Billionaire Art Collector Leon Black Spends $120 Million For “The Scream”

It’s apparently nothing to scream about after all.

New York billionaire and avid art collector Leon Black is reportedly the mysterious private buyer who wrote a check for $119.9 million to buy Edward Munch’s “The Scream” at an auction in May.

Until now, the identity of the buyer was kept under wraps.

Munch, an expressionist, created four versions in the period from 1893 to 1910 of what later became a world famous masterpiece; the other three reside in Oslo, Norway, museums.

The final bid in the auction of version #4 reportedly set a record at Sotheby’s auction house for a painting. The minimum bid was $40 million.

The Wall Street Journal, which reported the name of the successful bidder today, explains that Black’s next move is uncertain:

Mr. Black’s long-term intentions for his Munch remain unclear. He sits on the boards of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, setting up a potential tug of war between two of the country’s most powerful art institutions. Neither owns a “Scream,” aside from lithograph-print versions of it.

Few artworks have the world-wide celebrity of “The Scream,” and it would immediately become a merchandising bonanza and huge attendance draw for any museum that displayed it.

Much’s iconic painting has become very recognizable in popular culture through various forms of tribute, parody, and imitation.

The Journal describes it as depicting “a bald, skeletal figure in a blue shirt standing at a popular suicide spot on Oslo’s horseshoe-shaped bay where people could often hear screams from a nearby insane asylum, according to art historians. “

More background on the sale in this video report: