It’s relatively easy to seek out a work of art for your living room that will match your curtains or your walls. With the right amount of money, Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ will hang perfectly in front of the yellow ochre reclining Ganesh on the high cupboard against the yellow wall. If you already have one of those marble fountains at the side of your living room that demarcates where the dining room starts, then, again with the right amount of stash, you could have Monet’s ‘Water Lillies’ taking up considerable space along your considerably sized wall.
But the art work that would be the pride of any Mumbai or Gurgaon home has to be Edvard Munch’s iconic painting ‘The Scream’. With its swirling colours that you just know will blend perfectly with the multi-coloured Rajasthani tapestry of your cushion covers — that, unknown to you, the critics believe to mirror the picture’s central subject’s hysterical state of mind — ‘The Scream’ would be a must-buy for anyone trying to outdo what the Srivastavs next door have done with the kitchen space (stack up a few Subodh Gupta installation tiffin boxes next to their ‘go-dehati’ stainless steel utensils).
And guess what? If you now so desire, you can get ‘The Scream’ hanging on your wall if you bid for the painting that’s up for sale at the Sotheby’s auction in New York on May 2. And at the estimated price of $80 million (about Rs 400 crore), the cost price is a scream.
Munch (pronounced as ‘Munk’, but the final possessors of ‘The Scream’ can call him Herjinder or whatever they want) painted four versions of the iconic painting depicting existential dread. The one on sale was painted in 1895 and is the only one that has been in private hands. Being sold by Peter Olsen, a Norwegian businessman and shipping heir, whose father was a friend and neighbour of Munch, the painting could result in a value-add for the prospective buyer. With Europe suffering from extreme economic angst that is making businessmen there cup their hands against their face and let out an interminable cry of horror, for you, an Indian with wads of cash and credit, buying ‘The Scream’ off him could open up doors to a market going through a clearance sale. Think about it. Like the usual deals that you close at the Gurgaon Golf Club, buying ‘The Scream’ could get you to open up many deals across continental Europe that Mr Olsen can help you close.
As Simon Shaw, the head of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art department said about ‘The Scream’, “Whether the buyer is an institution or a private collector, it’s a defining painting. It’s hard to think of another image that would anchor a collection in quite the same way.” Not to mention match those sofa cushions and highlight the lovely watercolour of a banjara girl carrying a pitcher of water that you’ll hang ‘The Scream’ next to in your Mumbai or Gurgaon living room.
Mondy Thapar is a Delhi-based writer
The views expressed by the author are personal