Edvard Munch's iconic artwork The Scream sold for $120m


The Sotheby's auctioneer in New York told one phone bidder "I love you"

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Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch's The Scream has become the most expensive artwork sold at auction, after it fetched $119.9m (£74m).

The 1895 pastel was bought by an anonymous buyer at Sotheby's in New York. Bidding lasted 12 minutes.

The work is one of four in a series by the Norwegian expressionist artist and was the only one still privately owned.

Proceeds of the sale are to go towards founding a new museum, hotel and art centre in Norway.

Seven bidders were competing for the work, which had a starting price of $40m. The crowd broke into applause, following the sale on Wednesday.

The reason for the record-breaking auction price achieved by The Scream is a simple case of market economics in an age of global capitalism: demand for Grade A art far outstrips supply.

In a world of jittery stock markets and double-dip recessions, top-end artworks have become a reliable and highly desirable investment for the world's super-rich.

There are five factors at play in dictating an artwork's value: rarity, reputation of the artist, confidence in the market, condition of the artwork, and competition for the piece.

It is this last factor that has powered the continued rise in prices. A few years ago Sotheby's would have had bidders from three or four countries, now it's 20 or 30: that's globalisation for you.

The sale price includes the buyer's premium.

The previous record for an artwork sold at auction was for Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust, which sold for $106.5m in 2010.

According to Forbes, The Scream is the eighth most expensive painting sold at a private or public auction, when prices are adjusted for inflation.

'Trembling with anxiety'

The other three versions of The Scream are all owned by Norwegian museums, but Sotheby's say the version they sold is the most colourful.

It is also the only one to include a poem by Munch on the frame, which talks of the inspiration behind the series of works.

It 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."

The piece was sold by businessman Petter Olsen, whose father was friendly with the Norwegian artist.

Earlier this year, Mr Olsen said he had decided to sell The Scream because he wanted to "offer the rest of the world a chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work".


  • Edvard Munch, The Scream - $119.9m (2012)
  • Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust - $106.5m (2010)
  • Alberto Giacometti, Walking Man I - $104.3m (2010)
  • Picasso, Boy With a Pipe - $104.1m (2004)

After the sale, he said: "I hope that the publicity given by this sale will increase public interest in Munch's work and awareness of the important message that I feel it conveys.

"The Scream, for me, shows the horrifying moment when man realises his impact on nature and the irreversible changes that he has initiated."

Sotheby's auctioneer Tobias Meyer said the painting was "worth every penny".

"It is one of the great icons of art in the world and whoever bought it should be congratulated," he said.

"This evening's sale was a dream for an auctioneer and to be able to sell The Scream for over $100 million was a moment that I cherish as an auctioneer."

The painting has become one of the famous works of art in popular culture.

Philip Hook from Sotheby's discusses Edvard Munch's masterpiece with the BBC's David Sillito

"Together with the Mona Lisa, it's the most famous and recognised image in art history," Michael Frahm, an art adviser with Frahm Ltd, told the Associated Press news agency.

He added that it has been "used by everyone from Warhol to Hollywood to cartoons to teacups and T-shirts".

Two of the other versions of The Scream were stolen, in 1994 and 2004 respectively. Both were later recovered.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Oh great sentivities have been hurt. Awwww! Do some of you croak at night to the same song with all the other frogs. No mind of your own only parroting what social convention tells you to think about something? Oh it's a masterpiece some art snob says! Well then we'll all just have to give in and agree willynilly right. The Scream is a piece of Junk period!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    As the Sunday Times Rich List showed last Sunday, the rich have never had it so good. While they can snap up items like this, the poor/ disabled/ disadvantaged are expected to pick up the tab for the bankers losses.

    Its about time we had a Robin Hood Tax - http://www.robinhoodtax.org/

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    How long before a 'famous artist' has the bright idea of collecting the black rubbish bags in his street and persuades The Tate to display a heap of them before flogging them for millions... Or has it already been done?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Edvard Munch's iconic artwork The Scream sold for $120m. Why do people have such amounts of money and spend it on such drawings, liken to that children with crayons on the spur of the moment draw? With that kind of money I could help, make myself comfortable and many people happy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Every time I see a big art auction story the lyrics from that Del Amitri song pop into my head

    "While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs
    For the price of a hospital wing
    Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
    The needle returns to the start of the song
    And we all sing along like before"

    I'm not saying art doesn't have value but.......c'mon now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I love art, and I love this painting. But, once again the BBC has exposed how useless it is, refusing to even mention that Sotheby's has attacked their own workers, removing their rights and even the most basic employment security, while they continue to rake in massive profits. BBC also neglects the considerable protest about this right outside the doors. Corrupt, corrupt, corrupt.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    How sad! Just to put this in perspective..... You can't eat a kiddy painting. To me it looks like the work of a 10 year old and NOTHING more. It's enough to make one scream at the sheer stupidity of it ALL!

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Surely Wayne Rooney should get a cut of this money as he sat for the portrait?

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Great painting, one needs to be educated on art to try to appreciate it, else it will all end up with dog and cat talk! :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Yes a real Scream in Dollars for what is at face value a very cruddy kindergarten-like painting but the truth does not matter only perception of worth by investors who often show how utterly stupid they can be. 'The Scream' would be put to better use lining a cat's litter box and for which the cat would have a greater appreciation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Not only is it amazing to see such a high price paid for this painting in times of worldwide economic crisis. It is also a truly wonderful thing to see that the recipient of that money is donating it all to a museum to help preserve history for future generations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.



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