Munch's 'The Scream' bought for $122m

Stat of the day: $122m. That's how much Edvard Munch's famous piece sold for at Sotheby's action house.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

It is the most that an artwork has ever fetched at auction, in a £74m clean win by an anonymous buyer in New York. The pastel piece is one of a collection by the Norwegian artist and was completed in 1895. 

It’s great for cultural life in Norway: the proceeds are being spent on a new museum, art centre and a hotel for the country. It was always going to a pretty big day for the piece, given that its starting price was $40m, and we reckon the money will go a long way…

There are three other pastels in a series with The Scream, but they are already owned by other museums: this was the last one still in private ownership. Sotheby’s said their version was the most colourful of the four works. 

A poem by Munch on the frame of the piece 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.’

Pretty intense stuff. 

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