On February 12, 1994, on the same day and in the same city as the opening of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, four men broke into the National Gallery and stole its version of The Scream by Edvard Munch, leaving a note reading “Thanks for the poor security”. The presence of international media covering the games made the theft a sensation.
On May 7, 1994, Norway’s most famous painting was recovered in a hotel south of Oslo.
Munch’s emotionally charged style (not to mention the ease of its theft) may have set the incident up for sensationalism. According to History, a pro-life group claimed responsibility and said they would return the painting if Norwegian television would air an anti-abortion film. The government also received a $1 million ransom demand on March 3, but refused to pay it due to a lack of proof that the demand was genuine.
In January 1996, four men were convicted and sentenced in connection with the theft. They included Paal Enger, who had been convicted in 1988 of stealing Munch’s The Vampire in Oslo. Enger was sentenced to six-and-a-half-years in prison. He escaped while on a field trip in 1999, and was captured 12 days later in a blond wig and dark sunglasses trying to buy a train ticket to Copenhagen.|
Another version of The Scream was stolen in 2004 under much the same circumstances. On August 22, during daylight hours, masked gunmen entered Munch Museum in Oslo and stole two paintings: The Scream and Madonna. A bystander photographed the robbers as they escaped with the artwork to their car.
According to Story, the Mars family used the occasion to launch their dark chocolate M&Ms and offered a reward of 200,000 M&Ms for the recovery of the painting. A few days later a prisoner already serving 20 years for armed robbery, bartered the location of The Scream for improved prison conditions. It’s unclear if he got the M&Ms.
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