward for their return.

Two armed men broke into the Munch Museum in Oslo in August 2004 and yanked the two works from the walls in front of dozens of terrified tourists. Mr Stensrud said that the men convicted had not contributed to the recovery of the paintings.

The paintings, both from 1893, have been missing even though three men were convicted in May of taking part in the theft and were sentenced to up to eight years in jail. Two of them were ordered to pay $122 million in damages—although it was not clear today whether that bill will be lifted.

The Aftenposten shares the museum's reaction (as if couldn't have guessed):

City and museum officials were jubilant that the paintings are back in safe hands.

"I am, on behalf of Oslo's entire population, both relieved and happy," said Gro Balas, director of culture for the city of Oslo, which owns the paintings through the will drawn up by Edvard Munch himself.

Balas said the paintings are owned "by everyone," and that "the whole world has an option on these paintings."

She said she'd experienced being in Germany and having people "come up and offer their condolences after the paintings were stolen."

Ingebjørg Ydstie, acting leader of the Munch Museum in Oslo, told news bureau NTB that experts will now make a comprehensive examination of the paintings, to determine whether they've been damaged. She stressed that the experts so far have no doubt that the paintings found are genuine.

"I feel a great sense of joy on behalf of the museum and a whole world of art lovers," she said. "This is a big day."

Ydstie said she expected the examination to be completed relatively quickly, so the paintings could be put back on exhibit again.

Edvard Munch: The Scream

Postscript

In keeping with my previous posts on the matter, I've been scanning the coverage for fresh valuations of the works, but all I see (apart from the reward offered and damages assessed) is the Aftenposten sticking by the 500 kroner figure they settled on two years ago (courtesy of Oslo gallery owner Ben Friga), reporting today that:

"The Scream" has been valued at NOK 500 million (USD 81 million) and "Madonna" at NOK 100 million, but both artworks were also considered priceless in many ways and difficult if not impossible to sell.

"'Damage was much less than feared'"
Posted by Dan at 03:12 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (1)