Munch's The Scream to fetch $80m or more


The Scream by Edvard MunchSotheby's

Edvard Munch's The Scream is going under the hammer at Sotheby's in New York in early May. The auction house hopes to sell it for more than $80m (£50m) - which would make it one of the most expensive pieces of artwork ever sold at auction.

To be more precise, the pastel piece is one of four versions created by the Norwegian artist. It is one of the most instantly recognisable artworks, perhaps second only to the Mona Lisa.

This version of The Scream (detail pictured) dates from 1895 and is the only one still in private hands. It will be on view in London for the first ever, at an exhibition at Sotheby's opening on 13 April. In New York it will be shown, also for the first time ever, from 27 April, ahead of the 2 May sale.

The work is owned by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father Thomas was a friend and later patron of Munch. It has been in the collection of the Olsen family for over 70 years. Thomas Olsen, scion of the great ship-owning dynasty, was a collector and supporter of Munch from the late 1920s. He and the artist were neighbors at Hvitsten in Norway, where the young businessman's role grew from friend to patron.

Munch created four versions of The Scream. The prime example, made in 1893 from tempera and crayon on board, is in the National Gallery of Norway; another pastel version from the same year is thought to be a preliminary sketch for the work and is owned by the Munch Museum in Oslo; the present piece from the Olsen Collection, created in 1895 from pastel on board, most closely follows the prime work in the National Gallery; and a later version in tempera and oil on board, thought to be completed in 1910, is in the collection of the Munch Museum.

There are subtle differences between the four versions. The Scream now up for sale is the most colorful and vibrant of the four; the only version whose original frame was hand-painted by the artist to include a poem about the work's inspiration; and the only version in which one of the two figures in the background turns to look outward onto the cityscape.

The 10 most expensive artworks ever sold
Here is a list of the most valuable artworks ever sold at auction or in a private sale. Looking beyond the top ten, Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso account for many of the world's most expensive artworks, however only Picasso benefited from his fame and wealth during his lifetime while van Gogh is thought to have sold only one painting in his lifetime, the Red Vineyard for 400 Francs.

In eleventh place, just outside the top ten, is Francis' Bacon's 1976 Triptych, sold for $86m at Sotheby's in New York in 2008.

1. $250m The Card Players by Paul Cézanne (1892/93) - private sale
2. $140m No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock(1948) - private sale via Sotheby's
3. $137.5 Woman III by Willem de Kooning (1953) - private sale via Larry Gagosian
4. $135m Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt (1907) - private sale via Christie's
5. $107m Nude, Green Leaves and Bust by Pablo Picasso (1932) - Christie's, New York
6. $104m Garçon à la pipe by Picasso (1905) - Sotheby's, New York
7. $100m Eight Elvises, Andy Warhol (1963) - Private sale via Philippe Ségalo
8. $95m Dora Maar au Chat by Picasso (1941) - Sotheby's, New York
9. $91m Diana and Actaeon by Titian (1556-1559) - private sale
10. $88m Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II by Klimt (1912) - Christie's, New York