Pål Enger, Who Famously Stole Munch’s ‘The Scream,’ Dies at 57 - The World News

Pål Enger, Who Famously Stole Munch’s ‘The Scream,’ Dies at 57

Pål Enger, a former Norwegian soccer player turned notorious art thief, has died at 57. Enger, who gained fame for his 1994 theft of Edvard Munch‘s The Scream, passed away on Saturday evening, the press officer for Vålerenga Fotball, where Enger played as a teenager, told the Associated Press. The circumstances of his death remain unclear, but Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported he died in Oslo.

The Mafia-obsessed Enger first served prison time at 19, one year after he made his professional soccer debut with Vålerenga. In 1988 he began a series of art and jewelry thefts, including a semi-failed attempt to steal a version of The Scream from the National Gallery in Oslo. A miscalculation about the painting’s location in the museum led to Enger stealing another of Munch’s pictures, Love and Pain (1895), which has been mistakenly called Vampire.

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In a 2023 documentary about Enger’s life, The Man Who Stole The Scream, he said that miscalculation led to “disappointment [that] lasted for days.” But the danger involved, and the mechanics of hiding the work from the police “started to become fun.”

Enger served a four year prison sentence for the theft—not quite long enough for him to shake the idea of becoming a world-renowned art thief.

His most famous heist occurred on the opening day of the 1994 Winter Olympics, held in Lillehammer that year, when he stole The Scream from the National Gallery in Oslo. The painting, then valued at $55 million, was recovered undamaged after Enger confessed to hiding it in a secret compartment in his family’s home.

Over the years, Enger was repeatedly convicted for art thefts and drug crimes, and he continued to attract media attention. In 1999, he famously escaped a minimum-security prison, and while on the lam gave interviews to the news and television outlets, much to the chagrin of the police. He was later re-arrested, after “attracting attention by wearing sunglasses late at night.” He began painting during a 2007 prison stay and debuted as an artist with a series of abstract paintings that were shown in a Norwegian gallery in 2011.

Despite his artistic pursuits, Enger continued his criminal activities. In 2015 he was arrested and charged with stealing 17 paintings from an Oslo gallery after he left his wallet and ID at the scene of the crime. His one-time lawyer, Nils Christian Nordhu, described him in Dagbladet as a “gentleman” thief who would be missed. (Enger, who was not married, claimed he had four children with four different women from four countries.)

Svein Graff of Vålerenga Fotball reflected on Enger’s potential as a soccer player, recalled what Enger had once said “that while he was not the best soccer player, he was the best criminal so that’s the path he chose to take,” according to the AP report. 

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