Thursday, May 3, 2012

Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' Goes for $119.9 Million at Auction

Geez, you'd think we were in the middle of an economic boom.

See the New York Times, "‘The Scream’ Is Auctioned for a Record $119.9 Million":

The Scream
It took 12 nail-biting minutes and five eager bidders for Edvard Munch’s famed 1895 pastel of “The Scream” to sell for $120 million, becoming the world’s most expensive work of art ever to sell at auction.

Bidders could be heard speaking Chinese and English (and, some said, Norwegian), but the mystery winner bid over the phone, through Charles Moffett, Sotheby’s executive vice president and vice chairman of its worldwide Impressionist, modern and contemporary art department. Gasps could be heard as the bidding climbed higher and higher, until there was a pause at $99 million, prompting Tobias Meyer, the evening’s auctioneer, to smile and say, “I have all the time in the world.” When $100 million was bid, the audience began to applaud.

The price eclipsed the previous record, made two years ago at Christie’s in New York when Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” brought $106.5 million.

Munch made four versions of “The Scream.” Three are now in Norwegian museums; the one that sold on Wednesday, a pastel on board from 1895, was the only one still in private hands. It was sold by Petter Olsen, a Norwegian businessman and shipping heir whose father was a friend, neighbor and patron of the artist.

The image has been reproduced endlessly in popular culture in recent decades, becoming a universal symbol of angst and existential dread and nearly as famous as the Mona Lisa.
See also The Financial Times, "So, what does ‘The Scream’ mean?":
“The Scream” is one of the most disturbing images to come out of the history of modern art. It depicts a moment of psychic calamity, of shattered nerves. Munch intended, when he first created the image in 1893, to record “the modern life of the soul”; and what a fraught, anxiety-ridden vision it was. For decades his distorted vision was regarded as an eccentric by-way of expressionism, laden with Nordic gloom and unnecessary cosmic pessimism.

Yet here we are, the world’s hyper-rich leading art collectors seemingly poised to make “The Scream” one of the most valuable artistic images ever created. A vision from the haunted dusk of the 19th century has found its moment more than 100 years later. Munch has hit the mainstream. We are finally strong enough to stomach his scream. Someone, somewhere in the world is busy planning to pop this icon of human disintegration above the fireplace, at enormous cost. We are, it seems, past the age of water lilies and sunflowers. The swirling chaos and vacant expression evident in Munch’s most famous work has become a touchstone for our troubled times.