Carol Vogel’s preview of this season’s art auctions contains this head-scratching paragraph about the top lot: Edvard Munch’s The Scream:
Some art historians, who declined to be named for fear of offending Sotheby’s, laughed at the astronomical price predictions for “The Scream,” even the seemingly lowball house estimate, calling the work too ugly to live with, depressing or mere kitsch. Whoever buys it will have a hefty insurance bill, not to mention round-the-clock security, to worry about. But were any new museum to add “The Scream” to its collection, that institution would become an immediate destination.
- Why would any art historian fear offending Sotheby’s? Art advisors, art dealers and art collectors might be understandably circumspect. But what penalty could Sotheby’s exact on a doubting art historian?
- Why would anyone be interested in an art historian’s opinion of the estimate—or final selling price? The art market is only loosely correlated with art history (and isn’t that a good thing?)
- If a museum would immediately promote itself to a destination institution by purchasing the work, wouldn’t that be incentive for a buyer too? Doesn’t that validate the idea that the painting—whatever one’s view of the work’s art historical value—would be viewed as a trophy?
Sure Bets (New York Times)