Munch's 'The Scream' brings $119.9M at NYC auction

Associated Press Modified: May 3, 2012 at 8:32 am •  Published: May 3, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) — It's a scream that's still reverberating around the world.

One of the most iconic images in art history — Edvard Munch's "The Scream" — has become the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

During an intense 12 minutes, the 1895 artwork — a modern symbol of human anxiety — was sold at Sotheby's in New York City on Wednesday for a record $119,922,500. Neither the buyer's name nor any details about the buyer was released.

The previous record for an artwork sold at auction was $106.5 million for Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust," sold by Christie's in 2010.

Munch's image of a man holding his head and screaming under a streaked, blood-red sky is one of four versions by the Norwegian expressionist painter. The auctioned piece at Sotheby's is the only one left in private hands.

The image has become part of pop culture, "used by everyone from Warhol to Hollywood to cartoons to teacups and T-shirts," said Michael Frahm of the London-based art advisory service firm Frahm Ltd. "Together with the Mona Lisa, it's the most famous and recognized image in art history."

"As popular culture, it provides an analogy for both individual and collective experiences of, variously, loss, pain, grief, modernity, nature gone awry, the body out of control, and Existential struggle," said Patricia Berman, chair of the art department at Wellesley College.

A buzz swept through the room when the artwork was presented for auction as two guards stood watch on either side. Bidding started at $40 million with seven buyers jumping into the competition early.

The battle eventually boiled down to two phone bidders as the historic hammer price was finally achieved after more than 12 minutes. The record price includes the auction house's fee.



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