Monday, May 7, 2012

"The Scream" by Edvard Munch set new auction price, especially for a pastel-on-cardboard work.

NEW YORK (AP).-" One of the art world's most recognizable images — Edvard Munch's "The Scream" — sold Wednesday for a record $119,922,500 at auction in New York City.

The 1895 artwork — a modern symbol of human anxiety — was sold at Sotheby's. The buyer's name was not released. The price includes the buyer's premium, an additional amount the buyer pays the auction house.

The image of a man holding his head and screaming under a streaked, blood-red sky is one of four versions by the Norwegian expressionist painter. The auctioned piece at Sotheby's is the only one left in private hands.

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.

The image has become part of pop culture, "used by everyone from Warhol to Hollywood to cartoons to teacups and T-shirts," said Michael Frahm of the London-based art advisory service firm Frahm Ltd.

"Together with the Mona Lisa, it's the most famous and recognized image in art history," he added.

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.

Sotheby's said the pastel-on-board version of "The Scream" is the most colorful and vibrant of the four and the only version whose frame was hand-painted by the artist to include his poem, detailing the work's inspiration.

In the poem, Munch described himself "shivering with anxiety" and said he felt "the great scream in nature."

Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father was a friend and patron of the artist, said he sold the piece through Sotheby's because he felt "the moment has come to offer the rest of the world the chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work."

Proceeds from the sale will go toward the establishment of a new museum, art center and hotel in Hvitsten, Norway, where Olsen's father and Munch were neighbors.

The director of the National Museum in Oslo, Audun Eckhoff, says Norwegian authorities approved the Munch sale since the other versions of the composition are in Norwegian museums. One version is owned by the National Museum and two others by the Munch Museum, also in Oslo."

A side story about the pastel's remarkable past:

The Scream
Munch's The Scream. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied
THE Scream, one of the most recognisable paintings in the world, which sold this week at Sotheby's for a record $US119.9 million ($117.8 million), could have been lost to the Nazis had it not been hidden in a Norwegian barn when they invaded in 1940.
New York fine art dealer, Edward Taylor Nahem, a close friend of the work's now-ex-owner, Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, said Mr Olsen's father hid The Scream in a barn on his farm just before the German invasion in 1940.
Mr Olsen's father, a friend and patron of painter Edvard Munch, and his family escaped Norway. The Scream remained undiscovered by the invaders, hidden until his family returned in 1945.
Mr Nahem said, "The Nazis considered Munch to be a degenerate artist. During the war, the Nazis purged a lot of art from museums and private collections. Some of the art was destroyed. One could speculate that The Scream could have been destroyed.
"War broke out, and Petter's parents and his brother, Fred, [before Petter was born] fled to England and later came to New York, where they bought Timex, which the family still owns. They returned after the war and recovered the works."
He added, "One Christmas night in the early 1980s, while sitting fireside in the living room at that same farm, my friend's mother relayed the harrowing flight she and her husband made with the king [of Norway] to escape the advancing German army. She feared for her family, for the king, for Norway and for a few canvases that spoke volumes about the state of the world and the artist who dared express it."
Mr Nahem said selling the work was an "emotional moment" for Mr Olsen, but "in the end we are just guardians and the artworks outlive us and move on."

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