May 2, 2012

Sotheby's Sells Munch's "The Scream" for $119.9 in New York City -- the most expensive artwork sold at auction -- over the objections of the descendants of the Jewish collector Hugo Simon who owned it from 1926 to 1937

Sotheby's sold Evard Munch's "The Scream" for $119.9 million in New York City tonight.

Lot #20, identified from the 'Property of the Olsen Collection', a pastel on board in the original frame, measures 32 by 23 1/4 inches, executed in 1895, and signed 'E. Munch' and dated in the lower left corner.  It is one of four versions of an man with an open mouth, his hands clasped to the side of his head, recognizable to even middle school children.  The artist lived from 1863 and to 1944.

According to Sotheby's provenance information, Arthur von Franquet purchased the work in 1895.  The Berlin banker and Jewish art collector Hugo Simon had acquired it by 1926 and by October, 1993, Mr. Simon had left the painting on consignment with the art dealer Jacques Goudstikker in Amsterdam.  Simon left it with the Kunsthaus Zürich by December 1936.  Then it was on consignment for sale by Simon in January 1937 with M. Molvidson, Konst & Antikvitetshandel in Stockholm where Thomas Olsen, the current owner's father, purchased it.

Jori Finkel for The Los Angeles Times reported that the price of $119.9 million set the record for the most expensive artwork sold at auction:
The identity of the buyer, who was bidding by phone during the 12-minute auction, has not been confirmed.  Bidding started at $40 million, with at least five bidders.
Today the Holocaust Restitution Project posted a link on its Facebook page to an article in a German newspaper that the great grandson of Hugo Simon, now living in Brazil, told the newspaper "Die Welt" that the painting had been sold "out of necessity" when his family fled from Germany during the Nazi era. the Holocaust Restitution Project documents property losses at the hands of the National Socialists and their allies across Europe from 1933 to 1945.

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