$15m Munch Comes to Sotheby's Through Restitution Deal

A large painting by the Norwegian Expressionist to be auctioned for the first time in nearly a century.

The Olsen family in Norway were important patrons of Edvard Munch and stewards of the artist’s work. They acquired one of the artist’s large works from a frieze of more than a dozen works commissioned in 1906 for a German avant-garde theater. Six years later, the works were broken up and sold to multiple collectors. The central panel in the frieze was acquired by art historian—and eventual Munch biographer—Curt Glaser. 

Glaser’s important collection of Old Masters and works by Matisse, Max Beckmann and Munch will be on display at the Basel Kunstmuseum this February. The 200 works are gathered together for the first time since they were dispersed when Glaser had to flee Germany in 1933. 

By 1934, the Olsen family had acquired the Dance on the Beach, first displaying it in the first-class lounge of a Norwegian passenger liner owned by Thomas Olsen. The family eventually hid their Munchs during the German occupation of Norway. 

Munch’s large works are not well known to the art market but a different, smaller frieze also owned by both Glaser and Olsen was sold twice in the last two decades. In 2006, Sotheby’s was able to get $10.75 million for Summer Day or Embrace on the Beach. Fifteen year later, it was sold again for $22.3 million. By comparison, the much larger work now on offer has an estimate of only $15 million.

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