The Scream sets art world record of $120 mn | world | Hindustan Times
Today in New Delhi, India
Jan 18, 2017-Wednesday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

The Scream sets art world record of $120 mn

world Updated: May 04, 2012 01:45 IST

Highlight Story

The only privately owned version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream — one of the most recognisable paintings in history — set a world record Wednesday when it sold for $119.9 million at Sotheby’s in New York.

Heated competition between seven bidders took the price to the highest for a work of art at auction in just 12 minutes, sparking applause.

“World record,” announced auctioneer Tobias Meyer after bringing down the hammer.

The previous record was held by Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust, which sold in 2010 for $106.5 million.

The Scream is one of four versions of a work whose nightmarish central figure and lurid, swirling colours symbolised the existential angst and despair of the modern age.

It was sold by Norwegian Petter Olsen, whose father was a friend and supporter of the artist. He plans to establish a new museum in Norway.

On two occasions, other versions of the painting have been stolen from museums, although both were recovered. Copies have adorned everything from student dorms to tea mugs and the work has the rare quality of being known equally to art experts and the general public alike.

Simon Shaw, head of the Impressionist and modern department at Sotheby’s, said: “This is one of the very few images which transcend art history and reach a global consciousness.”

“The image has become part of pop culture, used by everyone from Warhol to Hollywood to cartoons to teacups and T-shirts,” said Michael Frahm of the London-based art advisory service firm Frahm Ltd.

"Together with the Mona Lisa, it’s the most famous and recognised image in art history," he added.

Reflecting the excitement, Sotheby’s spokesman Darrell Rocha said there had been an “electric” atmosphere during the sale of a painting that had been estimated to fetch at least $80 million.

“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,” he said.

The Scream’s success means there are just three other works that have sold for more than $100 million.

One is the Picasso nude, another is Picasso’s Boy with a Pipe which sold for $104.1 million in 2004, and the fourth is Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Man sculpture which fetched $104.3 million in 2010.

The version of The Scream sold Wednesday was executed in 1895 and is the only one not held by Norwegian museums. It also features a poem inscribed by Munch in which he explains his inspiration for the work, which depicts “the great scream in nature”.

The sale was the high point of the auction of Impressionist and modern works at Sotheby’s. Rival Christie’s held a more muted auction Tuesday. Both houses turn to contemporary art next week.