A Scream for $119.9 million

It is a Scream that has created an uproar in the world of art auctions and has become the most expensive painting. Edward Munch’s series of Expressionist paintings and prints which were created between 1893 to 1910 was auctioned off at New York City’s Sotheby’s to an unspecified buyer for a lofty price tag of $119.9 million. The buyer’s premium is also included in the price of this most expensive painting. The bidding started at $ 40 million and was sold within 12 minuted to an unnamed buyer over the phone.

The piece that has been auctioned is the only version whose frame was hand painted by the artist himself. The most expensive painting with its pastel shades and vibrant colours makes this version of the painting very unique and different from the other four versions.

The proceeds of the sale will be used to set up a museum, an art centre, a museum and a hotel Hvitsten city in Norway where Munch lived. The painting can also be found in the National museum and the Munch museum in Oslo. Since there already some versions of the paintings in Oslo the Norwegian authorities permitted the auction, says Audun Eckhoff, the director of the National Museum.

Edward Munch’s most expressive work has set a new art auction record. Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust previously held the record of being the most expensive auction. It was sold at Christie’s for a whopping $106.5 million.

The Scream

Originally known as the Der Schrei der Nature (The Scream of Nature), the inspiration behind the painting was actually a walk with friends along a path overlooking Oslo city. Munch’s felt a scream passing through him as he saw the sky turn blood red as the sun was setting. The poem that he first wrote to describe the scene is as follows:

“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”.

It was Peter Olsen, Norwegian businessman who sold the scream to the world after he felt that “the moment has come to offer the rest of the world the chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work.” Peter’s father was also a friend of Munch and had previously patronized many of his works.

The hand painted version of this poem of course was the world renowned, Scream. The Scream which represents a man’s anxieties and fear become a symbol of popular culture. It was to be found on t-shirts, posters, mugs and “was used by everyone from Warhol to Hollywood”, said Michael Frahm of the London-based art advisory service firm Frahm Ltd. It also appeared on the cover of author Arthur Janov’s book, The Primal Scream.

Many versions of the world’s most expensive painting were also stolen, one from the National Museum during the Oslo Winter Olympics in 1994 and the other from the Munch museum in 2004 when gunmen entered the museum in broad day light and stole the painting along with Munch’s other work, Madonna.

The Scream is the most prominent work in art history along with Leonardo’s Mona Lisa.

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