Sotheby's to sell Munch's "The Scream", eyes $80 million

Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:41pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Sotheby's will offer the only privately owned version of Edvard Munch's haunting work "The Scream" at an auction in New York on May 2 where it expects to fetch over $80 million, the highest pre-sale value the auctioneer has ever put on a work of art.

The 1895 work is owned by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father Thomas was a friend, neighbor and patron of Munch, the auctioneer said on Tuesday.

There are four versions of the famous depiction of a figure facing out with its hands to its ears apparently screaming. The three others belong to Norwegian museum collections.

Simon Shaw, senior vice president and head of Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art department in New York, called the pastel-on-board creation "one of the most important works of art in private hands.

"Given how rarely true icons come to the market it is difficult to predict The Scream's value," he added in a statement. "The recent success of masterpieces at Sotheby's suggests that the price could exceed $80 million."

The auctioneer called The Scream one of the most instantly recognizable images in art and popular culture, second only perhaps to Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa".

The painting seeks to communicate Munch's anxiety in the hills above Oslo and has been interpreted by many as the embodiment of modern-day anxiety and existential angst.

"It's an image that has burnt itself into our collective retina," Shaw told Reuters, speaking to the painting's iconic and world renowned status.   Continued...

Edvard Munch's "The Scream".