Edvard Munch's iconic work is the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction (previous record was Picasso's "Nude, Green, Leave and Bust" that sold for $106.5 million.) It also smashes pre-auction estimates, which had been running in the $80 million range. No word yet on the buyer, who was bidding tonight by phone, but the LAT reports that there had been interest from the royal family of Qatar. The whole thing took only 12 minutes and apparently involved a half-dozen bidders. From the Times:
Judd Tully, the art-market expert who is editor at large of Art+Auction magazine, said it was hard to identify the potential pool of buyers. "Under a dozen collectors have been identified who would buy something north of $50 million, and the number gets lower as the prices go up," he said before the sale. But in the case of such a "powerful and famous image," he added, "there could be someone outside of that club who has fallen prey to the marketing campaign or just decided they wanted the image."
The central image in this artwork is the gaping-mouthed, skull-like face and twisting torso that people know so well from reproductions, cartoons and a seemingly endless stream of merchandise, from shower curtains to neckties. The location depicted is Ekeberg Hill, an overlook point in the south of Oslo that was known as the scene of suicides. Some read the image as a symbol of modern existentialist anguish, expressing fear of a hostile universe and perhaps even anticipating the horrors of the world wars. Others view it more specifically as an expression of personal suffering.