Heated competition between seven bidders took the price tag to the highest for a work of art at auction in just 12 minutes. The packed sales room erupted into applause and cheering when the hammer went down.
An unnamed telephone bidder gave the final offer of $119,922,500, including commission, far exceeding pre-sales estimates of about $US80 million.
“A group of seven bidders jumped into the competition early, but it was a prolonged battle between two highly determined phone bidders that carried the final selling price to its historic level,” said Sotheby’s spokesman Darrell Rocha::::
The previous record was held by Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves And Bust, which went for $US106.5 million at Christie’s two years ago.
In recent decades The Scream – a picture of a person with hands pressed to head against a backdrop of swirling vibrant colours – has become a ubiquitous image appropriated for everything from coffee mugs to editorial cartoons.
‘The Scream’ is second in worldly fame only to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Simon Shaw, head of the impressionist and modern department at Sotheby’s, said: “This is one of the very few images which transcends art history and reaches a global consciousness.”
The painting – one of four versions of the work – was sold by Norwegian Petter Olsen, whose father was a friend and supporter of Munch.On two occasions, other versions of the painting have been stolen from museums, although both were recovered.