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Did Leon Black Buy Munch’s “The Scream”?

Leon Black

The Wall Street Journal‘s Kelly Crow reported online yesterday that anonymous sources informed her that Leon Black was the buyer of Munch‘s “The Scream.” The 1895 pastel sold at Sotheby’s on May 2 for $119.92 million, the record auction price for any work of art.

Black, listed in the current issue of ARTnews as one of the world’s top 10 collectors, is founder, chairman, and CEO of Apollo Global Management, an alternative asset management firm. He sits on the boards of the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Asia Society, and until 2011 he was a trustee of his alma mater, Dartmouth College, where he and his wife Debra contributed $48 million toward the new Black Family Visual Arts Center, designed by Machado and Silvetti, scheduled to open this September (which I discuss near the end of this CultureGrrl Video, at 4:09).

Many other news organizations have picked up Kelly’s report, but not (at this writing) the NY Times, which is apparently not satisfied with information attributed by a rival newspaper to “several people close to the collector.”

As you may remember, Charles Moffett, Sotheby’s vice chairman for Impressionist, modern and contemporary art, who placed the winning bid on behalf of the buyer of “The Scream,” told me at the auction’s press preview that “any museum that buys it [“The Scream”] would be known as
the museum that bought the Munch….Two or three museums have the
power on the board to form a consortium to buy it. They could split it 10 or 20 ways.”

Moffett specifically mentioned that the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum, and possibly the Houston Museum of Fine Arts or Art Institute of Chicago were institutions that could conceivably be part of such a consortium. He added that this was not mere wishful thinking on your part: “I believe that there may be a situation like that. It’s not just speculation.”

I also asked him who potential American buyers might be. He replied, “hedge funders.” I guess he got that right!

We must now wonder whether any of the museums mentioned by Moffett before the sale may soon display “The Scream” on loan and/or as an eventual gift. Also, did Black (if he was indeed the purchaser) act alone or as the frontman for a consortium of buyers?

Time and Kelly Crow (or maybe even me) may tell.

an ArtsJournal blog