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How to protect art? Museum security

The brazen daylight theft of Edvard Munch's renowned masterpiece "The Scream" left Norway's police scrambling for clues and stirred a debate across Europe over how to protect art if thieves are willing to use deadly force to take it. Some expressed fears that works of art are in increasing danger from violent raids unless, as Norway's deputy culture minister put it, "we lock them in a mountain bunker." Armed, masked robbers stormed into Oslo's Munch Museum in broad daylight on Sunday, threatening an employee with a gun and terrifying patrons before they made off with a version of Munch's famous painting "The Scream" and another of his masterpieces, "Madonna." "The Scream," an icon of modern alienation, depicts an anguished figure who appears to be screaming or shielding his ears against a scream. "Madonna" depicts the virgin as eroticized and mysterious, with a blood-red halo, reports ABCNews. According to Telegraph, lax security and a series of mishaps are being blamed for the theft of two paintings by Edvard Munch from a Norwegian art gallery on Sunday. A police spokesman said yesterday that the raid on the Munch Museum in Oslo was "as easy as robbing a tobacconist The Scream, one of four versions of one of the world's most famous paintings, and Madonna, another of the Norwegian artist's iconic images, were snatched by two masked men dressed in black who brandished guns and forced staff to take the paintings from the wall and hand them over. Norwegian politicians, newspapers and art experts were scathing about the relaxed security surrounding internationally important works of art by the country's most famous painter. Valgerd Svarstad Haugland, the Norwegian culture minister, admitted that there had been inadequate security. A silent alarm attached to flimsy wires upon which the paintings hung was the only direct security measure. It remains unclear whether the alarm actually sounded at a local police station, but officers arrived at the scene 20 minutes after the theft. Neither of the robbers was challenged by the few guards at the museum, despite their unusual dress and behaviour. One of the thieves, dressed in a ninja outfit, is believed to have walked into a glass entrance door, unaware of which way it opened. Although jolted by the daring daylight theft of Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream" from an Oslo museum, New York museum and gallery officials said they had no plans to increase security or change their procedures in response to the theft. Officials emphasized that the city's largest museums had significantly strengthened security in the last decade or so, making them far less vulnerable to casual thefts - like one as recent as 1995, when a man walked out of the Museum of Modern Art with Marcel Duchamp's famous "Bicycle Wheel," outran guards and later dumped the artwork in pieces in the museum's sculpture garden. Nonetheless, they said, even the most well-guarded art institution might be unable to prevent the kind of robbery that happened in Oslo on Sunday - when two masked men stormed into the Munch Museum and threatened guards with what appeared to be a handgun- if the thieves are determined enough to use violence, informs NYTimes.

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