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Edvard Munch’s The Scream sells for record $119.9m

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One of the world’s most recognisable paintings, Edvard Munch’s The Scream has far exceeded auctioneer’s expectations, selling for a record breaking $119.9m.
Edvard Munch’s The Scream sells for record $119.9m
Second in fame only to Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Edvard Munch’s The Scream is an instantly recognisable piece of art depicting a man screaming under a blood-red painted sky. Interestingly, the painting which sold for $119.9m at Sotheby’s in New York earlier this week, was just one of four existing versions of the painting, and the only one which remained in a private collection. But this version of the painting might just be the most special of them all, because it includes a handwritten poem by Munch, scrawled along the painting’s frame. Director of Munch Experts, Mark Winter, described this version of the painting as “the crown jewel of the four”, whilst Sotheby’s auctioneer Tobias Meyer affirmed that the painting was “worth every penny that the collector paid.” The poem, which describes Munch's feelings regarding the artwork, reads: “I was walking along the road with two Friends / the Sun was setting – The Sky turned a bloody red / And I felt a whiff of Melancholy – I stood / Still, deathly tired – over the blue-black / Fjord and City hung Blood and Tongues of Fire / My Friends walked on – I remained behind / – shivering with Anxiety – I felt the great Scream in Nature – EM.” It doesn’t take an art connoisseur to understand the feelings of anxiety that Munch has depicted in the painting. And there’s just no denying that something about the painting has consistently drawn the attention of the world, drawing tributes from artists such as Andy Warhol. "The image has become part of pop culture, used by everyone from Warhol to Hollywood to cartoons to teacups and T-shirts," Michael Frahm of the London-based art advisory service firm Frahm Ltd said. By all accounts, the auction certainly was a tough one. Seven competitive bidders went head to head, allowing the painting to reach the highest price for an auctioned art work in just 12 minutes. The winning bidder placed their bid of $119,922,500 through a telephone bid, causing the room to erupt into cheers when the final hammer went down. "A group of seven bidders jumped into the competition early, but it was a prolonged battle between two highly determined phone bidders that carried the final selling price to its historic level," Sotheby's spokesman Darrell Rocha said. Aside from far surpassing auctioneers expectations that the painting would sell for approximately $US80 million, it also beat the previous record set by an artwork – Pablo Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust which sold for $US106.5 million in 2010. The lucky winning bidder has Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen to thank for acquiring the painting. Mr. Olsen’s father was a friend and patron of Munch’s, and after 70 years of having the famous painting in his possession, Mr. Olsen decided to sell it in order to donate the proceeds to a new museum, art center and hotel in the Norwegian town of Hvitsen, where his father and Munch resided as neighbours for a period of time. “For me, [it] shows the horrifying moment when man realizes his impact on nature and the irreversible changes that he has initiated, making the planet increasingly uninhabitable,” Mr. Olsen said about the painting. Edvard Munch painted the sold version of the painting in 1895. The landscape depicted in the background of the painting has long since been identified as the Oslofjord, as viewed from the hill in Ekeberg, Oslo. For many, the painting's environment represents strong feelings of anxiety and alienation, and has continued to inspire various interpretations and discussions since its creation. "This is one of the very few images which transcends art history and reaches a global consciousness,” head of the impressionist and modern department at Sotheby's, Simon Shaw, said.

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