Edvard Munch's The Scream raises art auction world record by 12.6%

Edvard Munch's The Scream has become the world's most expensive auctioned artwork, after selling for $119.9m at Sotheby's last night (May 2).

The 1895 work surpasses the previous record of $106.4m by 12.6%, set by Picasso's Nude Green Leaves, and Bust in 2010.

12 minutes of bidding took the piece from its starting bid of $50m to far beyond its $80m estimate.

"A group of seven bidders jumped into the competition early, but it was a prolonged battle between two highly determined phone bidders that carried the final selling price to its historic level," said a Sotheby's spokesperson.

One of four versions of The Scream produced by Munch, prior to the sale it was the only one that resided in private hands.

The Petter Olsen version of The Scream
The world's most expensive auctioned artwork

Its new owner has chosen to remain anonymous, but there are suggestions that it is again the work of the Qatari royal family, who bought a version of Cezanne's The Card Players for $250m in a private sale last year.

The sale is all the more stunning, considering the pastel nature of the work; top prices are normally the preserve of oil paintings.

It is the only one of the four that is housed in a frame hand-painted by Munch, which includes a poem detailing his "trembling with anxiety" and the feeling of "an infinite scream passing through nature" while out on a walk with friends, which provided the inspiration for the work.

It is also the only one of the four to feature one of the two background figures looking away.

Sold by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father was a patron of Munch's, proceeds will go towards a new art centre, museum and hotel in the artist's Norwegian home town of Hvitsten.

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