The Price Tag On Recognition

Andrew Sullivan —  May 3 2012 @ 2:37pm


The Scream by Edvard Munch sold for an astounding $120 million yesterday. How Felix Salmon understands the price:

[W]hat people are buying, when they buy one of these pieces, is a cultural icon, something instantly recognizable. As Clyde Haberman says of the Scream, “if you’ve never seen a tacky facsimile of it, there’s a chance that you have also never seen a coffee mug, a T-shirt or a Macaulay Culkin poster”. … Whatever was being bought, here, it wasn’t really art, in any pure sense. It was more the result of a century’s worth of marketing and hype.

(Photo: People take photos as Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' is auctioned at Sotheby's May 2012 Sales of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art on May 2, 2012 in New York City. The masterpiece is one of four versions created by Munch and the only one that is privately owned. The masterpiece sold for over $119 million. By Mario Tama/Getty Images)