This post is inspired by the Mai Too Sense blog post Defining Art of February 2nd. I meant to post it earlier but, suddenly, things started happening as if there is no tomorrow:
Richard III was rattling his bones from under the parking lot, demanding proper burial;
Chatbots were making movies;
Sea slugs crawled out, showing off their disposable penises;
Russians launched their first successful meteor since Tunguska Event…
Wow! In no time at all, Sotheby’s might sell another objet d’art for more than US$119,922,500 and what are you going to do? Scream?
Right. Particularly if you planned to blog about Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” – one of the world’s most recognizable works of art. Arguably, the painting became such for no other reason than the price it fetched on May 2, 2012.
Every soul houses its own horror. Not every soul finds an adequate outlet to its horror. Edvard Munch did. And his painting — the way I see it — wasn’t it. His words were a lot more expressive, although Edvard Munch might’ve been of a different opinion — after all, he belonged to the Expressionist movement of modernism.
This is how he described his inspiration for the image:
I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and he city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.
Mighty expressive. As I said, to me, the words sound more expressive than the painting looks, in all his many renditions – E. Munch produced several versions of The Scream – including the one that was sold for $120 million.
It does depict a man in a private moment of anguished despair and anxiety, while the other people in the painting, perhaps his friends, seem blissfully unaware of the man’s situation. (I’m quoting someone else’s description here).
The short movie showcases “The Scream” in a way the painting itself hardly merits — by far, it’s my favorite spoof of the painting.
After the sale was announced, reaction from the astounded masses (Vox Populi, in the spirit of this blog) varied in intensity and in sentiment. There were multitudes of those who addressed the painting itself: “My 9 year old son could’ve painted better picture!” Others marveled at the price paid for it, contemplating a far better use for the money, “Outrage! How many people could’ve been fed for $120,000,000?” (How many, indeed? Depends for how long you’d feed them, I guess.)
Of course, the Sotheby’s spectacular sale has little to do with the painter. Edvard Munch was a neurotic alcoholic, ridden with all sorts of anxieties. It has even less to do with being an artist or making art. Other words, it has nothing to do with art whatsoever.
What is it then? It’s the speculative and glory hounding investment-consumption side of art marketing. Stunning in its absurdity and empty of its core relationship to art, to be sure. Who is laughing still? You know who. And I do, too.
Follow the link to 5 Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold, if interested.
“The Scream” has been parodied thousands of times. Some parodies are very funny, others – silly and crude. To see hundreds of them at once, go to Google Images and type “The Scream Parody” into the search box.