Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Sunday, August 22, 2004
 
Stolen Scream

Wow. One of the four versions of Edward Munch's The Scream, a priceless painting further immortalized by countless blow-up dolls, was stolen in an armed heist from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, by two or three masqued thieves, according to this Associated Press article by Kristian Kahrs.
The two or three thieves, wearing black masks, threatened an employee
of the Munch Museum with a handgun before grabbing the paintings, easily
snapping the wires that attached them to the wall, witnesses and the police told
The Associated Press and local media.

...
``What's strange is that in this museum, there weren't any means of
protection for the paintings, no alarm bell,'' a French radio producer, Francois
Castang, who saw the theft told France Inter radio.
``The paintings were
simply attached by wire to the walls,'' he said. ``All you had to do is pull on
the painting hard for the cord to break loose - which is what I saw one of the
thieves doing.''
A photo taken by a witness outside the museum appears to
show three black-clad robbers, two of whom are walking to a small, black getaway
car with the paintings in hand. The third robber appears to be opening the
trunk. The witness who took the photo did not want to be identified.


For some reason I find the image of a modern day armed art robbery intriguing. It just seems so. . .so. . .20th century. In this day and age, who sits around plotting to rob a museum? Do they rub their hands with glee when they are done conspiring? The police seem to think that the robbers are planning a ransom, because selling the painting would be so difficult. What an inefficiently risky way of making money!

Of course, one of my favorite movies is How to Steal A Million, starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole, so the concept of a secretive purchaser willing to pay an astronomical price for a piece of art he or she must then never let be seen is not unknown to me. But the idea of a furtive buyer planning on hanging the painting in a cave seems just as charmingly old fashioned as conniving rapscallions scheming to exchange stolen goods for unmarked cash.

Such monetary skullduggery seems oddly appropriate for a painting whose image has been thrust into goofily decorated dens and offices everywhere, fetching Robert Fishbone and Sarah Linquist, creators of The Scream Inflatable Doll, their own pile of loot. In this looksmart-archived article for Success by Ingrid Abramovitch, Fishbone embodies the entrepreneurial spirit for dreamers and schemers everywhere:

"I remember the conversation when I had to convince my wife to invest our
entire life savings in this idea. I told her, 'We can only make money if we
spend money.' After all, we were paying our rent with our murals, but we had hit
an earnings plateau,and we wanted to have a family."


It's odd that such a dark and mysterious painting should inspire so much optimistic plotting. In one of their websites devoted to the famous painting, the museum excerpts a diary entry, dated January 22, 1892, by Edvard Munch, about the experience which inspired his masterwork:
"I was walking along the road with two friends. The sun was setting. I felt
a breath of melancholy - Suddenly the sky turned blood-red. I stopped, and
leaned against the railing, deathly tired - looking out across the flaming
clouds that hung like blood and a sword over the blue-black fjord and town. My
friends walked on - I stood there, trembling with fear. And I sensed a great,
infinite scream pass through nature."

Perhaps it is a reflection of the inadaquecies of this world that even the most heartfelt attempt to acknowledge its awesome terrors cannot remain unsullied by humanity's quest for lucre.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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