The Scream expected to fetch $80m at auction

'Mona Lisa of the Modern era' goes on sale – and it's making a big noise in the art world

The Scream, one of the most alarming paintings of all time, is expected to fetch more than $80m (£50m) when it goes under the hammer this spring.

The only version of Edvard Munch's iconic painting left in private hands will lead a sale at Sotheby's in New York this May as the market for big-name artists shows no sign of receding.

Philip Hook, senior specialist in impressionist and modern art at Sotheby's, said: "This is one of the most important works of modern art we have ever sold."

Sotheby's believes that The Scream may be second only to the Mona Lisa as one of the most recognisable works of art, and points out that it has influenced Andy Warhol and The Simpsons.

Munch painted this version of The Scream in 1895 as the central part of his Frieze of Life series. One expert on the artist said: "He looms large in the imagination. The Scream may not look particularly striking or shocking these days, but at the time it was radical. It was all about expressing the psychological state."

Sotheby's said that accurately valuing the painting was difficult because it was rare that "true icons" come to the market. Recent sales of masterpieces at the auction house "suggest that the price could exceed $80m". Sotheby's currently holds the record for a Munch sale when the work Vampire was bought for $38.1m in New York in 2008.

The art market has this year shrugged off the gloom enveloping the wider economy. In a series of auctions in London, works by artists including Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter and Mark Rothko raised tens of million of pounds.

This comes soon after the emirate of Qatar paid a world-record sum of $250m to buy Cezanne's The Card Players in a private sale. One auction expert said Middle-Eastern buyers were likely to be involved in this bidding process for The Scream. "They have a lot of museums and are looking to fill them with high-quality pieces," the expert said.

Munch completed four versions of the work. Three are in Norwegian museums. The piece going up for auction is owned by Petter Olsen, whose father Thomas was a friend and patron of the artist. The 1893 version and the 1910 version have both been stolen from different Norwegian museums, but both were recovered and remain on display.

Mr Hook said: "It speaks to the anxiety and alienation of modern man. It is the image that launched a thousand therapists." This version is more vibrant than the others and has a poem painted onto the frame by the artist.

Petter Olsen said: "I have lived with this work all my life, and its power and energy have only increased with time. Now, however, I feel the moment has come to offer the rest of the world a chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work."

The Norwegian businessman said the proceeds would establish a new museum, art centre and hotel at his farm, opening next year to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Munch's birth.

A major exhibition of the artist's work is to open in the UK later this year, when Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye opens at the Tate Modern in June.

Sketchy past: Thefts and recovery

The Sotheby's sale presents the opportunity for The Scream to leave Norwegian ownership for the first time – the other three versions are all owned by domestic museums. Munch painted the prime example of the expressionist work in 1893, which hangs in Norway's National Gallery.

A pastel version painted in the same year is thought to be a preliminary sketch for the work and is owned by the Munch Museum in Oslo. That museum also owns a 1910 version. The image became more widely known after Munch created a lithograph of it in 1895.

In 1994, the year Norway hosted the Olympic Winter Games, thieves stole the 1893 version from the National Gallery. Following a sting operation it was returned the same year. A decade later, masked gunmen stole the 1910 version. It was recovered two years later.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future