"The Scream" sold for a record shattering $119.9 million Wednesday after 12 minutes on the auction block, Sotheby's said.
Edvard Munch, the artist behind the haunting work, shuffled off this mortal coil in 1944, but if the Norwegian symbolist had miraculously managed to cling to life for seven more decades, he would be backflipping into a pool of gold right about now.
The auction house did not disclose the buyer but said that the pitched battle for the artwork had drawn at least eight bidders. The sales price had been estimated at $80 million. Bidding kicked off at $40 million.
The pastel is now the highest-selling work ever sold, surpassing the $106.5 million netted by Pablo Picasso's “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” two years ago. That little doodle was sold by Sotheby's rival, Christie's.
There are four copies of "The Scream," but this pastel-on-board version was the last in private hands. The other versions are in museums in Norway.
The iconic work depicts an agonized figure in severe emotional distress against a swirling, color drenched sky. Munch wrote that he was inspired to create the composition after witnessing a blood red color in the sky while on a walk.
“'The Scream' is worth every penny that the collector paid for it," Tobias Meyer, Sotheby's worldwide head of contemporary art and the evening's auctioneer, said in a statement. "It is one of the great icons of art in the world, and whoever bought it should be congratulated.”
Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen sold the piece and reportedly plans to use the proceeds to build a museum, art center and hotel in Hvitsten, Norway.
- Edvard Munch