03/05/2012 02:25 BST | Updated 20/12/2012 10:38 GMT

Edvard Munch's The Scream Sets $119.9m Auction Record

The only privately-owned version of Edvard Munch's classic masterpiece The Scream has fetched a record-breaking $119.9m (£74m) at auction.

The famous image, which features a haunted figure in front of a red backdrop, surpassed estimates to become the most expensive work of art to be sold at auction following the sale in New York.

It is one of four versions created by the Norwegian expressionist painter.

The pastel work, which is one of the most recognisable images in the world, had been expected to fetch at least 80 million US dollars (£50.4 million) at the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale at Sotheby's.

But it was finally snapped up for the world record amount by a phone bidder following a 12 minute bidding war. The price includes the buyer's premium.

The previous record for an artwork sold at auction was 106 million US dollars (£66.4 million) for Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust (below), which sold at Christie's in New York in May 2010.

Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust

Anticipation has been growing in the art world ahead of the auction, which attracted global media interest.

Describing the dramatic sale, a Sotheby's spokesman said: "A group of seven bidders jumped into the competition early, but it was a prolonged battle between two highly determined phone bidders that carried the final selling price to its historic level."

The famous picture was put up for sale by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen whose father was a friend and patron of the artist.

It was created in 1885 and is the only version with a frame hand-painted by Munch which includes a poem explaining his inspiration for the piece.

It is also the only version in which one of the two figures in the background turns to look outward onto the cityscape.

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The image spent a week on display at Sotheby's in London before the auction - the first-time it had ever gone on show in the UK.

The Munch Museum in Oslo holds two versions of The Scream and the third is displayed at The National Gallery of Norway.

Before the sale, Mr Olsen said: "I have lived with this work all my life, and its power and energy have only increased with time.

"Now, however, I feel the moment has come to offer the rest of the world a chance to own and appreciate this remarkable work, which is the only version of The Scream not in the collection of a Norwegian museum."

Mr Olsen said the proceeds from the sale will go toward the establishment of a new museum, art centre and hotel on his farm Ramme Gaard at Hvitsten, where his family's relationship with the artist began.

The museum will open in 2013, the 150-year anniversary of the artist's birth.

The Scream is the defining image of the Expressionist movement and has been the target of several high-profile art thefts. In 2004 masked gunmen stole Munch's 1910 version of The Scream as well as his Madonna from the Munch Museum.

Both works were recovered two years later and were back on exhibition in 2008.

A total of nine works now have sold for 80 million US dollars or more at auction, according to Sotheby's.

Besides The Scream and Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust, only two other works have sold for more than 100 million US dollars at auction.

Those are Picasso's Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice) for 104.1 million US dollars in 2004 and Alberto Giacometti's Walking Man I for 104.3 million US dollars in 2010.

Photo gallery Edvard Munch's See Gallery

Fortunately, there are some Scream alternatives that don't cost quite so much...