Edvard Munch’s iconic image “The Scream” has been burned into the human psyche as a symbol of man’s primal fear. For a mere $80 million or more, the last privately held copy, one of four created by the artist, can be yours.
Sotheby’s auction house in New York announced that the work will be sold to the highest bidder in May. It’s the ultimate prize for collectors of pre-expressionist 19th Century art, or any art for that matter.
Munch, who worked in Norway as a Symbolist painter and printmaker, created the composition in 1895 during the height of the Belle Époque, one of Europe’s most artistic periods. “The Scream” was the best known of a series of works that explored the themes of love, fear, death, melancholia and anxiety, according to the auction house.
The work, in pastels, shows a nighmarish vision of a man holding his head, his face and mouth distorted by a scream. He’s standing on a pier overlooking a body of water. Two men in the background hang on the railing; one stares at a boat on the horizon. The angry sky is filled with gold, yellow, orange and red streaks.
The painting is owned by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father was Munch’s friend and patron. “I have lived with this work all my life, and its power and energy have only increased with time,” he told The New York Times.
“Now, however, I feel the moment has come to offer the rest of the world a chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work.”
A painted and pastel version of “The Scream” are in the Munch Museum in Olso. Another painting is in The National Gallery of Norway. The work Olsen owns is thought to be the most vibrant.
It’s still in its original hand-painted frame by the artist himself. The sale will include a poem written by Munch to explain his inspiration for the work.
Sotheby Senior Vice President Simon Shaw said in a statement the work is “one of very few images which transcends art history and reaches a global consciousness.”
The pastel will go on display in New York for the first time, starting April 27. The sale will be held May 2.
“The Scream is unique,” Olsen told The Times. “Everybody knows it, but paradoxically few people have ever really seen it in person.”