What can you buy with $120 million? Your own private island? A sports car collection? Enough Facebook shares to last you a lifetime? Sure, that’d be great for
you. You could also spend $120 million on building an elaborate hotel, paying former deceased federal employees, or paying for broken contracts. You could do these
things, but those costs would be absorbed by society andbenefit nobody. How about spending $120 million on the world’s most well known symbol of modern human anxiety?
On Wednesday, May 2nd, Edvard Munch’s The Scream sold for a
record amount of $120 million to an anonymous buyer. Though estimated to sell at only about $80 million dollars, that number was quickly surpassed in a fiery 15 minute bidding war. Previously holding the title of the
highest priced masterpiece out there was Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, which sold for $106.5 million dollars two years ago. The money made from The Scream will go towards the construction of a new art museum, hotel, and art centre in Hvitsten, Norway, where Munch lived.
Painted in 1895, The Scream is among the most well known
pieces of art. It is part of a series of four pieces which are all made of various media. The one most recently sold was pastel-on-board, and is the most vibrant and colourful of them all. The piece has become an icon for human society, and appears in or on just about everything:mugs, movies, t-shirts, you name it. It is
thought to represent “one of the visual keys to modern consciousness,”
according to Sotheby’s New York Head of Impressionism and Modern Art, or
perhaps the modern man’s angst.
Munch, who suffered from agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces and public places, explained his inspiration for the painting: “I was walking along a path with two friends — the sun was setting — suddenly the sky turned blood red — I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence — there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city — my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety — and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”
As generations die and society evolves and changes, art is the one everlasting
constant that will be remembered forever. This one beautiful, haunting piece has evoked feelings of compassion and empathy for the suffering that every individual feels at some level, at some time in their lives. Millions of people
flock to visit art masterpieces every year. Why? Because art resonates within
people, and The Scream is no different.
Long after the Ritz Carleton has crumbled to the ground and been turned into a
landfill site, art will remain. A thousand years from now, our materialistic ‘needs’ will be destroyed and replaced, but The Scream will remain,
as desperate and true as ever. $120 million is a lot of money, but why not spend it on something that will be meaningful to society for the rest of eternity?