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Munch's 'The Scream' to be auctioned

By Julie Cannold
February 23, 2012 -- Updated 1348 GMT (2148 HKT)
Edvard Munch's The Scream (1895), which is to be sold at Sotheby's in New York on May 2, 2012.
Edvard Munch's The Scream (1895), which is to be sold at Sotheby's in New York on May 2, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • This version of "The Scream" was painted in 1895 by artist Edvard Munch
  • It will be on display at Sotheby's starting April 27
  • The composition is expected to go up for sale on May 2
  • It could fetch tens of millions of dollars

(CNN) -- One of the world's most iconic works of art will be auctioned in May, and could fetch tens of millions of dollars, according to Sotheby's Auction House in Manhattan.

"The Scream," created in 1895 by artist Edvard Munch, will be on display at Sotheby's starting April 27 and then go up for sale May 2.

"Munch's 'The Scream' is the defining image of modernity, and it is an immense privilege for Sotheby's to be entrusted with one of the most important works of art in private hands," said Sotheby's Senior Vice President Simon Shaw. "For collectors and institutions, the opportunity to acquire such a singularly-influential masterpiece is unprecedented in recent times."

Shaw said it is difficult to predict the work's value because of its rare and unique nature, but estimates it could sell for more than $80 million, based on recent sales of other masterpieces.

This version of "The Scream" is the only one of four original compositions still in private hands, according to Sotheby's. It is currently owned by Petter Olsen, whose father was apparently a friend and neighbor of Munch.

"I feel the moment has come to offer the rest of the world a chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work, which is the only version of 'The Scream' not in the collection of a Norwegian museum," Olsen said.

He noted that the proceeds from the sale will go toward a new museum and art center in Norway.

Sotheby's describes it as a "defining image of the Expressionist movement" and "a pivotal work in the history of art."

"It is the projection of Munch's mental state that was so artistically innovative -- a landscape of the mind, whose impact is still felt in the art of today," the auction house said in a statement.

The remaining versions of "The Scream" are in Norwegian museums. The first version, created in 1893, was stolen out of the National Gallery of Norway in 1993 but recovered later that same year.

The other versions, one created later in 1893 and one from 1910, are displayed in the Munch Museum in Oslo. The 1910 version was stolen in 2004, but was recovered two years later.

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