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"The Scream" Up For Auction53:18
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Painter Edvard Munch’s iconic masterpiece "The Scream" is up for auction.  We’ll look at how that image — "The Scream" — has seared itself into our culture.

Staff stand guard by Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' as it is hung for display at Sotheby's Auction Rooms in London, Thursday, April 12, 2012. The painting made with pastels is one of four versions of the composition, and dates from 1895, it will be auctioned in the Impressionist and Modern Art Sale in New York on May 2, with an estimated price of 80 million dollars. (AP)
Staff stand guard by Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' as it is hung for display at Sotheby's Auction Rooms in London, Thursday, April 12, 2012. The painting made with pastels is one of four versions of the composition, and dates from 1895, it will be auctioned in the Impressionist and Modern Art Sale in New York on May 2, with an estimated price of 80 million dollars. (AP)

Norwegian painter Edvard Munch’s masterpiece “The Scream” is one of the best-known works of art in the world.  The hairless skull, the wide eyes, the wide-open mouth between two hands of the silent, wailing figure on the bridge.  The essence of angst in the human condition, in one universally powerful image.

Today, it goes on the auction block.  Huge money is expected.  But it’s the image itself, and the story behind it, that interests us.  From a real bridge between a slaughterhouse and a madhouse.  To the heart of the human condition.

This hour,  On Point:  Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”
-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Don Thompson, expert on art economics, author of "The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: the Curious Economics of Contemporary Art."

Sue Prideaux, author and art historian. Author of "Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream."

Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for the New Yorker magazine. He has written extensively on the lasting cultural impact of Munch's "The Scream."

Photos: The Scream

From Tom's Reading List

Businessweek "Its original power lies partly in its simplicity: All of Munch’s versions — though differing slightly in media, color and composition — are so pared down as almost to be cartoons themselves. The image is compelling visual shorthand for a feeling experienced by virtually everyone at one time or another: frantic anxiety and desperation."

Artinfo "At the very highest end of the market, being the winning bidder means much more than just having a new canvas to hang on the wall. It means something, in terms of wealth and power, to be able even to participate in the compatition for an evening sale's top lot."

Financial Times "There are “Scream” mugs, tea towels, T-shirts. The child actor Macaulay Culkin aped the open-mouthed expression of horror in an advertising poster for Home  Alone. The villainous protagonist (and, of course, the title) of Wes Craven’s Scream series of schlock horror movies is based on Munch’s  startled figure. The New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik quotes his cartoon editor,  who says the magazine receives about two “Scream”-inspired cartoons a week"

This program aired on May 2, 2012.

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