Scream sale set for jaw-dropping price

Edvard Munch’s famous masterpiece The Scream is set to go under the hammer at New York auction house Sotheby’s, with an estimated selling price of EUR 59 million.

The 1893 work, which is one of four versions created by the Norwegian artist, is the only one which still remains in private hands.

Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father was a friend Munch, will put the painting up for sale in May after keeping it in his family since 1958.

“The moment has come to give the world an opportunity to own and appreciate this remarkable work, which is the only version not in a Norwegian museum,” Olsen said in a press statement, “I have lived with the work all my life, and its power and energy have just increased with time,” he added.

Two of the other Scream paintings are held in the Munch Museum, while a third is at the Norwegian National Gallery. The Ministry of Culture has however approved the fourth version for international sale and confirmed that it will not bid, as the country already has a large Munch collection.

“The Scream is a painting that we have multiple versions of, and two are in public ownership,” Gina Barstad MP of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Cultural and Family Affairs told VG. “I don’t think the [international] sale is a problem,” she added.

The piece, which depicts the familiar haunted figure against a red sunset, is said to be the most colourful of the four. It also comes with a poem penned by Munch and a hand-painted frame.

The Scream is one of the world’s most recognisable paintings and, according to Sotheby’s senior vice-president Simon Shaw, “one of very few images which transcends art history and reaches a global consciousness”.

Speaking to the BBC, he added, “For collectors and institutions, the opportunity to acquire such a singularly influential masterpiece is unprecedented in recent times.”