The mystery of the record-breaking sale of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" has been solved. The identity of the buyer was not disclosed at the Sotheby’s auction in New York, where it was purchased, but The Wall Street Journal reports that New York financier Leon Black was the telephone bidder who nabbed the piece for a cool $119.9 million.
The Journal reports that bidding started at $40 million with five potential buyers, including Black. Eventually it came down to Black and another telephone bidder, with Black winning out in the end. The painting is now the most expensive piece of art ever sold in an auction, passing the $106.5 million Picasso portrait “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust.”
Black, who owns a Park Avenue apartment and oceanfront estate in Southampton, has a fortune that is estimated at $3.4 billion according to Forbes. He has spent $750 million on his art collection which includes pieces by Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and J.M.W. Turner. Other artworks he has bought are the $38 million piece by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and record-breaking $47.6 million Raphael chalk drawing.
As one of the world's leading art collectors, Black sits on the boards of both New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art. If he ever decides to display or donate the iconic painting, there is sure to be fierce competition between the museums to gain his favor.
Prior the auction, “The Scream” was owned by Norwegian real-estate developer Peter Olsen, whose father was a neighbor of Munch’s. The family protected the painting from the Nazis during World War II. It is one of the four existing versions of the portrait.