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‘Scream’ painting expected to top $80m at auction

NEW YORK (AFP) ― A version of “The Scream,” one of the world’s most famous paintings and an iconic image of despair, is expected to fetch at least $80 million when it goes on sale this May, Sotheby’s auctioneers said Tuesday.

Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father was a friend and patron of “Scream” painter Edvard Munch, owns the work, which will go on the block in New York on May 2.

There are four versions of the painting, which features a man screaming and clutching his head against a wavy, brightly-colored landscape, but this is the only one in private hands.

The influence of the disturbing picture has few parallels, making “The Scream’s” fame “perhaps second only to the Mona Lisa,” Sotheby’s said.

On two occasions, other versions of the painting have been stolen from museums, although both were recovered. Copies have adorned everything from student dorms to tea mugs and the work is arguably one of the few known equally to art experts and the general public alike.

Dating from 1895, “The Scream” offered by Sotheby’s was done in pastel and is the only one in which one of the two figures in the background turns to look outward.

The work will be exhibited at Sotheby’s in London on April 13 and in New York starting April 27 ahead of the sale.

Simon Shaw, head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art department in New York, called “The Scream” the “defining image of modernity.”

“Instantly recognizable, this is one of very few images which transcends art history and reaches a global consciousness. ‘The Scream’ arguably embodies even greater power today than when it was conceived,” he said in a statement.

Olsen said in a statement that he wants proceeds from the sale to go toward establishment of a new museum and hotel on his farm in Hvitsten, Norway.

The others are owned by the Munch Museum in Oslo and the National Gallery of Norway.

Munch died in his native Norway in January 1944 at the age of 80.
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