Munch’s Masterpiece Will Go to Sotheby’s This Spring


One of the most famous paintings of all time will go on the auction block this spring.

An 1895 version of Edvard Munch’s masterpiece The Scream will lead Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale on May 2.

The only version still in a private collection, the canvas is one of four versions of the iconic image. The others all reside in Oslo: two are in the Munch Museum, which has a painted version from 1910 as well as a pastel; the National Gallery of Norway has an 1893 canvas.

Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father Thomas was a friend, neighbor and patron of Munch, is consigning the work, which will go on view in London for the first time ever, in an exhibition at Sotheby’s opening on April 13. It will then make its New York debut in an exhibition at Sotheby’s in advance of the sale [opens April 27].

“I have lived with this work all my life, and its power and energy have only increased with time,” said Olsen in a press release. He also indicated that proceeds from this sale will support the establishment of a new museum dedicated to the artist, along with an art center and hotel on Olsen’s farm, Ramme Gaard, at Hvitsten, Norway, which will open next year, in connection with Munch’s 150th anniversary. Guests will be able to stay in the artist’s home, which is on the grounds.

Mr. Olsen added, “I am concerned as an environmentalist about man’s relationship with nature, and I feel The Scream makes an important statement about this.” Munch hand-painted on the frame of the current work a passage from his diary including the words, “I felt the great Scream in Nature.”

Simon Shaw, a senior vice president at Sotheby’s New York, acknowledges that putting a price tag on such a work is daunting: “Given how rarely true icons come to the market, it is difficult to predict The Scream‘s value. The recent success of masterpieces at Sotheby’s suggests that the price could exceed $80 million.”