Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Scream

MOMA isn’t the first institution to turn Edvard Munch’s THE SCREAM into kitsch. Maybe it was kitsch to start with, but at least Munch was trying to create an image of genuine terror in the early 1890’s, when he painted it. One evening the sky turned “blood red,” Munch wrote, and “I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.” In fact, the evenings did look red at that time because of ash from the volcano Krakatoa, which had recently undergone a huge eruption. Was Munch also perhaps thinking of his sister Laura Catherine, at that time hospitalized for manic depression? And then, oddly, a photo of the Sandy Hook shooter, Adam Lanza, made him look like the model for that painting.

Now on display at MOMA, The Scream has been turned into a commercial image reproduced on all matter of objects for sale in the museum shop: notepads, pens, tote bags, iPhone covers—you name it. The image of The Scream on whatever utensil or knickknack you desire.

What idiot would buy such a bastardized version of this masterwork? The same sort who would buy similar images of a Rembrandt self-portrait or the Mona Lisa or any other facsimile of great art for sale in museums worldwide. The version now on view at MOMA is the one for which, early in 2012, a collector paid just short of $120 million, the highest price ever for a painting sold at auction.

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