Edvard Munch's "The Scream" is the Kim Kardashian of artistic masterpieces: it can never stay out of the headlines for long. The feisty piece of art history has been the target of numerous thefts, and recently broke records to become the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction, going for $119.9 million this past May. Now Munch's eerie pastel on cardboard work is back in the spotlight, as relatives of the previous owner insist the work not be exhibited at MoMA without explaining its allegedly dark past.
Hugo Simon, a German-Jewish banker, owned "The Scream" in the 1920s, according to his great-grandson. When Hitler's party rose to power Simon was declared an enemy of the state, and was allegedly forced to give the work to a Swiss gallery before fleeing to Paris with his family. Simon died in Brazil in 1950, never again reunited with his iconic, priceless possession.
It remains unknown whether or not Simon was paid for the sale of the work, although his descendants are not asking for monetary compensation. “We have no interest whatsoever in this except as a moral issue: in the general sense that the legacy of those who were wronged should be remembered and respected,” Simon's great-grandson Rafael Cardoso told the New York Post. Cardoso is currently at work on a book detailing his ancestor's lost artwork.
We contacted a MoMA representative who declined to provide an official comment on Cardoso's request. She did specify, however that "exhibition text in museum gallery installations as a general rule does not include details of provenance."
"The Scream" is not the only work of art to purportedly have a Nazi-looted past. Other masterpieces stolen by the regime include Gustav Klimt's "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I" and Raphael's "Portrait of a Young Man."
What do you think, readers? Is any viewing of "The Scream" complete without a look back on the twists and turns of its Nazi history? The MoMA has not yet commented on whether they will include Simon's story in the exhibition, but you can visit the museum on October 24 to find out for yourself.
Correction: We mistakenly referred to this version of "The Scream" as a painting in an earlier version of this article. We regret the error.