A gallery owner in Reading, England claimed this month to have a fifth version of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s masterpiece The Scream. Experts at Oslo’s Munch Museum said there were only four known authentic versions of the artwork, and were skeptical about the origins of the painting.
“My first thought was that this was too good to be true,” Magne Bruteig, the curator at the Munch Museum told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Monday. “If there really was a new version of The Scream, why has it been kept hidden for so long? It seems fairly unlikely.”
Gallery owner Mark Lawrence featured in a BBC documentary aired earlier this month, where the 27-year-old claimed to have a collection of priceless art that had been passed down through his family. As well as The Scream, Lawrence said he had works by Picasso, Rembrandt and Van Gogh in his collection. With the support of the Reading city council, Lawrence had been raising funds to build a gallery through public donations.
UK newspaper The Telegraph reported 10 days ago that none of Lawrence’s 200 paintings had been authenticated, and it was possible both the BBC and the Reading council had been duped in an elaborate art hoax.
“If he delivers it in, we can at least have a much stronger opinion on it,” Bruteig said. “We have procedures for how we deal with this, and then we will be able to do a thorough investigation. That would be an advantage. The owner himself must make contact with us if he wishes to deliver it in. It says on his gallery’s website that he plans to get the paintings authenticated, but it does not seem like he believes that so terribly strongly himself. It is possible it will never be authenticated.”
Of the four authentic versions of The Scream, one hangs in the National Gallery (Nasjonalmuseet), there are two at the Munch Museum, and the fourth is in private hands. Businessman Petter Olsen sold his version at auction in New York in 2012, where American billionaire Leon Black paid a record $119,922,500 for the work.