Art, Auction Sales

Munch’s “The Scream” Sells for $119.9M at Sotheby’s, Setting A World Record. Watch the entire 12 minutes of bidding!

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” sold at Sotheby’s in New York this evening for a hammer price of $107 million, or $119.9 million with commission, setting a record for the highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction.  It surpassed slightly the earlier record held by Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust,” which sold for $106.5 in May 2010.

Sotheby’s spectacular auction made a total of $330.6m, the highest total ever for an Impressionist & Modern Art sale.  The sale included a portion of the stunning collection of the late billionaire Teddy Forstmann described in our posting of last March 20.  The luscious “Nu adossé I” of Tamara de Lempicka, whose history we included in our entry of March 28, also sold in tonight’s auction.

Here are the entire 12 minutes of bidding on “The Scream” at Sotheby’s, the evening of May 2, 2012:



[Reuters]  Sotheby’s offered the privately-owned version of the haunting Munch at tonight’s Impressionist and Modern Art evening auction where it had been expected to fetch over $80 million, the highest pre-sale value the auctioneer had ever put on a work of art.


Edvard Munch, “The Scream”, 1895
© Sotheby’s


The 1895 work was owned by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father Thomas was a friend, neighbor and patron of Munch, the auctioneer said on Tuesday.

There are four versions of the famous depiction of a figure facing out with its hands to its ears apparently screaming. The other three belong to Norwegian museum collections.

Simon Shaw, senior vice president and head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art department in New York, called the pastel-on-board creation “one of the most important works of art in private hands.”

“Given how rarely true icons come to the market it is difficult to predict The Scream‘s value,” he added in a statement. “The recent success of masterpieces at Sotheby’s suggests that the price could exceed $80 million.”

The auctioneer called The Scream one of the most instantly recognisable images in art and popular culture, second only perhaps to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

The painting seeks to communicate Munch’s anxiety in the hills above Oslo and has been interpreted by many as the embodiment of modern-day anxiety and existential angst.

“It’s an image that has burnt itself into our collective retina,” Shaw told Reuters, speaking to the painting’s iconic and world-renowned status.

Global turbulence in recent decades “has only made it more ubiquitous and well-known,” Shaw said, noting that the painting had been on the cover of Time magazine back in 1961.

Sotheby’s drew comparisons with Munch’s Dutch contemporary Vincent Van Gogh, as both artists strived to put their psychological experiences on canvas.

It also said the version on offer at its Impressionist and Modern Art Evening auction was the “most colourful and vibrant” of the four images and the only one in which one of the figures in the background turns to look at the cityscape.

The work also features a hand-painted inscription on its frame in which Munch explains his motivation for the image. It includes the lines “My Friends walked on-I remained behind/shivering with Anxiety-I felt the great Scream in Nature.”

Olsen said proceeds from the sale would go toward building a new museum, art centre and hotel at his farm in Norway.

His father, Thomas, was the scion of a ship-owning family who supported Munch from the late 1920s, and the men were neighbours at Hvitsten in Norway.




3 thoughts on “Munch’s “The Scream” Sells for $119.9M at Sotheby’s, Setting A World Record. Watch the entire 12 minutes of bidding!

  1. Reblogged this on Anny Langer artwork.

    Posted by Anny Langer | May 3, 2012, 3:20 am
  2. I have to be honest here..While I know this is a hugely popular piece of art, $119 MILLION? I think of all that money and other uses it could be used for because I (just my opinion no reflection on your post) would not spend $1000 on this painting. I appreciate the intent of the work, but in reality you and I could probably paint this..
    I’m just blown away by that selling price 🙂

    Posted by free penny press | May 3, 2012, 5:28 am
    • Lynne, I understand you perfectly. I don’t know that I could paint this (lol), but we can only hope that the buyer here is also a great philanthropist who also spreads his wealth to humanitarian causes.

      Best wishes. Elliott

      Posted by elliottingotham | May 3, 2012, 10:32 am

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