Iconic 'Scream' Painting Sells for Almost $120M

Edvard Munch's "The Scream" (Image credit: Sotheby's/AP Photo

One of four versions of Edvard Munch's 1895 masterpiece, "The Scream," sold at auction for a record $119,922,500 at Sotheby's in New York today.

The sale shattered the old record price for an artwork sold at auction. Christie's sold Pablo Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust" for $106.5 million in 2010.

"The Scream's" image of a figure shivering with anxiety as a blood-red sky streaks and swirls overhead has transcended a century as a defining image of human angst. It has been copied on shirts,  posters, even a magazine cover.

The iconic painting is being sold by Petter Olsen, a Norwegian businessman whose father was Munch's neighbor in Hvitsen, Norway, and a patron of the expressionist artist's work.

It is one of four versions of "The Scream" in existence. Three are in Norwegian museums.

The auctioned version, which is the only one in private hands, is differentiated by its hand-painted frame that includes a poem detailing the inspiration for the painting. It is also the most colorful of the four paintings, and the only one in which one of the two background figures looks toward the cityscape, Sotheby's said.

Olsen had planned to use the sale's proceeds to build a museum, art center and hotel in Hvitsen.

"I have lived with this work all my life, and its power and energy have only increased with time," Olsen said in February, the Associated Press reported. "Now, however, I feel the moment has come to offer the rest of the world a chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work."

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