'The Scream' fetches a record $119.9 million

Edvard Munch's "The Scream" is auctioned at Sotheby's. The image is one of four versions created by the Norwegian expressionist painter. Three are in Norwegian museums. The one at the Sotheby's auction is the only one left in private hands. FRANK FRANKLIN II / Associated Press
Edvard Munch's "The Scream" is auctioned at Sotheby's. The image is one of four versions created by the Norwegian expressionist painter. Three are in Norwegian museums. The one at the Sotheby's auction is the only one left in private hands. FRANK FRANKLIN II / Associated Press
Posted: May 03, 2012

NEW YORK - One of the art world's most recognizable images - Edvard Munch's The Scream - sold Wednesday for a record $119,922,500 at auction in New York City.

The 1895 artwork - a modern symbol of human anxiety - was sold at Sotheby's. The buyer's name was not released.

The 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 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.

 Sotheby's said its pastel-on-board version of The Scream is the most colorful and vibrant of the four and the only version whose frame was handpainted by the artist to include his poem, detailing the work's inspiration.

In the poem, Munch described himself "shivering with anxiety" and said he felt "the great scream in nature."

Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father was a friend and patron of the artist, said he sold the piece because he felt "the moment has come to offer the rest of the world the chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work."

Proceeds from the sale will go toward the establishment of a new museum, art center, and hotel in Hvitsten, Norway, where Olsen's father and Munch were neighbors.

The director of the National Museum in Oslo, Audun Eckhoff, says Norwegian authorities approved the Munch sale since the other versions of the composition are in Norwegian museums.

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