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The Scream is most expensive painting ever auctioned

Edvard Munch's painting The Scream is now the most expensive painting ever auctioned. Photo: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

Edvard Munch's The Scream has become the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.

It fetched a record $120 million (£74m) at auction at Sotheby's in New York, far exceeding pre-sales estimates of about $80 million.

Bidding started at around $50 million for the work, one of four versions by the Scandinavian painter being sold by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, and elapsed over about 15 minutes until an unnamed bidder by telephone gave the final offer of $119,922,500, including commission.

The sales room at Sotheby's erupted in applause and cheering.

Petter Olsen's father was a friend of the artist.

The previous record for the most expensive work of art sold at auction had been held by Picasso's "Nude, green leaves and bust," which went for $106.5 million at Christie's two years ago.

The sale makes the impressionist masterpiece the fifth most expensive sale of all time.

The only paintings to change hands for a bigger sum are:

  • Cezanne's The Card Players
  • Jackson Pollock's No. 5, 1948
  • Willem de Kooning's Woman III
  • Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I