When Edvard Munch created “The Scream” in 1895, he had no idea just how big of an impact that androgynous, tormented creature would have. In addition to being one of the most recognizable works in the history of art, it’s also a pop culture icon, with homage and parodies, including a recent movie franchise.
And on May 2, 2012, The Scream will make history once more. Sotheby’s, the famous art auction house in New York, is putting up one of the four versions Munch created. Sotheby’s experts are predicting the work will go for more than $80 million—the highest pre-sale figure Sotheby’s has ever set.
Of the four versions, this is the only one not currently in an Oslo museum, and it’s the only version ever to be auctioned. “Munch’s The Scream is the defining image of modernity,” explains Sotheby’s Simon Shaw, “and it is an immense privilege for Sotheby’s to be entrusted with one of the most important works of art in private hands.” Shaw is the head of the Impressionist and Modern Art Department at Sotheby’s New York.
What makes The Scream such an iconic work of art? Consider Munch’s own back story, as a tortured soul himself. He dealt with mental instability throughout much of his life, and this pastel on board piece is almost certainly teeming with Munch’s own pain and suffering.
Munch, a master of Symbolism and forefather of Expressionism, certainly wove a lot of himself into The Scream. He hand-painted a passage from his own diary onto the frame of the 1895 version of The Scream:
“I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”
This version goes up for auction on May 2, 2012. Time will tell if The Scream breaks the existing record for auction price, currently held by Picasso for “Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust” for $106.5 million.