Much ado about Munch

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Photo: Sotheby

Edvard Munch’s masterpiece “The Scream” may fetch $80 million at art sale this spring

One of four versions of Edvard Munch’s masterpiece “The Scream” will be sold by Sotheby’s auction house in New York this spring.

“Munch’s ‘The Scream’ is the defining image of modernity, and it is an immense privilege for Sotheby’s to be entrusted with one of the most important works of art in private hands,” commented Simon Shaw, Senior Vice President and head of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art department in New York, in a statement. “Instantly recognizable, this is one of very few images which transcends art history and reaches a global consciousness.”

Munch made the painting in 1895, inspired by one of his walks in the Ekeberg hills in Oslo. The painting is meant to express Munch’s “scream through nature.”

“Given  how  rarely  true  icons  come  to  the  market  it  is  difficult  to  predict the value of ‘The Scream.’ The recent success of masterpieces at Sotheby’s suggests that the price could exceed $80 million,” continued Shaw in a statement through Sotheby’s.

“I have lived with this work all my life, and its power and energy have only increased with time,” said Petter Olsen, the consignor of “The Scream.”

“Now however, I feel the moment has come to offer the rest of the world a  chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work, which is the only version of ‘The Scream’ not in the collection of a Norwegian museum. My father Thomas Olsen was a friend of Munch, and acquired ‘The Scream’ as well as many other works by the artist. He hoped  that his collection would further Munch’s international renown by lending to exhibitions abroad. In that tradition, proceeds from this sale will go toward the establishment of a new museum, art center and hotel on my farm Ramme Gaard at Hvitsten, Norway. It will open next year in connection with the Munch 150th anniversary, and will be dedicated to the artist’s work and time there.”

The director of the National Museum in Oslo, Audun Eckhoff, told The Associated Press that Norwegian authorities approved the Munch sale a few months ago.

“Our consideration was that it is acceptable, since several versions of ‘The Scream’ remain in Norway,” he said.

The work will lead Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern sale on May 2. A price tag of USD $80 million would be among the highest-ever for an artwork.

“I hope it will not disappear from the public and that it will still be possible to see it at exhibitions,’’ said Petra Pettersen, Curator of the Munch Museum.

Munch created four versions of “The Scream.” The prime example, worked in 1893 from tempera and crayon on board, is in the National Gallery of Norway; another pastel version from the same year is thought to be a preliminary sketch for the work, and is owned by the Munch Museum in Oslo; the present work from the Olsen Collection, created in 1895 from pastel on board, most closely follows the prime composition in the National Gallery; and a later version in tempera and oil on board, thought to be completed in 1910, is also in the collection of the Munch Museum. In addition, Munch created a lithograph of the image in 1895, which helped initiate the process of its mass proliferation.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 24, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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