Art ‘screams’ for security

Where there once hung one of the world’s most valuable pieces of impressionist art, now dangle broken cords. The Munch Museum Oslo, Norway was the home of a painting that school children around the world have seen, one you have probably seen at least once before in a car commercial that was popular a few years ago, and one that definitely inspires me. Thieves brazenly took the well-known painting on Aug. 22 at around 11 a.m. from the Munch Museum, causing an uproar in the worldwide art community, and causing this writer to become very pissed off. “The Scream” is a depressing piece of artwork of which four versions were painted by Edvard Munch. Many people enjoy it because it evokes feelings of sadness and anguish, depression and anxiety, and in some, humor. It depicts a man, or man-like thing, standing on a bridge with its hands over its ears either screaming or reacting to a scream while two other men walk past in top hats. Nobody knows what exactly the man, or man-like thing, is screaming at, much like nobody knows why Mona Lisa smiles. “The Scream” is in the same category as the Mona Lisa, in my opinion, and should have been treated with the same respect. Coincidentally, both artworks were stolen on the same day, “The Scream” on August 22, 2004. The Mona Lisa was stolen in Paris on the exact same day, 1911. Not only was “The Scream” stolen, but right along side it in the arms of the criminals was another Norwegian national treasure, one just as priceless, but one you may not have heard of. “Madonna,” also by Munch, was stolen from the museum. Both paintings, ripped from their walls and later their frames, were part of the artist’s “Frieze of Life” series, which was a collection meant to convey sickness, love, death and anxiety. According to police, two armed men entered and took the paintings from the museum, setting off no alarms and alerting no security. Why? Because there were barely any. The security guards on duty were easily subdued by the two men with handguns and, according to the Norway Post, security technology at the museum was highly outdated. Some of the museum’s cameras were even shut off. Why? Certainly not because of any lack of funding!After asking for assistance, the City of Oslo’s Art Collections received money to refurbish the museum. The first chunk of cash was handed over in January of this year, a percentage allotted to improving security, but no action was taken to protect the priceless pieces of art. Why wasn’t security updated, especially after 1994 when another version of the painting was stolen from the same museum? Why? I don’t know and nobody’s tellin’. Speculation is being directed at the actions that were not taken to protect these two Norwegian national treasures, but so far no information has been released. No ransom notes have been found, and nobody claims responsibility. Police tell us that this robbery could have been nothing more than mere showery, a way to raise the status of the two thieves by stealing some fine art. This sickens me as it should you. Now all there is to do is wait and see. Wait (for the thieves to make an undoubtedly stupid move like trying to sell the priceless paintings) and see (if perhaps the thieves demand a ransom from the museum, city of Oslo, or the country of Norway). Until they’re recovered, I’ll say a silent prayer to the muses to keep the paintings safe, because their permanent loss would not only be a tragedy, it would be a damaging blow to history, culture, and most of all, art.