Edvard Munch’s The Scream fetched $119.9 million at auction last week, making it the most expensive piece of art to ever go under the hammer. The iconic 1895 pastel by the Norwegian expressionist was sold at Sotheby’s in New York to an anonymous bidder.
Munch’s piece, which depicts a haunted character against a colourful sunset, was the only one of a series of four that was still privately owned. Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen inherited the work from his father, who was friends with Munch.
The three other versions are owned by Norwegian museums, and the proceeds of this latest sale will go towards the founding of a new museum and art centre.
The work is the most colourful of the four and also the only one to come with a poem penned by Munch about what inspired the series.
The poem 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.”
In all, seven hopefuls took part in the 12-miniute bidding war, with the starting price set at $40 million. Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust held the previous record for artwork sold at auction, fetching $106.5 million two years ago.