Munch’s ‘The Scream’ Could Set Auction Record

One of the world's most iconic paintings could become the most expensive painting sold at auction when it goes under the hammer Wednesday

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Edvard Munch's iconic painting, The Scream, is on auction at Sotheby's New York Tuesday. It is expected to fetch in excess of 50 million GBP.

UPDATE: The Scream has sold for a record $119,922,500. Read the full story here.

Edvard Munch’s The Scream is expected to become the most expensive painting ever sold when it hits the auction block at Sotheby’s today. Now that’s something to yell about.

The famed painting by the Scandinavian artist is expected to sell for $80 million, but some experts believe it could bring in far more than that — as much as $150 million — during Wednesday’s auction. If it hits that mark, it would smash the record set in 2010 when Pablo Picasso’s Nude, green leaves and bust sold at auction for $106.5 million.

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Why the disparity between sales estimate and prediction? It’s something that lies in the nature of art auctions. David Norman, worldwide co-chairman of Impressionist and modern art at Sotheby’s told Reuters, “$100 million feels like it might be a barrier, but pictures like this — where they end up going is a matter of momentum. It really is hard to predict. You’re working at determining the price for one of the most unique and rare images of the past 150 years.”

The painting has an enduring popularity among at least one group of connoisseurs: art thieves. Two versions of The Scream were stolen from museums in 1994 and 2004. While both were eventually recovered, it is something that the art world isn’t soon to forget. In preparation for the sale of the famed work, Sotheby’s has gone to extraordinary lengths to safeguard the work. Munch’s masterpiece sits in a specially constructed mini-gallery behind a tension wire at the auction house’s New York headquarters and is under 24-hour guard, according to Reuters.

(MORE: Watch: Artist Paints Masterpieces with His Tongue)

The painting heading to the auction block is an 1895 version of the masterwork, and is the only privately owned version of the piece. The owner, Petter Olsen, whose father was a friend and neighbor of Munch’s, is planning to fund a museum with the proceeds, according to Reuters.

Even if it is auctioned for its highest estimate, however, The Scream would still be far from the most expensive artwork ever sold. That title currently belongs to Paul Cézanne’s The Card Players, bought in 2011 by the royal family of Qatar in a private sale for an estimated $250 million.

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