Last spring Sotheby’s auctioned Edvard Munch’s angst-filled masterpiece The Scream. The 1895 pastel went for a record-setting $119,922,500. It topped Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust which sold for $106 million in 2010.
Bidding began at $50 million and lasted fifteen minutes. Three people in the room drove the price but in the end it went to an unnamed telephone bidder. When the gavel sounded, the auction room exploded with applause and speculation began.
People wanted to know the identity of the unnamed bidder. Was it Qatar? A Russian oligarch? A wealthy Chinese national? For a couple months, it was one of the art world’s most closely guarded secrets. One reporter immediately set to work.
WSJ’s Kelly Crow pursued the matter rather relentlessly. According to several of her sources, the Scream was purchased by billionaire Leon Black, a New York financier who sits on the boards of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.
Given the fact that Mr. Black sits astride two of the country’s most powerful art institutions, the real fun has only just begun. We know who bought The Scream, but we don’t know where it will finally reside. One thing is certain, Mr. Black has the full attention of two different institutions.