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 193.

    It is a shoddy bit of work. Illusory emperors' clothes issues merely con the idiot rich to spend vast sums on such things. Still this sort of thing operates as a negative version of Quantitative Easing, taking money out of the economy and locking it up. Fashion will change and the one left holding the junk loses a fortune. Toxic investment pass the parcel game.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Amazing artist. I'm going to get my chalks and paper and do some art myself I've done some nice art myself. I think we all have a good imagination for drawing and we should all do it as a passtime. My kids grown up so I have time on my hand. My dad used to draw he was great!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    The poor buyer will be gutted when he finds out it was knocked up 5 years ago by Geert Janssen.....!

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    It's not a great piece of art - not well painted or particularly nice to look at.

    On the positive side the money is going to a good cause and it should encourage everyone to have a go at painting/art.

    You don't have to be technically brilliant to produce something that is deemed to be worthy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    182. Perpetual Sigh
    "The money's been donated to a museum. I think that's a pretty sound investment, especially in a recession."

    No doubt those who starve, freeze, those kids who go with out, can all go to that museum?

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Two of the most hypocritical comments I've ever seen:

    Comment number 181. delilah
    "It's a pity AMY20 cannot spell. She seems to have poor knowledge of
    punctuation,grammar and syntax... perhaps her knowledge of art is better"


    111. Rebecca Riot
    "Try discussing the painting not the money. Or is that too difficult for some of you?"

    Both are about as relevant as Tracey Emin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    As a fine art student, I have looked intently at this work for years. As time passes I find it less interesting. It's a simple pastel drawing. I don't understand the kind of money that is paid for such works, or those by Rothko or Pollock. Not judging, just saying that after all these years of study I just don't get it. I must be a classicist or something. It's just not Michelangelo or Leonardo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Money is paper.Art now seems to be Money.Yet another instance of greed,Art should be about Art,thoughtful and inspirational.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    Why does nobody kick up such a stink when companies get bought and sold for billions? It's money. The same money that buys aircraft carriers. Same money that buys Intragram. Same money that bought Torres.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    i pressed the play button on the auction thinking it was going to be something like the only fools and horses auction for the watch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    You couldn't buy a Lionel Messi for that. Mind you could save a few million starving kids from an early grave. Worlds gone mad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    177. Lord Zakspade of Elbonia
    "Very nice.

    It is exactly this sort of behaviour that will bring people out on the streets."

    The money's been donated to a museum. I think that's a pretty sound investment, especially in a recession.

  • Comment number 181.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    And the rich tell us that they deserve their wealth & it "trickles down" to the rest of the economy......

    .....how on earth does such sums lavished on what amounts to an egocentric hobby trickle anything anywhere? If you can afford that much on a (admittedly beauitful) painting then tax needs to go up for these people......

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    You can get a decent poster of it for a few quid. Some people are mugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    Its great that so many comments are about the quality of the picture as much as the money paid for it. Love it or loathe it , its amazing that a 117 year old piece of art can stimulate such debate. Isn't that its true value?

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Very nice.

    It is exactly this sort of behaviour that will bring people out on the streets.

    We are told the world economy is in recession. We know it without being told (lost YOUR job yet?). And there are those willing to pay £74m for a painting while people starve, freeze, kids go without?

    Any excuse for a riot, some may say...

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Putting a price on something priceless merely devalues it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    It is valued at $120m not because it is a 'better' work of art than any other, but because it is more famous than most, and cannot be replaced. Copies abound, but if you want one of Munch's 4 versions this was the only one you could buy. It is a guaranteed money maker if you can afford it. It's not about a love of art, but a love of money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Trying to convince the "arty types" on this forum that $120m is a joke is completely in vain. I have had the mis-fortune to work with these "arty types" before and they are on another planet. For example, they think that Andy Warhol walking around with naked men exhibiting a rather odd manner with horses is completely normal while he paints away. The whole community is "special" to say the least.


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