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  • New York billionaire Leon Black spent $120 million in 12 minutes of furious bidding to become the proud owner of one of four copies of Edvard Munch’s masterpiece “The Scream.”

    TheImproper reported in February that Sotheby’s auction house in New York would sell the painting to the highest bidder in May. It was considered the ultimate prize for collectors of pre-expressionist 19th Century art, or any art for that matter.

    Munch, who worked in Norway as a Symbolist painter and printmaker, created the composition in 1895 during the height of the Belle Époque, one of Europe’s most artistic periods. “The Scream” was the best known of a series of works that explored the themes of love, fear, death, melancholia and anxiety, according to the auction house.

    The artwork’s record-breaking price in May one of three pieces to fetch record sale prices has been widely cited since as testament to the strength of contemporary art sales and the huge buildup of cash among investors. Andy Warhol’s “Double Elvis,” Roy Lichtenstein’s “Sleeping Girl,” and Mark Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow” also were sold at record prices.

    Black, 60, an avid art collector worth $3.5 billion, outlasted eight other bidders, all from China, according to a new report in The Wall Street Journal. Bidding started at a whopping $40 million. There is no word yet on whether Black will display the artwork.

    But he is on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, both in New York. They are likely candidates to receive the prized painting. The three remaining copies are in Norway. The pastel has only been seen in public once at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

    Munch’s haunting figure, holding his face in his hands with his mouth locked in a frozen scream, reportedly stands at a popular spot to commit suicide in Oslo. Screams from a nearby insane asylum, according to a history of the composition.

    Black’s art collection has been estimated to range from $750 million to $1 billion, according to the Journal and other sources. He also owns works by
    Vincent van Gogh and Raphael, Picasso and J.M.W. Turner.