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The $cream: Despite breaking records, Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” is not the most expensive artwork ever sold

May 3rd 2012, 14:10 (re-blogged from The Economist online)

WHEN Edvard Munch painted “The Scream” he did not have enough money to buy canvas, so the painting that sold on May 2nd at Sotheby’s for $120m is on cardboard. It is a remarkable image with a history to match: during the second world war when Norway was occupied by the Nazis, it was hidden in a hay loft. But it is not unique: Munch painted several versions, which makes its record-breaking price surprising to some. The other versions are in museums, and thus beyond the reach of the anonymous buyer who broke the record for a work sold at auction. Yet the sale is only a record in nominal terms: adjusted for inflation, several more expensive paintings have been sold (see chart). When private sales are taken into consideration, “The Scream” looks like a bargain: press reports suggest that a buyer paid $250m for Paul C├ęzanne’s “The Card Players” in 2011.

(photo courtesy of Sotheby’s)

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