Join 3,523 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Munch's "Scream" sets auction record
May 3, 2012 5:37 AM   Subscribe

The art market entered a new phase on Wednesday evening when “The Scream”, a pastel drawn in 1895 by Edvard Munch, was sold for $119.92 million at Sotheby’s auction of Impressionist and modern art. The winning bid, which came by telephone, set a world record for any work of art offered at auction.

The buyer's name has not been disclosed but the individual is believed to be someone with a ton of money.
posted by Trurl (61 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
However, adjusted for inflation, the record still belongs to Ryoei Saito's purchase Van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet.

The record for a private sale is the ~$250 million paid by the Royal Family of Qatar for Cezanne's The Card Players.
posted by Trurl at 5:41 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


HOLY CRAP THAT'S A TON OF MONEY! ( i still do not really understand how art (mixed with history and personalities) gets priced. ).
posted by anya32 at 5:44 AM on May 3, 2012


The buyer's name has not been disclosed but the individual is believed to be someone with a ton of money.

Wrong! It was actually purchased by a hobo who goes by Junkyard Gem.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:44 AM on May 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


This is my shocked face.
posted by Flashman at 5:45 AM on May 3, 2012 [18 favorites]


Also, am I correct that this wasn't even a painting? This was a pastel rendering OF the original painting? So, the actual The Scream is worth way more than this, right?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:45 AM on May 3, 2012


I love the irony of the super rich advocating for cuts to the arts, and then investing in paintings by dead guys.
posted by Brodiggitty at 5:45 AM on May 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


Now you all know why I wasn't at the Chicago meetup last night. I just couldn't try reception at the Goat to stay in touch with my buyer.

But seriously, can someone explain to me why the art market 'entered a new phase' based on this sales figure, given that the previous record was $106.5 million. While I'm not sneezing at $13.42 million dollars, it does seem, relatively, not that different. Not that the sale isn't newsworthy or something I'd be interested in (it is and I am), but "people with money spending more money than I can imagine" seems like the same old phase to me.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 5:48 AM on May 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, am I correct that this wasn't even a painting? This was a pastel rendering OF the original painting? So, the actual The Scream is worth way more than this, right?

According to the Wiki link, there were four different "actual" versions of The Scream, done in different media - at least two paintings, and one pastel. This was the pastel "actual" one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:48 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


This was a pastel rendering OF the original painting? So, the actual The Scream is worth way more than this, right?

Yes.
posted by empath at 5:48 AM on May 3, 2012


i still do not really understand how art (mixed with history and personalities) gets priced

I recommend Robert Hughes's essay "Art and Money" - the beginning of which can be read here, and which is collected in his enjoyable Nothing If Not Critical.
posted by Trurl at 5:49 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is the fine art equivalent of buying a Hendrix guitar, really. It's not about the qualities of the thing itself. It's not even about investing in something that may be worth much more in the future. It's about looking flash when you're out and about with your billionaire mates. I have no problem with that as long as there's nobody pretending that anything else is the case.
posted by pipeski at 5:53 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


i still do not really understand how art gets priced.

The usual argument is that old art pieces are unique. With The Scream, not so much; Munch made 4. And then there are copies on the walls of every college dorm room in America. Still, it's an iconic work of art, and there are a lot of very rich people in the world.

Here's Sotheby's press release for the sale. They note it's the only privately held version, was owned by Petter Olsen. He's using the money to build a museum in Norway.

It's a pastel. Those are extraordinarily fragile. I don't think you can display it under normal light, can you?
posted by Nelson at 6:00 AM on May 3, 2012


Let's hope the winning bid wasn't from the K Foundation.
posted by furtive at 6:02 AM on May 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


I just had a conversation about this last night. One of us flat out refuses to sell prints for more than what he thinks is a fair price, which is about $400 for a 2' print. And this is a former Magnum associate war photographer with countless books and social work to his name. He wouldn't even be willing to sell it for $4K and donate $3600 to charity. Nope, it's worth $400.

It's a fascinating discussion that has nothing at all to do with the quality of art and everything to do with rich people showing off. In that realm, artists are no more human than bottle girls.

I feel kind of filthy right now, but on the other hand, the money's there to be taken.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:06 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The K Foundation was an art foundation set up by Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty (The KLF) in 1993, following their 'retirement' from the music industry. The Foundation served as an artistic outlet for the duo's post-retirement KLF income. Between 1993 and 1995, they spent this money in a number of ways, including on a series of Situationist-inspired press adverts and extravagant subversions in the art world, focusing in particular on the Turner Prize. Most notoriously, when their plans to use banknotes as part of a work of art fell through, they burnt a million pounds in cash.
posted by mecran01 at 6:06 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Jeg droppet mine nøkler!"
posted by chavenet at 6:08 AM on May 3, 2012


The buyer will of course turn out to be Victor Von Doom.
posted by Artw at 6:09 AM on May 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I hope the buyer has some decent security. The original one(s) sure seem to be popular with thieves.
posted by jquinby at 6:11 AM on May 3, 2012


It would be nice if Sotheby's used a small piece of their cut to end the lock out of their art handlers.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:11 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


the most appropriate reaction turns out to be depicted by the work itself.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 6:15 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love the irony of the super rich advocating for cuts to the arts, and then investing in paintings by dead guys.

Yeah, I hate that.
posted by headnsouth at 6:17 AM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


According to the Wiki link, there were four different "actual" versions of The Scream, done in different media - at least two paintings, and one pastel. This was the pastel "actual" one.

This one is also the only one where Munch wrote a poem about the painting on the frame. I'd assume that adds a fair bit of value.
posted by Copronymus at 6:19 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The art market entered a new phase on Wednesday evening

. . . while art itself continued as before.

Meanwhile, I wonder what my old The Scream bobo doll is worth now.
 
posted by Herodios at 6:20 AM on May 3, 2012


One of my favorite bits of trivia about "The Scream" is that Munch had actually seen red skies in Oslo... from the explosion of Krakatoa on the other side of the world. There's a pdf of the 2004 article in "Sky & Telescope" magazine here.
posted by argonauta at 6:20 AM on May 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


Those are extraordinarily fragile. I don't think you can display it under normal light, can you?

Pastel colors are actually fairly permanent, given that they are pure pigment in an inert binder. However, the pastel material is fragile in that it can separate from the paper very easily.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:20 AM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never "got" this painting. I found it pretty ugyly, and this rendering one of the worst of them.

But seriously Sotheby's, use your $10 million commission to pay your art handlers properly and end your terrible labour practices.
posted by Theta States at 6:23 AM on May 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


$120 MILLION ?!?

* makes Macaulay Culkin face *
posted by mazola at 6:23 AM on May 3, 2012


Er. Macaulay Culkin face

That joke almost worked.
posted by mazola at 6:24 AM on May 3, 2012


I like how they always allude to the winning bid having been "telephoned in." Even the references to telecom devices are pretentious in the art world.
posted by killdevil at 6:24 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is that kind of price outside the realm of museums still?
posted by smackfu at 6:24 AM on May 3, 2012


Personally, I'd much rather have that Gauguin for 8.48 mil. Much more going on. But not nearly as iconic, I admit. The Gauguin, however, is something I can look at over my couch for the next thirty years and still not quite figure out.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:37 AM on May 3, 2012


* makes Macaulay Culkin face *

Is this the line to forfeit American citizenship for never having put those two things together?
posted by griphus at 6:37 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


:0
posted by onlyconnect at 6:43 AM on May 3, 2012


Munch is ok, but that "Love You Forever" thing is creepy.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:48 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love the irony of the super rich advocating for cuts to the arts, and then investing in paintings by dead guys.

So, uh, you do know there's more than one super rich person in the world, right? And different super rich people can have totally different opinions about things? Such as art? Just, y'know, checking.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:20 AM on May 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also ironic: artwork that originally represented isolation and anxiety being purchased for millions to show off to other fabulously privileged people. "We're purchasing El tres de mayo de 1808 en Madrid for the living room, because we're remodeling in ochre."
posted by bendybendy at 7:36 AM on May 3, 2012


So, uh, you do know there's more than one super rich person in the world, right?

Yes, it's a large generalization. But it's generally true. I see a Tea Party. I see Mitt Romney telling students to find cheaper colleges and take trades. In Canada, the Conservatives are cutting arts funding and giving corporate tax breaks. I have yet to hear a conservative say, "AUSTERITY! (But let's go easy on the arts.)" Show me a rich conservative that says," Oh yes, by all means let's spend public money on interpretive dance."

Also - Morley Safer had an interesting piece a few weeks ago about speculative investment in contemporary art. So that would be a case of the super rich buying art by living people.
posted by Brodiggitty at 7:39 AM on May 3, 2012


show me a rich conservative that says," Oh yes, by all means let's spend public money on interpretive dance."

Why should I? Wouldn't I be looking for a rich liberal?

You said "super rich people." Not "Super rich conservatives." And, for that matter, we know nothing about who bought this piece of art, except presumably whoever it is has a whole fucking lot of money. He or she might be a Randian anti-tax fanatic or a Buffet/Soros-style "fuck you, tax me more" billionaire. Yes, statistically, it's more likely to be the former than the latter. But it's still absurd to start making declarations about the hypocrisy of a completely unknown person based on nothing but their wealth level.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:48 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


But it's still absurd to start making declarations about the hypocrisy of a completely unknown person based on nothing but their wealth level.

Yes that would be absurd. I wasn't talking about this anonymous buyer. I was making an (admitted) generalization. For snark purposes. It's a bit of a tradition around here.
posted by Brodiggitty at 8:14 AM on May 3, 2012


This is the fine art equivalent of buying a Hendrix guitar

No, it's really not at all like that. The value of a Hendrix guitar is utterly independent of the qualities of the item itself; an exactly equivalent guitar that happened to get purchased by the guy who got to the guitar shop before Hendrix has no comparable value. But that's not at all what is going on here. The equivalent if a Hendrix guitar in a case like this would be a Munch paintbrush--which, I'm sure, would have some added value over and above a similar paintbrush not owned by Munch. This painting is a unique and extraordinarily famous work of art (and yes, I am aware that Munch executed other versions of the image--that doesn't make this any less a unique work of art). It doesn't gain it's value from a merely contingent connection with a famous person, it is a very large part of the reason that the person is famous to begin with. As such, there's simply no useful measure by which one can say what the price "ought" to be. It is, necessarily, simply whatever someone is willing to pay.
posted by yoink at 8:16 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


After you've bought this, the chicks are free, right?

I mean, buying this gets me out of hanging around in those Las Vegas bottle bars with expensive madams, just so I can get laid?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:17 AM on May 3, 2012


My sister's comment on this: "You know, I am quite often a 'symbol of human anxiety' and no one gives me 119.9 million dollars." Says it all, really.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 8:30 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


One of my favourite paintings. I have a jigsaw puzzle that I now plan to frame.
posted by infini at 8:40 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brodiggitty: I love the irony of the super rich advocating for cuts to the arts, and then investing in paintings by dead guys.

I could be wrong, but I think this is a lazy, "broad brush" comment. Sure, there are some super rich people who spend ridiculous amounts of money on art pieces but scoff at public spending on art, but those are people who strictly commodity art, treating it as an investment, or an item to brag about. Then there are artistic events funded by the super wealthy.

I would be interested to see a study of the 1%, their spending on arts, specific details about such expenditures, and their thoughts on public support for the arts.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:07 AM on May 3, 2012


* makes Macaulay Culkin face *

Whoa, I just now remembered that I painted a copy of The Scream but with Macaulay Culkin in it, back in high school. Huh. Kind of sophomoric, but then, I believe I was a sophomore at the time, so that's all right, then.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:18 AM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've read the two articles linked in the FPP, and unless I've missed it, the nationality of the buyer is not revealed. The argument about the rich being for cutting arts spending seems extra-pointless in the face of the fact that the buyer could be from any number of countries and have nothing to do with the trials of arts funding in the U.S. Other countries have great government budgets for the arts, and populations who are fiercely protective of that.

(Cue Toby from The West Wing ranting about protecting the Muppets and Julia Child because that rant is awesome.)
posted by tzikeh at 9:19 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


(And by "extra-pointless" I mean "please continue and I totally agree with you." Just wanted to say that the buyer may not be American, while the discussion comes from assuming that he or she was.)
posted by tzikeh at 9:23 AM on May 3, 2012


Munch is ok, but that "Love You Forever" thing is creepy.

Yeah, I enjoyed him in Homicide: Life on the Street, but on Law & Order he's just corny and played out.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:48 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll start the bidding with $20 for Greg Nog's Culkin Scream.
posted by perhapses at 11:16 AM on May 3, 2012


Also ironic: artwork that originally represented isolation and anxiety being purchased for millions to show off to other fabulously privileged people.

I am Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look upon my works all ye mighty and despair.
posted by Twang at 11:41 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


My sister's comment on this: "You know, I am quite often a 'symbol of human anxiety' and no one gives me 119.9 million dollars." Says it all, really.

Wait, is she for sale?
posted by Theta States at 11:57 AM on May 3, 2012


I think any artwork held in private hands that is valued at more than $250,000 should be destroyed.
posted by Fnarf at 12:04 PM on May 3, 2012


I was really hoping for some ascii art of the scream in this thread. Metafilter, you have failed me.
posted by quadog at 12:09 PM on May 3, 2012


 --
\0\
/ /
posted by griphus at 12:10 PM on May 3, 2012


The previous record was for that Giacometti, right? I wonder if an object that was intended primarily to be beautiful and elevating will ever set a record at auction ever again. I'm just a bit weary about the premium that celebrity brings a piece (and I guess everything else, as well). It makes me tired to think about it.
posted by amcm at 12:21 PM on May 3, 2012


I was making an (admitted) generalization. For snark purposes. It's a bit of a tradition around here.

Yes, and it's the cancer that's killing /v/. Knee-jerk arguments from ignorance are something we could use less of.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:47 PM on May 3, 2012


I'm just a bit weary about the premium that celebrity brings a piece (and I guess everything else, as well). It makes me tired to think about it.

The iconography of a piece is extremely important. If it has embedded itself in the culture and everyone recognizes it, it will definitely fetch much more for obvious reasons: everyone knows about it.


I wonder if an object that was intended primarily to be beautiful and elevating will ever set a record at auction ever again

You mean like a Thomas Kinkade painting? Or a Chihuly sculpture?
And how do you know an artist's intent? Kinkade's output could have been a wry critique for the banality and deception of a spiritually meaningless existence that was consumed by the glossy veneer of organized religion. (HE WAS THAT GOOD.)

But if we're just talking aesthetics, much of the most expensive paintings sold list is super pretty by any standards.
posted by Theta States at 12:58 PM on May 3, 2012


It's been argued that Sotheby's share price is a great leading indicator for where the economy is going. When it goes to high, there is too much dumb money around and the economy is in for a beating. Doesn't look too good right now.
posted by Triplanetary at 3:04 PM on May 3, 2012


Meh. Call me when something goes for $120 million.
posted by anothermug at 7:21 PM on May 3, 2012


Adjusted for inflation, 7 paintings have sold for over $120 million
posted by Theta States at 5:50 AM on May 4, 2012


Meanwhile, I wonder what my old The Scream bobo doll is worth now.

I saw one in the Stockholm art museum that actually screamed when you pressed it. I was tempted to get one - but, but, it's ARTISTIC tourist tat! - until I realised, being Scandinavia, it was actually fairly expensive.
posted by mippy at 9:01 AM on May 4, 2012


« Older Years after his first (albeit veiled) public cry f...  |  The British Council Film Colle... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments