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Munch Museum will stay closed until ’05

Oslo’s Munch Museum could remain closed until June 2005 while officials upgrade its security system following a brazen daylight robbery in August of two Edvard Munch masterpieces.

The city-owned museum on Thursday released a report it had commissioned after the Aug. 22 armed robbery, and said the security flaws it found could cost as much as $7.8 million to fix and take until June 2005 to complete.

“It was not pleasant reading,” said Anette Wiig Bryn, city councilor for culture, about the report.

Three masked robbers, including at least one with a pistol, took “The Scream” and “Madonna” and fled in a stolen car. It was a robbery that left the art world rethinking how it protects priceless paintings and other art.

The museum has been closed for a security study since shortly after the theft. There has been no sign of the paintings, or word from the thieves, who may have stolen them hoping to get a ransom.

The museum had alarms, surveillance cameras and unarmed guards at the time of the theft, but there was little they could do to stop armed robbers.

However, the study by Norwegian safety and ship’s classification group Den Norske Veritas pointed to a long list of measures that might have helped.

The list includes metal detectors, additional security cameras, new mounting systems and protection for paintings and a guard post outside. It also called for substantial fire safety upgrades, including a new electrical system and improved fire extinguishing systems and fire walls and doors the prevent a blaze from spreading from one room the another.

In 1994, another version of “The Scream” was stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo and was recovered a few months later in a sting operation.

Munch, a Norwegian, developed an emotionally charged painting style that was of great importance in the birth of the 20th century expressionist movement. “The Scream” and “Madonna” were part of his “Frieze of Life” series, in which sickness, death, anxiety and love are central themes. He died in 1944 at the age of 80.

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