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 393.

    I visited Edinburgh and saw the Munch exhibition in the National Gallery of Modern Art. It was quite an extensive display. Lithographic prints of The Scream were there. Also his lithographic prints of Madonna were there, in all their variations. They were very interesting, and also led me into understanding lithographic and wood-printing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    I can understand the opinion that £74m could be better spent on improving the lives of others. The problem is how? If I had £74m I couldn't just buy tonnes of grain and put it on a ship, and it would all have been eaten in a week anyway, not solving the problem.

    I wouldn't just give it all to a charity either as I wouldn't trust them not to just fritter it away meaninglessly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    ‘The Scream’ is quite a disturbing picture, full of angst. Alright if you like that kind of thing, but I don’t think it would sit well on most living room walls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    386.Appleblossom1938 - As we don't know who bought it, how do you know they don't?

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    8 Hours ago
    That's an obscene amount of money. I hope some of it will be given to charity - although I somehow doubt it

    Peraps you should read the article.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    If you are cash rich - buy art, gold, gems, land, property, woodlands, forests, water companies, farms, energy companies. Some receive huge tax relief - some are portable wealth. It's all about the portfolio and, increasingly, lack of protection of UK land and our natural resources bought and sold under our feet and over our heads?

    That includes the NHS btw.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    my opinion is that if judging purely on artistic merit, this drawing do not deserve to be sold at the highest price in record. But it's such an iconic image; many people in the world would recognize it. I'd trade almost any painting or drawing by the masters during Renaissance period with this wonderful drawing by Munch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    Of course people are entitled to spend their money as they see fit but do these people not receive the wadges of appeals from Charities working in Africa, S.America etc. that I do, or see the TV adverts about the children in desperate need? I don't have the money and can't help ... they have the money and could!

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    If you read the article properly you will see that the other 3 versions are all in museums already. Also, most galleries have approx 70% of their paintings in the basement as they don't have space to display them. The seller is doing exactly the right thing - we need more new galleries to display everything in the basement of the existing ones !

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    I wonder what Munch himself would think about his art being sold for such INSANE sums.

    If I was an artist I'd destroy all my artwork before death so some greedy philistines couldn't use it as an expensive trading card in the future.

    Just saying!

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    Check out one of the earlier posts they are even correcting spelling mistakes!!! ahhaaa haha

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    Agreed, but that's down to the seller, not the buyers.

    I also dissagree with those who point out that the public waste money at the cinema, golf, etc. Whatever your belief about the freedom to spend your own money, there's a world of difference between budgetting to spend a proportion of your wage on nights out and £74 Million on a painting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    I've never understood why art pieces fetch so much money. What do they do - pay off debt, clean up the house, cut the grass.
    Okay, I am uncouth.
    In this case, I think "The Scream" has fetched so much $$$ because this is what most of us lowly, debt-ridden taxpayers want to do: SCREAM!

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    Amazing that some on here are trying to justify the unjustifiable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    All this proves is that the rich are getting richer, and shows that these indulgent individuals appear to have lost any sense of value, making it increasingly more difficult for public galleries and museums to acquire such art for general display. Just so as to shed some perspective onto this issue - the price paid is the estimated equivalent cost of building a new 200 bed hospital here in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    Changed my mind: suzkid and peter nunn.. Keep it up you're both most entertaining. I love that you are playing intellectual one-upmanship!!! It is absolutely hilarious..

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    Did you know that Edvard Munch created the Munch Bunch?

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    171.Daniel Milloy

    "The problem with your argument is: Nobody else drew those things."
    I suspect that many similar-grade drawing have been made and are still being made. And then binned. This one seems to have caught on, I can see the novelty of the subject, but it is hardly indicative of any great skill so I fail to see the reason for the monetary value.
    Emperor's new clothes of course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    I just think the person / organization who bought this wonderful drawing would not be able to make a profit later with this price tag now... But who cares when you have too much money to burn!

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    5 Minutes ago
    Imagine what they could do to help the world if they could combine this 'loose change' into something constructive."

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

    ...Indeed, just imagine!


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