It took 12 nail-biting minutes and five eager bidders for Edvard Munch’s famed 1895 pastel of “The Scream” to sell for $119.9 million, becoming the world’s most expensive work of art ever to sell at auction.
Bidders could be heard speaking Chinese and English (and, some said, Norwegian), but the mystery winner bid over the phone, through Charles Moffett, Sotheby’s executive vice president and vice chairman of its worldwide Impressionist, modern and contemporary art department. Gasps could be heard as the bidding climbed higher and higher, until there was a pause at $99 million, prompting Tobias Meyer, the evening’s auctioneer, to smile and say, “I have all the time in the world.” When $100 million was bid, the audience began to applaud.
The price eclipsed the previous record, made two years ago at Christie’s in New York when Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” brought $106.5 million.
Munch made four versions of “The Scream.” Three are now in Norwegian museums; the one that sold on Wednesday, a pastel on board from 1895, was the only one still in private hands. It was sold by Petter Olsen, a Norwegian businessman and shipping heir whose father was a friend, neighbor and patron of the artist.
More importantly the question begs to be asked. At what point does art completely eclipse real-estate, formerly the world champion of high-end purchases. The piece of art in question was not even an oil painting on canvas - it was some chalk dust on paper... a simple pastel. " I love the absolute absurdity of it all. The fact that a piece of paper with charcoal dust can sell for more than a 80 acre property with a mansion on it is baffling. Top designer in New York City, Inson Wood of Inson Dubois Wood LLC when asked what he thinks "As someone who has grown up my entire life in a family who collects and creates art extensively, I find it fascinating that the pure rarity of a piece can claim such high compensation. What would Edvard Munch think. "
Up until the early sixties very few pieces of art could even break the million dollar range. Now its common place to see art from little known arenas such as China - selling for 2 to 6 million for an artist who was nearly unknown a few years prior.