Sotheby’s New York set to break all auction records with masterpiece
The ‘art establishment’ is holding its breath in anticipation, as the last privately owned rendition of Edvard Munch’s The Scream comes up for auction. It will go under the hammer in New York, on 2 May 2012 and is expected to fetch $80m or more. This could be the moment when all existing records are broken, as the 1895 pastel on paper is offered for the first time, in a public sale. The pastel is currently owned by the Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen a director of the Olsen shipping dynasty. It is said to have been in the family for several generations and was one of many Munch masterpieces, collected by Petter Olsen’s father who acquired and generously loaned them to museums internationally.
It is the last remaining picture (four were created) in this iconic series, the other three examples are housed in Norwegian Museums. “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, stated Simon Shaw, head of impressionist and Modern art at Sotheby’s in New York. “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”, he added. Sotheby’s said it was difficult to predict the value of The Scream but recent sales suggested the price could very well exceed $80m at 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 Munch’s most famous work and one of the most recognizable images, in the history of art. It has been widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern man. Painted with broad bands of garish color and highly simplified forms, and employing a high viewpoint, the agonized figure is reduced to a garbed skull in the throes of an emotional crisis. With this painting, Munch met his stated goal of “the study of the soul, that is to say the study of my own self”. Munch wrote of how the painting came to be: “I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature.” He later described the personal anguish behind the painting, “for several years I was almost mad… You know my picture, ‘The Scream?’ I was stretched to the limit—nature was screaming in my blood… After that I gave up hope ever of being able to love again.” The pastel is set to go on public display in London and New York for the first time in a pre-sale exhibition.