Munch's "The Scream" may fetch $80M at art sale

Norwegian painter Edvard Munch's "The Scream" is seen in this photo provided by Sotheby's. CBS/AP Photo/Sotheby's

Updated at 1:02 p.m. ET

NEW YORK - One of four versions of Edvard Munch's masterpiece "The Scream" will be sold this spring in New York, Sotheby's auction house announced Tuesday.

Sotheby's estimates that the work, which has become a modern icon of human anxiety, will sell for $80 million or more.

The 1895 drawing of a man holding his head and screaming under a streaked, blood-red sky is being sold by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father was a friend and patron of Munch's. It is the only version of "The Scream" still in private hands.

"I have lived with this work all my life, and its power and energy have only increased with time," Olsen said. "Now, however, I feel the moment has come to offer the rest of the world a chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work, which is the only version of `The Scream' not in the collection of a Norwegian museum."

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The work will lead Sotheby's Impressionist and modern sale on May 2. Olsen said proceeds will go toward the establishment of a new museum, art center and hotel in Hvitsten, Norway, where Olsen's father and Munch were neighbors.

A price tag of $80 million would be among the highest-ever for an artwork. According to Sotheby's, a total of eight works have sold for $80 million or more at auction. The record is $106.5 million for Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust, sold in 2010 by Christie's in New York.

The director of the National Museum in Oslo, Audun Eckhoff, told The Associated Press that Norwegian authorities approved the Munch sale a few months ago.

"Our consideration was that it is acceptable, since several versions of `The Scream' remain in Norway," he said.

One version of "The Scream" is owned by the National Museum and two others by the Munch Museum, also in Oslo.

Sotheby's said in a news release that this pastel-on-board version of "The Scream" is the most colorful and vibrant of the four and the only version whose frame was hand-painted by the artist to include his poem detailing the work's inspiration.

In the poem, Munch described himself "shivering with anxiety" and said he felt "the great scream in nature."

The work will be on view at Sotheby's in London starting April 13 and then in New York starting April 27.

Curator Petra Pettersen of the Munch Museum said she hopes that whoever buys "The Scream" will display it as well.

"I hope it will not disappear from the public and that it will still be possible to see it at exhibitions," she said.

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