So after all the hype, the auction of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ did not disappoint, selling for an incredible $119.9 million – the most expensive piece of art to ever sell at auction, smashing the previous record held by Picasso.
With weeks of preparation and media frenzy, the sale boiled down to some quite humble statistics: 12 minutes, five bidders. These five bidders are said to have been speaking in Chinese, English, and perhaps even Norwegian, but ultimately the winning bidder was the most mysterious of all, coming via telephone.
The bidding rapidly hiked (accompanied by gasps around the auction house) until reaching a momentary plateau at $99 million. It was at this point that ‘The Scream’ teetered around the mark set by the previous record auction sale – Picasso’s ‘Nude, Green Leaves and Bust’, which went under the hammer for $106.5 million. But soon enough the floodgates were opened, and audience applauded as bidding smashed its way through the $100,000 watershed.
As soon as the lot was closed at the incredible fortune of $119.9 million, rumours began circulating as to the identity of the mysterious phone bidder. At the top of the list of potential candidates were multiple members of the Qatari royal family – those already responsible for the most expensive art acquisition outside the auction house –, Microsoft pioneer Paul Allen, and super rich financier Leonard Blavatnik.
Edvard Munch created four versions of the now-iconic artwork. This one is the only one still in private hands, with the other three residing in a Norwegian public collections. The work was sold by Petter Olsen, a descendent of a friend and patron of Munch.
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