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Edvard Munch The Scream Sold to Qatar for $120 Million

Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream)
Signed E Munch and dated 1895 (lower left)
Pastel on Board bearing the artist's original frame
Executed in 1895
Measuring 79 cm x 59 cm

We were flabbergasted when Sotheby's told us they reeled in a big fish; Edvard Munch's iconic Der Schrei der Natur. One of the most famous masterpieces in the world is about to go on the auction block. Museum Curators everywhere are expected to bid on this fabulous work of modern art, along with newly minted Brazilian Jet Setters, Chinese Billionaires and Russian Oligarchs. Hopefully, this work will not go to a private collection but to a museum where it can be viewed by everyone. Experts estimate that the painting could sell for as much as $80 million. Edvard Munch created several versions of The Scream in various media. The one being offered through Sotheby's is from the collection owned by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen. "I have lived with this work all my life, and its power and energy have only increased with time," Mr. Petter Olsen said in a statement. "Now however, I feel the moment has come to offer the rest of the world a chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work."

In a page in his diary headed Nice 22.01.1892, Edvard Munch described his inspiration for the image thus: 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.

Sotheby's is honored to announce that Edvard Munch's masterpiece The Scream will lead its Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York on 2 May 2012. The iconic work is one of the most instantly recognizable images in both art history and popular culture, perhaps second only to the Mona Lisa.

The present version of The Scream dates from 1895, and is one of four versions of the composition, and the only version still in private hands. It will be on view in London for the first time ever, with the exhibition at Sotheby's opening on 13 April. In New York, and also for the first time ever, it will be on exhibition at Sotheby's in advance of the sale beginning 27 April. The work is owned by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father Thomas was a friend, neighbour and patron of Munch.

As the defining image of the Expressionist movement, The Scream stands as a pivotal work in the history of art. Munch created the image in the mid-1890s as the central element of his celebrated Frieze of Life series. The powerfully-rendered, blood-red sky presents the viewer with the reality of Munch's experience at the moment he is gripped by anxiety in the hills above Oslo. Like his Dutch contemporary Vincent van Gogh, Munch's desire was to paint a new form of reality rooted in psychological experience, rather than visual. It is this projection of Munch's mental state that was so artistically innovative – a landscape of the mind, whose impact is still felt in the art of today.

An icon of global visual culture, The Scream is instantly recognizable – from Beijing to Moscow to New York. Since its creation at the turn of the 20th century, the provocative work has only gained relevance and impact over time. The haunting composition stands as the visual embodiment of modern anxiety and existential dread, referenced by everyone from Andy Warhol to The Simpsons. Edvard Munch and The Scream have been the subject of countless books, scholarly articles, films and museum exhibitions.

Munch created four versions of The Scream. The prime example, worked in 1893 from tempera and crayon on board, is in the National Gallery of Norway; another pastel version from the same year is thought to be a preliminary sketch for the work, and is owned by the Munch Museum in Oslo; the present work from the Olsen Collection, created in 1895 from pastel on board, most closely follows the prime composition in the National Gallery; and a later version in tempera and oil on board, thought to be completed in 1910, is also in the collection of the Munch Museum. In addition, Munch created a lithograph of the image in 1895, which helped initiate the process of its mass proliferation.

Of the four versions of the work, the present Scream is distinguished in several remarkable ways: it is the most colorful and vibrant of the four; the only version whose original frame was hand-painted by the artist to include his poem detailing the work's inspiration; and the only version in which one of the two figures in the background turns to look outward onto the cityscape. This version has never before been on public view in either the UK or US, except briefly in the National Gallery in Washington D.C. decades ago.

The Scream has been in the collection of the Olsen family for over 70 years. Thomas Olsen, scion of the great ship-owning dynasty, was a collector and supporter of Munch from the late 1920s. Olsen and the artist were neighbors at Hvitsten in Norway, where the young businessman's role grew from friend to patron and eventually to protector of his works.

Update 05/02/2012

Edvard Munch's "The Scream" sold on Wednesday May 2nd 2012 for a record $119,922,500 at auction in New York City through Sotheby's: the most ever paid for an artwork at auction. The record price includes the auction house's fee. The previous record for an artwork sold at auction was $106.5 million for Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust," sold by Christie's in 2010. Neither the buyer's name nor any details about the buyer was released. A buzz swept through the room when the artwork was presented for auction as two guards stood watch on either side. Bidding started at $40 million with seven buyers jumping into the competition early. The battle eventually boiled down to two phone bidders as the historic hammer price was finally achieved after more than 12 minutes.

So who is the buyer of Edvard Munch's The Scream? There is a yet to be confirmed rumor that the deep pocketed buyer is the royal family of Qatar who will probably display it at 'The National Museum of Qatar'.  This new museum, designed by Jean Nouvel, is currently under construction and is expected to open by December 2014.

Additional close-ups of Edvard Munch's The Scream:

It appears Sotheby's took new photographs in the last months of this work. The above image shows the signature less contrasted than earlier images from Sotheby's 
(see middle page).

largest Edvard Munch The Scream image available: click to enlarge: