The string of art thefts targeting the work of the Norwegian expressionist artist Edvard Munch continues with a theft from a gallery last week in Oslo, and another previously unpublicized theft last summer.
Oslo police say that late Thursday or early Friday, thieves used a rock to smash a window at the Nyborgs Kunst gallery and made off with a hand-colored lithograph of “Historien,” produced in 1914 and said to be worth in the “millions” of Norwegian kroner (hundreds of thousands in US dollars). It was the only item stolen.
While the method may not have been particularly subtle, Oslo police say they have evidence suggesting this may have been a carefully planned heist carried out by a criminal organization, according to police spokeswoman Unni Groendal.
On Wednesday, Oslo police said they were also investigating the theft of another work by Munch, a lithograph entitled “Losrivelsen 2” which disappeared from the art gallery Kaare Berntsen sometime between June 12th and June 25th, while the gallery was in the process of moving to a new location. That work is valued at 2.5 million Norwegian Kroner.
There are thus far no suspects in either crime.
In 1994, Munch’s “The Scream” was stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo. In 2004, another version of that work along with Munch’s “Madonna”, were stolen from the Munch Museum at gunpoint. Those works were all eventually recovered. In March of 2005, three more Munch works were stolen, this time from a hotel in Oslo, but they were recovered the next day.
At least one expert said he would not be surprised if these most recent thefts were done “on commission” by someone who wished to possess them.
“It gives a lot of status to have a Munch on the wall,” said Morten Zondag, a Munch expert at the Kaare Bentsen gallery where one of the thefts took place. “The myth that there are these rich people who want a Munch collection in their cellar – there may be something to it.”