Sotheby's auction house (illustrative)
Sotheby's auction house (illustrative)Reuters

The heirs of a German-Jewish banker who claim the famous painting "The Scream" was looted by the Nazis have insisted that the Museum of Modern Art explain its history in its new exhibit.

The 1895 work by Edvard Munch is set to go on display Oct. 24 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

New York billionaire Leon Black purchased the painting last spring at a Sotheby's auction for $119.9 million.

Relatives of German-Jewish banker Hugo Simon, who owned the work in the 1920s and ’30s, came forward at the auction to contest its sale, saying that it would not be right for the museum to display the painting without explaining its tragic history, The New York Post reported.

Simon, who was a top art collector, was to forced sell it and flee Germany after the Nazis came to power in 1933.

“He was living under direct threat to his life,” Rafael Cardoso, a Brazilian curator and Simon’s great-grandson, told The Post

The work eventually wound up in the hands of a Norwegian shipbuilding family that hid it for five years in a barn after the Germans invaded Norway in 1940. The Nazis deemed it “degenerate” art and would have sold or destroyed it, The Post reported.

It remains unknown as to whether Simon was compensated for the sale of the work.

“The subject was never talked about by my grandparents, but we always knew they had been very rich and lost everything,” Cardoso told The Post.

Cardoso said that explaining the painting’s history in the exhibit is “a moral issue", adding that the "legacy of those who were wronged should be remembered and respected.”