3 May 2012

Munch’s The Scream sells for $120m

The only privately-owned version of Edvard Munch’s classic masterpiece The Scream fetches a record-breaking $119.9m (£74m) at auction.

The famous image, which features a haunted figure in front of a red backdrop, surpassed estimates to become the most expensive work of art to be sold at auction following the sale in New York.

It is one of four versions created by the Norwegian expressionist painter.

The pastel work, which is one of the most recognisable images in the world, had been expected to fetch at least $80m at the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale at Sotheby’s.

But it was finally snapped up for the world record amount by a phone bidder following a 12 minute bidding war.

The price includes the buyer’s premium.

The previous record for an artwork sold at auction was $106m for Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust, which sold at Christie’s in New York in May 2010.

Describing the sale, a Sotheby’s spokesman said: “A group of seven bidders jumped into the competition early, but it was a prolonged battle between two highly determined phone bidders that carried the final selling price to its historic level.”

One of four versions

The famous picture was put up for sale by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen whose father was a friend and patron of the artist.

It was created in 1885 and is the only version with a frame hand-painted by Munch which includes a poem explaining his inspiration for the piece.

It is also the only version in which one of the two figures in the background turns to look outward onto the cityscape.

The Munch Museum in Oslo holds two versions of The Scream and the third is displayed at The National Gallery of Norway.

Before the sale, Mr Olsen said: “I have lived with this work all my life, and its power and energy have only increased with time.

“Now, however, I feel the moment has come to offer the rest of the world a chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work, which is the only version of The Scream not in the collection of a Norwegian museum.”

Mr Olsen said the proceeds from the sale will go towards the establishment of a new museum, art centre and hotel on his farm Ramme Gaard at Hvitsten, where his family’s relationship with the artist began.

The museum will open in 2013, the 150-year anniversary of the artist’s birth.