From mugs to mouse pads, The Scream has adorned just about every textile on the planet, becoming a universal symbol of angst and disillusionment in the process. But with its record-breaking auction price of just under $120 million at Sotheby’s last Wednesday, Edvard Munch’s masterpiece has become a sign of the times for the fine art world as well.
Though the high bidder’s identity is still unknown, lots of (unconfirmed) buzz is circling around the royal family of oil-rich Qatar. Earlier this year, the tiny nation paid the highest amount ever for a piece of art when it purchased Paul Cézanne’s The Card Players for $250 million.
“If you want to build a world-class museum, which is what Qatar and Abu Dhabi are doing and the Chinese government is doing in Beijing, when you think of a museum you think of an iconic work,” Don Thompson, author of The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art, recently told U.S. News and World Report. “If I say ‘Louvre,’ you think of one painting, right? So you need something like that.”
But it’s not just the masters who are benefiting. The art-buying trend is being felt around the world and at every level, from Sotheby’s to the most recent edition of Artexpo New York, where within the first hour of having set up his booth, artist Jesse Michael Newman sold his biggest piece—a 4′ x 12′ triptych—to a Saudi Arabian prince. “This more than covered all of my expenses for the show, and every sale after that was pure profit,” Newman remarks of the experience.
The bottom line? It’s never been a better time to be an artist!