Munch's 'The Scream' Might Muster $80 Million at Auction

Edvard Munch's iconic "The Scream" will lead Sotheby's May 2 Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in New York.
Edvard Munch's iconic "The Scream" will lead Sotheby's May 2 Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in New York.

One of four versions of Edvard Munch’s iconic “The Scream” will lead Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern sale on May 2 in New York. 

This widely-recognized masterpiece, painted in 1895, is the last version to be privately held, and has been in the possession of Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen for some years. 

He attained the painting from his father who was a patron, friend and neighbor of Munch’s when both were living in Hvitsten, Norway. Olsen plans to have the proceeds go toward the funding of a new art center in that town and restore Munch's studio and house, allowing guests to stay in the latter.

As the work is estimated to go for upwards of $80 million, the sale should be able to fund a substantial art center.

Munch (1863-1944), the Norwegian Expressionist painter, is best-known for "The Scream," considered to be the defining image of modern life.

The painting shows a strange mummy-like figure standing on a bridge with his hands clutching either side of his face. The sky above is made up mainly of violent orange-red swirls and the entire painting seems to undulate.

Various versions of “The Scream” have been the object of high profile art thefts.  In 1994, the National Gallery in Oslo had their version stolen; it was recovered some months later.  In 2004 another version of the painting was stolen from the Munch Museum, it was feared destroyed, but eventually turned up, somewhat worse for the wear, in 2006.

The version going up at Sotheby’s in May is a pastel on board, and said to be even more vibrant in color than the other three. 

It also is in a frame hand-painted by the artist himself, and inscribed with a poem.  In the poem, Munch describes himself as “shivering with anxiety” and feeling “the great scream in nature.” 

If the price tag of $80 million is attained, it would be among the highest-ever for an artwork.

(Report: Christine Bolli for ARTFIXdaily)

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