Olsen, the consignor of Edvard Munch's "The Scream," shaking hands with Simon Shaw of
Sotheby's with David Norman of Sotheby's between them after the
painting, Lot 20, is a pastel on board in its original frame and the
picture measures 32 by 23 3/4 inches and was executed in 1895.
Photograph by Michele Leight
By Carter B. Horsley
May 2, 2012 Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction at
New York is a blockbuster, highlighted by several paintings by Edvard
Munch (1863-1944), including a pastel version of "The Scream," his most
famous work and one of the seminal paintings of modern art.
pastel, Lot 20, is in its original frame and the pastel measures 32 by
23 3/4 inches. It was executed in 1895 and is one of four
versions of the composition and the only one in private hands as the other three are in Norwegian museums.
The lead article by Carol Vogel in the April 29, 2012 Arts & Leisure section of The New York Times
said, shockingly, that "Odds are 3-to1 that when Edvard Munch's
'Scream' comes up for sale at Sotheby's on Wednesday night, it will
fetch $150 million to $200 million," adding that "as for who will buy
'The Scream,' bets are 5-to-2 that it will be a Russian."
Sotheby's catalogue simply says "estimate on request."
on the lot, which opened at $40 million, lasted about 12 minutes.
It sold to an anonymous buyer bidding through Charles Moffet,
Sotheby's executive vice president and vice chairman of its worldwide
Impressionist and Modern Art department, for $119,922,500 including the
buyer's premium, a record for any work of art ever sold at auction.
auction was successful with 61 of the 76 offered lots selling for a
total of $330,568,500, far exceeding Sotheby's previous high of about
$286 million for an Impressionist & Modern Art evening auction that
was set in 1990 and only surpassed by a recent total of $362 million
for a Contemporary Art evening sale, according to Simon Shaw, the head
of the Impressionist & Modern Art Department. Tobias Meyer,
the auctioneer, said that the sale was "a phenomenal success."At
one point in the midding on "Scream" when there was a break in the
bidding rhythm at the $99 million level, Mr. Meyer declared he had "all
the time in the world" to take bids. A staffer on the phone with
the underbidder would occasionally look up at a large television screen
with an image of the painting as of he were beseeching it for
inspiration in convincing his bidder to offer one more stab at getting
the painting. His bidder took a couple of minutes to offer
another bid, while Mr. Moffet's was ready, willing and able almost
instantaneous. When after a very long pause, Mr. Moffet's rival
bid $106 million, Mr. Meyer gushed "Can I say I love you?" and soon
after Mr. Moffet bid again, winningly, at $107 million. Sotheyb's
commissions buyer commissions, brought it to $119,922,500.
Sotheby's did not reveal the identity of the buyer.
Mr. Olsen read a statement at the news conference:
hope that the publicity given by this sale will increase public
interest in Munch's work and awareness of the important message that I
feel it conveys.
Scream' for me shows the horrifiying moment when man realizes his
impact on nature and the irreversible changes that he has initiated,
making the planet increasingly uninhabitable.
image of the 'Scream' could make more of us fathom the magnitude of the
consequences of our continuing emissions of greenhouse gases.
This will inevitably lead to the triggering of uncontrollable
feedback mechanisms that lie latent in the physics of nature.
will kick in, slowly at first, then accelerate, causing the hearth to
becauome overheated. The biosphere will shrink and there will be
less oxygen, water and food. More death, less life And very
few lifeboats left as we go down.
most important work 'The Frieze of Life,' never finalized, but existing
in many verions, has as its theme Love, Anxiety and Death. 'The
Scream' is about Anxiety approaching and anticipating Death.
hand painted poem on the frame ends with the words 'The great Scream in
Nature.' It is as if Munch has had a premonition of what man was
going to inflict on nature.
Munch will continue to be a major force in my life. With my own
Munch project I would like to focus on Life and Love.
year I plan to participate in the 150th anniversary celebrations in
Norway of the birth of Edvard Munch. I am currently building a
gallery which will house my private collection of local art by Munch
and other artists. I am also restoring his house and studios
close by where he finished the project for the Oslo University
Auditorium Decorations one hundred years ago. I am collaborating
with the Oslo Munch Museum on an exhibition wih this theme. The
opening will be on 2 June 2013.
we will also open a small hotel on the premises of my farm Rammegaard
just a short distance south of Oslo by the fjord. I am looking
forward to welcoming admirers of art from around the world from next
is rather extraordinary is that Munch works rarely appear at auction
and this auction has five of them. Clearly, the reasoning is that
"Scream" will lift the other prices, although bargain-hunting
collectors will try to argue that the market is being flooded and the
"Mona Lisa" impact of "Scream" is unique to that specific
image's in the world's psyche. In any event, it may well be a
watershed event that overflows and justifies the very high values art
is enjoying, or it may burst the bubble. Presumably, the good
folk at Sotheby's have been able to persuade the consignor, Petter
Olsen, the son of Thomas Olsen of Oslo, who wants to use the
proceeds to create a Munch museum in Hvitsten, to lower the reserve so
that nobody looks too foolish.
painting was executed in 1895 and not acquired by Mr. Olsen until 1937.
It had been bought in 1895 by Arthur von Franquet of
Braunschweig, and then Hugh Simon of Berlin and Paris who consigned it
to Kunshandel J. Goudstikker in Amsterdam in 1933.
entry notes that the pastel "numbers among the most celebrated images
in art history," adding that "It is one of few masterpieces that
require no introduction, as it has been analyzed, reproduced,
referenced, interpreted and commercialized more often than perhaps any
picture bar Leonardo's Mona Lisa." The painting, it continued,
"has become a cornerstone of our visual culture, burned into our
collective retina as the definitive image of horror at modernity's
core. In one image, Munch initiates the Expressionist
gesture which will fuel art history through the twentieth century
In her May 2, 2012 article in The Wall Street
Journal Kelly Crow noted that "the work depicts a bald, skeletal figure
standing at a suicide spot on Oslo's horseshoe-shaped bay where people
could often hear screams from a nearby insane asylum, according to art
historians," adding that "Munch's sister, who had been diagnosed with
schizophrenia, was housed in that asylum."
The original frame
bears the text of an 1892 poem by Munch in which he wrote that he was
walking beside the bay when he sensed "an infinite scream passing
was subsequently revealed that Leon Black was the buyer of the painter.
An October 14, 2012 article in The New York Post by Isabel
Vincent and Melissa Klein said that the painting will go on display at
th emuseum of MOdern Art in New York. Mr. Black is a trustee of
The Post article, however had a headline that read "MoMA urged to reveal work's 'Nazi past - Hidden Horror of 'Scream.'"
noted that "relatives of German-Jewish banker Hugo Simon, who owned the
work in the 1920s and 30s,came forward before a Sotheby's auction to
contest its sale, and they say it's wrong for the museum to display it
without at least explaining its tragic history."
Cardoso, the article continued, "a Brazilian curator and Simon's
great-grandson, says his forbear had to sell the treasure when he
declared an enemy of the state and driven from Germany after the Nazis
came to power to 1933." "When Cardozo contested the Sotheby's
sale," the article said, "he was offered $250,000 by the seller, Petter
Olsen, to go to a chairty of his choice. The donation, however,
would be in the seller's name. 'The conditons of the offer were
insulting,' Cardoso said, adding is family felt it would have been
appropriate for the donation to be made in Simon's name."
Lot 52, "Kvinne Som Speiler Seg (Woman Looking in the Mirror)," by Edvard Munch, oil on canvas, 36 1/4 by 28 3/4 inches, 1892
52 is a very strong painting of a "Woman Looking in the Mirror" by
Munch. An oil on canvas, it was painted in 1892 and measures 36 1/4 by
28 3/4 inches It is property of "an important prive collection in
Europe" and has a conservative estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. It sold for $5,122,500.
Lot 41, "Sommernatt (Summer Night)," by Edvard Munch, oil on canvas, 29 1/4 by 38 3/4 inches, 1917
41 is a very nice painting by Munch depicted a couple walking in a
landscape. An oil on canvas, it measures 29 1/4 by 38 3/4 inches
and was paintted in 1917. It has an estimate of $2,500,000 to
$3,500,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $1,900,000. It is property from a European private collector.
Lot 55, "Samannen (The Sower)," by Edvard Munch, oil on canvas, 35 3/4 by 45 1/2 inches 1913
55 is a less vibrant but still quite stunning painting of a sower by
Munch. An oil on canvas, it measures 35 3/4 by 45 1/2 inches and was
painted in 1913. It has a very modest estimate of $2,000,000 to
$3,000,000. It is property "from an Important Private Collection, Europe." It sold for $2,882,500.
53, "Klestork I Asgardstrand (Clothes on a Line in Asgardstrand)," by
Edvard Munch, oil on canvas, 26 1/2 by 28 1/2 inches, 1902
53, "Klestork I Asgardstrand (Clothes on a Line in Asgardstrand)," is
an another Munch oil on canvas. It measures 26 1/2 by 28 1/2
inches and was painted in 1902. It has an estimate of $2,000,000
to $3,000,000. It sold for $2,098,500. It is also property from an important private collection, Europe.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
works of this period had a strong influence on German Expressionist
painters, who had the opportunity to see his work in several
exhibitions in Germany between 1905 and 1908. The brilliant, wild
palette that dominated Munch's canvases had a powerful impact on the Die Brucke
artists who were eager to move away from their urban surroundings in
Berlin and other cities, and to embrace the more primitive life-style
and wild nature of the northern German coast. It was the daring,
expressive power of Munch's landscapes, pulsating with unudlating lines
and vivid dramatic brush-strokes, that had such a profound effect on
some of the major figures of twentieth century art including Kirchner,
Schmidt-Rottluffe, Pechstein and Hecker."
most recent painting by Munch to appear at auction in New York
was "Fertility," Lot 47 in the November 3, 2010 auction at Christie's.
It was an oil on canvas that measures 47 1/4 by 55 1/8
inches. It was painted in 1899-1900 and has been widely pulished and
exhibited. The catalogue stated that the painting is "an exceedingly
The catalogue entry provides the following
"In 1898, Munch commenced a relationship with
Tulla Larsen, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy Kristiania wine
merchant....Unlike Munch, Tulla came from the moneyed bourgeois class of
Kristiania society. While at home the Norwegian critics continued to attack him,
Munch made a nomadic progress across Eugope in the late 1890s, vacationing with
Tulla at fashionable spas as well as paying visits to sanitoriums. Tulla seemed
set on marriage and there are plans made for a ceremony, although Munch later
denied having played any role. Their tumultuous affair was to end in 1902 with
gunfire and the lost of part of the artist's finger. For Munch, Tulla seems to
have represented the role of an 'earth mother,' a primal force of nature who
whom reproduction is a raison d'etre. Wriiting, surely with Tulla in mind,
around 1900, Munch said, 'It is an unhappy event when an earth mother meets
someone such as me, who finds the earth too miserable to breed
The painting had an ambitious estimate of
$25,000,000 to $35,000,000. The painting failed to sell and was passed at $23
This auction has a very
impressive group of wonderful paintings from the estate of Theodore J.
Forstman, a founding partner in the private equity firm of Forstmann
Little & Co. He also co-founded with the
late John Walton the Children's Scholarship Fund and was well known in
the Hamptons for hosting the Huggy Bear Invitational pro-am tennis
event starting in 1984 that raised more than $20 million to aid needy
children through the work of more than 30 charities.
Norman of Christie's discussing Lot 4, "Femme Assisse dans un
fauteuil," by Pablo Picasso at press preview
4 is a striking painting of a woman seated in an armchair by Pablo
Picasso (1881-1973). The oil on canvas measures 36 1/2 by 28
3/4 inches and was painted in 1941. It has an estimate of
$30,000,000 to $40,000,000.
of Christie's discussing Miró's "Tete Humaine," Lot 11, at press preview
Lot 11, "Tete Humaine," is a
very strong work by Joan Miró (1893-1983). An oil, wood,
wire, sandpaper and thread on canvas, it measures 32 by 25 3/4 inches
and was executed in 1931 and exhibited at the Galerie Pierre Colle in
Paris in 1933 in the show "Exposition Surrealiste" and in the
retrospective on the artist in 1993-4 at the Museum of Modern Art in
New York. The work has a circular piece of wood and wires. It was once in the collection of G. David Thompson
of Pittsburgh and is property of the estate of Theodore J. Forstmann.
It has an estimate of $10,000,000 to $15,000,000. It sold for $14,865,500.
senior vice president and head of the Department of Impressionist and
Modern Art at Christie's discussing Soutine's "Le Chasseur de Chez
Maxim's" at press preview
7, "Le Chasseur de Chez Maxim's," is a fine painting by Chaim Soutine
(1893-1943). An oil on canvas it measures 32 1/4 by 29 1/2
inches and was painted circa 1925. It was once in the
collection of Baronne Alix de Rothschild of Paris and later Dorothy and
Wendell Cherry. The estate of Wendell Cherry sold the
painting at Sotheby's in New York, November 4, 2004 where it
was acquired by Theodore J. Forstmann. It then
had an estimate of $2,500,000
to $3,500,000 and it sold for $6,728,000 setting a new world auction
the artist. At this auction, it has an estimate of
$10,000,000 to $15,000,000.
14, "Le Chasseur," by Chaim Soutine, oil on canvas, 25 5/8 by 19 3/4
inches, circa 1928
Lot 14 is a striking portrait
of a young man by Soutine entitled "Le Chasseur." An oil on
canvas, it measures 25 5/8 by 19 3/4 inches and was painted circa 1928.
It is property from the estate of Theodore J. Forstmann and
was formerly in the collections of Sam Salz of New York and Mr and Mrs.
William Goetz of Los Angeles. It has an estimate of
$4,000,000 to $6,000,000.
15, "Cabane sous les arbres," by Paul Gauguin, oil on
canvas, 28 1/2 by 17 1/8 inches, 1892
Lot 15, "Cabane
sous les arbres," is a superb and lovely Tahitian landscape by Paul
Gauguin (1848-1903). An oil on canvas that measures 28 1/2 by 17 1/8
it was executed in 1892 and had an estimate of $3,500,000 to $5,500,000
when it was sold at Christie's in New York November 6, 2002 and sold
for $4,629,500. This auction it has a estimate of $5,000,000
The painting is highlighted by several blue trees similar to those
in the very fine landscape in the Odrupgaard Collection in Copenhagen
City Review article). It is
property from the estate of Theodore J. Forstmann.
Lot 12, "Femme Sortant du Bain,"
by Pierre Bonnard, oil on canvas 43 3/4 by 37 1/4 inches, circa 1925
12 is a great painting by Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) of a woman in a
bathroom. An oil on canvas, it measures 43 3/4 by 37 1/4
inches and was painted circa 1925. It is property from the
estate of Theodore J. Forstmann.
Lot 39, "Portrait of Cézanne," by Pierre-Auguste Renoir," pastel on paper, 21 1/8 by 17 7/8 inches, 1880
39 is an exquisite pastel on paper portrait of Cézanne by Pierre-August
Renoir (1841-1919). It measures 21 1/8 by 17 7/8 inches and was
drawn in 1880. It has been widely exhibited and published and was
once in the collections of Victor Chocquet of Paris, Martin Ryerson of
Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Sam Salz of New York, Mr and
Mrs. Leigh B. Block of Chicago, and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ittleson Jr of
New York and the Bristish Rail Pension fund of London. It has an
estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000. It sold for $4,226,500.
Lot 43, "Prométhée," by Constantine Brancusi, gilded bronze, 7 inches long, conceived and cast in an edition of four
is a classic and very lovely gilded bronze head by Constantine Brancusi
(1876-1957). It is 7 inches long and was conceived and cast in an
edition of four in 1911. It has been widely published. It has an
estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000. It sold for $12,682,500.
Other bronze casts of Prométhée are The Hirschorn Museum and
Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., the Musée National d'Art Moderne,
Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the third is in a private
collection. Brancusi also created one in marble that is in the
collection of the Phildelphia Musem of Art.
Lot 26, "Printemps Necrophilique," by Salvador Dali, oil on canvas, 21 1/2 and 25 5/8 inches, 1936
26 is a 1936 oil on canvas by Salvador Dali (1904-1989) that is
entitled "Printemps Necrophilique." According to Mr. Shaw, this
is one of the finest Dalis to appear on the market in years. Only
Dali could decide to leave nothing in the center, he added.It has an estimate of $8,000,000 to $12,000,000. It sold for $16,322,500.
Lot 50, "Le Canapé Bleu," by Paul Delvaux, oil on canvas, 55 by 71 inches, 1967
50 is a large oil on canvas by Paul Delvaux (1897-1994) that is
entitled "Le Canapé Bleu." It measures 55 by 71 inches and was
painted in 1967 It has an estimate of $3,500,000 to $5,000,000. It was passed at $3,200,000.
auction began at 7 PM but by 6:20 PM the auction room's huge anteroom
was mobbed with people drinking good champagne, having made it through
the very large security phalanxes, since Munch's works have twice had
serious security breaches in the past and since there were a lot of
protestors outside Sotheby's entrance.
protestors handed out a page that explained their position about
art-handlers at Sotheby's and referred people to
January 1, 2012, the company cut off the workers' health care benefits
despite the fact that many members were relying on that coverage to
treat chronic conditions and in a few cases to keep loved ones out of
its record profitability, Sotheby's is still demanding cuts in both
working hours and overtime, the elimination of important seniority
protections, and the right to phase out all union positions and replace
them with low wage temporary workers with no bargaining rights and no
to the lockout, Sotheby's had been employing up to 12 temporary workers
at a time, for a peeriod of no longer than 6 months each, creating a
revolving door of low wage workers with no benefits. These
workers are predominantly young people of color who every 6 motnhs are
forced to return to an already bleak job market.
of seeking a way to create more sustainable long-term quality job
opportunities, Sotheby's is instead demanding that the revolving door
of temporary art handlers be increased to 36 per every 18 month period.
revolving door system of temporary workers has over the years resulted
in hundreds of young men of color being unable to achieve
meaningful full-time employment at Sotheby's.
union is willing to compromise on a range of the company's issues and
is seeking only to maintain the current number of union positions as
well as to put a stop to the current revolving door system.
date, Sotheby's remains unwilling to budge on its key demands.
The art handlers remain locked out of their jobs and continue to
fight a very high profile corporate campaign.
addition to receiving support from a wide range of unions, community,
and student groups, politicians like Sen. Charles Schumer, City Council
Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, and Council
Member Jessica Lappin, have also called on Sotheby's to end the lockout.
the picket line the workers have been joined by everyone from Occupy
Wall Street, to Actress Susan Sarandon, to most recently Robert Kennedy
Jr., who moved a benefit auction originally scheduled to be held at
Sotheby's, out of respect for the workers."
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