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Why $120 Million Record Art Sale For “Scream” Isn't All That High A Price For Some

A version of “The Scream” by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch sold at Sotheby’s for a record amount, as far as public auctions are concerned. With private sales, however, prices can be in a whole other stratosphere.

Why $120 Million Record Art Sale For “Scream” Isn't All That High A Price For Some
Tim Ackermann

A murmur courses through the packed room as the bidding mounts. The screen behind the auctioneer shows the number 99 with six zeroes after it: 99 million dollars. Somehow, it looks incomplete. Everybody is silently expecting further bidding, but there's a lull. A Sotheby's executive holding a telephone receiver in one hand asks for a few minutes: the client at the other end of the line needs more time. "Of course," says auctioneer Tobias Meyer accommodatingly before leaning forward towards the audience, a relaxed smile on his face: "For 99 million you can have all the time in the world."

A few seconds later, the unknown bidder on the phone bids another million. His rival bidder promptly raises by another million. At which point it has become clear that – on this Wednesday evening in New York City – Meyer has made auction history with Edvard Munch's pastel drawing "The Scream." For the first time ever, an art work has hit the $100 million mark at public auction sale.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Hide-And-Seek Of Drone Warfare, A Letter From Ukraine's Front Line

A member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces writes his account of the new dynamic of targeting, and being targeted by, the invading Russian troops, as drones circle above and trenches get left behind.

A Ukrainian military drone operator during a testing of anti-drone rifle in Kyiv.

Igor Lutsenko*

KYIV — The current war in Ukraine is a game of hide-and-seek. Both sides are very well-stocked with artillery, enough to destroy the enemy along many kilometers. Swarms of drones fly through the air day and night, keeping a close eye on the earth's surface below. If they notice something interesting, it immediately becomes a target. Depending on the priority, they put it in line for destruction by artillery.

Therefore, the only effective way to survive is to hide, or at least somehow prove to the drones your non-priority status — and avoid moving to the front of the 'queue of death.'

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In general, the nature of this queue is a particular thing. It may seem to be a god, but is instead a simple artillery captain's decision of when to have lunch, and when to fire on the house where several enemy soldiers are staying. It's just a handful of ordinary people (observers, artillerymen) deciding how long their enemies will live depending on their own schedule or the weather, the availability of ammunition or if they're feeling tired.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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