Published: May 8, 2012
Auction history was made at Sotheby’s on May 2 when Edvard Munch’s iconic masterpiece “The Scream” sold for $119,922,500, marking a new world record for any work of art at auction. A group of at least eight bidders jumped into the competition, but it was a prolonged battle between two highly determined phone bidders that carried the final selling price to its historic level, after more than 12 minutes.
Simon Shaw, senior vice president and head of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern art department in New York, said, “If ever there was a work of art of true shock and awe it is Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream,’ which is not only one of the seminal images from art history, but also one of the visual keys to the modern consciousness.”
Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s worldwide head of contemporary art and the evening’s auctioneer, commented, “This sale was a dream for an auctioneer, and to be able to sell ‘The Scream’ for over $100 million hammer was a moment that I cherish as an auctioneer, and also a very proud moment for Sotheby’s.”
This version of “The Scream,” which dates from 1895, is one of four of the composition and the only version that was still in private hands. It was owned by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father Thomas was a friend, neighbor and patron of Munch.
The artist included his own hand painted inscription on the frame of the work: “I was walking along the road with two Friends / the Sun was setting †The Sky turned a bloody red / And I felt a whiff of Melancholy †I stood / Still, deathly tired †over the blue-black / Fjord and City hung Blood and Tongues of Fire / My Friends walked on †I remained behind / †shivering with Anxiety †I felt the great Scream in Nature †EM”
The Impressionist and Modern art evening sale totaled $330,568,550, Sotheby’s highest-ever total for a sale of Impressionist and Modern art worldwide, and the second-highest total for a Sotheby’s auction in any category.
A complete review of the sale will appear in an upcoming issue.
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