Edvard Munch’s The Scream sold at a record £74m in New York.
When such a pivotal and instantly recognisable work is being sold, the temperature and prices simply must soar sky-high. The Scream, the iconic painting of expressionist painter Edvard Munch, was sold in New York for the top prize of £74 million ($119.9 million).
This is the amount which an anonymous telephone buyer decided to pay for the pastel on board work dated from 1895, outbidding seven other potential buyers at the Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 2nd May 2012.
After 12 minutes of bidding, the $40 million starting prize had tripled and thereby it became the most expensive work sold on auction, breaking the record of Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust, sold for $106.5 million in 2010.
This is a third out of four versions of the glorified painting made by the famous painter. While others are owned by museums in Norway, the one sold in the USA was in the possession of Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father Thomas was a friend, neighbour and patron of Munch.
It is also the only one which has an inscription on the frame, which reads: “I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city. My friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”
This picture is so iconic because of its emotional charge. Munch, similarly to his contemporary Vincent van Gogh, was striving to depict the emotional aspect of the reality embedded in the psychological experience, which was often characterised by an existential anguish and anxiety. The artist conveyed the dread of his inner landscape by the extraordinary formal features: dramatic composition and the intense colour of the bloody sky.
A simplified, petrified figure in the foreground, which became an icon on its own, was used by artists such as Andy Warhol, together with the Hollywood producers. The iconic status of The Scream and the great number of its copies and pastiches, make it probably the second, after Mona Lisa, pop star of art history. No wonder then, that it reached such a price on the auction.