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Edvard Munch’s The Scream to be sold at auction

21 Feb

by Mark Brown, arts correspondent

for, Tuesday 21 February 2012

One of four versions of famous artwork could achieve $80m, making it one of most expensive art works sold at auction

The only privately owned version of Edvard Munch's The Scream is to be sold at auction in New York. Click on the image to see the full version. Photograph: Reuters

The only privately owned version of Edvard Munch's The Scream is to be sold at auction in New York. Click on the image to see the full version. Photograph: Reuters

A version of one of the most recognisable images in the world – Edvard Munch‘s The Scream – is to be sold by Sotheby’s in New York.

The auction house said it  could fetch more than $80m (£50m), which would make it one of the most expensive artworks ever sold at auction.

The pastel work is one of four versions created by the Norwegian artist using different techniques, and the only one in private hands. Simon Shaw, head of the impressionist and modern art department at Sotheby’s in New York, said: “Munch’s The Scream is the defining image of modernity, and it is an immense privilege for Sotheby’s to be entrusted with one of the most important works of art in private hands.

“Instantly recognisable, this is one of very few images which transcends art history and reaches a global consciousness. The Scream arguably embodies even greater power today than when it was conceived.

“At a time of great critical interest in the artist, and with the 150th anniversary of his birth in 2013, this spring is a particularly compelling time for The Scream to appear on the market. For collectors and institutions, the opportunity to acquire such a singularly influential masterpiece is unprecedented in recent times.”

Shaw said it was difficult to predict the value of The Scream but recent sales suggested the price could exceed $80m at the 2 May auction. That would place it alongside auction record holders, such as Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, which holds the current record after it sold for $106m at Christie’s in New York in May 2010. That broke the previous record of $104.3m paid three months earlier for Giacometti’s Walking Man I at Sotheby’s in London.

The Scream is owned by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen – of the Olsen shipping family – whose father, Thomas, was a friend and patron of Munch and acquired it to boost the artist’s reputation overseas. Olsen said: “I have lived with this work all my life, and its power and energy have only increased with time.

“Now, however, I feel the moment has come to offer the rest of the world a chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work, which is the only version of The Scream not in the collection of a Norwegian museum.”

He added: “I am concerned as an environmentalist about man’s relationship with nature, and I feel The Scream makes an important statement about this.”

The work was one of many by Munch that Olsen’s father had acquired in an effort to further the artist’s reputation by lending the collection to exhibitions overseas, he said.

“In that tradition, proceeds from this sale will go toward the establishment of a new museum, art centre and hotel on my farm Ramme Gaard at Hvitsten, Norway. It will open next year in connection with the Munch 150th anniversary, and will be dedicated to the artist’s work and time there.”

Munch’s studio and house would be restored, allowing guests to stay in the latter, he said.

This version of The Scream is the most vibrant of the four, with the prime example being in the collection of the National Gallery of Norway. It was stolen in 1994, at the start of the winter Olympics in Lillehammer, but returned later that year.

Ten years later the other two versions were stolen, this time by a masked gunman. They were also recovered and went back on display in 2008.

The sale will allow this 1895 version to go on public display in London and New York for the first time.