The Scream for $120 million at Sotherby’s


Last Wednesday The Scream went under the hammer for $119,922,500 million at Sotheby’s in New York after just 12 minutes of bidding, making it the most expensive painting in the world sold at auction.

Two paintings, namely Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (1932) by Picasso and The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch were sold for over $100 million at auction in New York. This demonstrates once again that New York is the most important financial centre in the world and that there is a lot more going on than just the selling and buying shares of companies. Even though Sotheby’s, the fourth oldest auction house in the world, was established in London in 1744, it is now New York which has established itself as the financial centre of art auctions.

The buyer of the painting from 1893, known only as Stephen, wants to stay anonymous, but the question is for how long he will remain that way. The bidders at the auction were willing to pay such high sums for the painting that the auctioneer actually asked:“Are you completely sure?”, when the price reached the $100 million mark.

The value of The Scream has prompted talk over how likely it is that its buyer is going to resell in the near future.
Damien Hirst said that the buyers of his art are not keeping his pieces because they want to enjoy having it in their house, which he also thinks is not what an artist wants either. However, the likelihood that the public will get to know if he resells the painting is low because if “Stephens” sold the painting further the press will not report it so to protect him.

Why has The Scream increased its popularity so rapidly?
The media has covered articles about the painting almost everyday since it was announced that the auction was taking place at Sotheby’s and is to sell The Scream by Edvard Munch at auction. Leading up to the auction, people started to talk about it, even if some of them know nothing about the history of the painting nor are they interested in fine art. The Financial Times was one of the few daily newspapers which provided an article with background information about the painting’s previous owner and gave more background about Edvard Munch.
So far, the discussion of the history behind the painting and the background of the artist’s life to understand what The Scream really stands for has been eclipsed by the wide interest shown in the price. Where has the love for art itself gone at this point?

Art has started to be a currency of investors, which, of course, only the richest can hold. The number of investors who also love art has diminished dramatically. They mainly buy it to resell, which has led to exorbitant prices for art works. Auctions are driving up prices in the art market.  Who would have thought that will happen only after a recession took place? It looks like even the multimillionaires have not lost enough money due to the recession are still playing the game of speculation, and that not only in the housing market but also highly in the art market. It is just a question of time when we will see the art bubble bursting like the housing bubble did.

Something for the see: The hype about the scream in pictures

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