One of Norway’s wealthiest men is set to auction off an original version of Edvard Munch’s famous painting “The Scream” (Skriket) that he inherited. The painting is expected to attract a record price, with the proceeds earmarked for construction of a new cultural complex south of Oslo that will exhibit other Munch paintings.
Petter Olsen, youngest son in a shipping family that was well-acquainted with Munch himself, won control over most of the family’s vast art collection after a lengthy court battle with his older brother, shipowner Fred Olsen.
Petter Olsen is using much of his inherited fortune to develop his own cultural interests, which include an outdoor park and cultural complex at his farm, Ramme Gaard, at Hvitsten in Vestby, about an hour’s drive south of Oslo.
Olsen recently won permission to develop the complex and now intends to finance the project with money raised through the sale of Munch’s famous painting. Some art experts valued the painting at as much as NOK 1 billion (USD 160 million).
“I have lived with this painting all my life,” Olsen wrote in a prepared statement. “Now I feel the time has come to give the rest of the world a possibility to own and value this remarkable work, which is the only version that’s not part of a Norwegian museum collection.”
The sale will be handled through Sotheby’s auction house in New York, which has set a minimum bid equal to NOK 450 million (USD 80 million) when the painting goes on the block in May. Even at that level, it would set a new record for being the most expensive piece of art in Norwegian ownership, according to Knut Forsberg of Oslo auction house Blomqvist.
“I’d be careful about speculating that this painting may attract a billion kroner, but it can’t be ruled out,” Forsberg told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). The painting is one of only four versions of the famous painting, and the only one in private ownership.
Munch Museum director positive
That’s why Stein Olav Henrichsen, director of the Munch Museum in Oslo that inherited Munch’s own vast collection of his work, supports Olsen’s decision to sell his version of “The Scream” overseas. “Given the desire to strengthen Munch as an international artist, this is an advantage, that now museums abroad can also have a chance to have Munch art available,” Henrichsen told DN. “Around two-thirds of Munch’s art remains in Norway, and that’s fine, but the disadvantage is that few other artistic circles elsewhere in the world can carry out research on Munch or spread his art.”
The Munch Museum was asked to comment on the pending auction, before it was revealed. “We gave a positive recommendation because we have three versions of “The Scream” in Oslo and there was no professional reason for saying ‘no,’” Henrichsen.
Painting already out of the country
Others weren’t so positive, with Nils Ohlsen of the National Museum in Oslo telling newspaper Aftenposten that it was “not desirable” that such valuable art “disappears out of the country.” He questioned whether export permission would be granted, but the painting hasn’t been in Norway for many years and Sotheby’s already has taken care of all formalities involved.
Recent exhibitions of Munch’s art in France and Germany have attracted record crowds, while public interest has run high for years. A version of Munch’s painting Vampyr attracted around NOK 250 million in 2008, while Pikene på broen attracted USD 27 million, also in 2008.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
Please support our stories by clicking on the “Donate” button now: