Billionaire Leon Black is the Mystery Buyer Behind the Record-Busting "Scream" Sale: WSJ

Billionaire Leon Black is the Mystery Buyer Behind the Record-Busting "Scream" Sale: WSJ
Sotheby's handlers with Edvard Munch's "The Scream," 1895
(Courtesy Sotheby's)

The art market mystery of the year may just have been solved: American businessman Leon Black was the successful bidder for "The Scream," the $119.9-million Edvard Munch pastel auctioned off at an exciting Sotheby's evening sale on May 2. The news comes courtesy of the Wall Street Journal's Kelly Crow — who has been on the case since moments after the hammer came down. According to the article, several people close to the billionaire collector confirmed that he is, in fact, the owner of the painting, but a spokesman for Black declined to comment (also, it's already listed as fact on Wikipedia).

After the sale, speculation was rampant regarding who may have purchased the work — rumors claimed it was a Russian, or the Qatari royal family, or perhaps American hedge fund manager Steve Cohen — but few people pointed fingers at Black, possibly because he is more well-known for his collection of Old Masters.

Black, who made his $3.4 billion fortune in private equity, is number 330 on Forbes list of billionaires, and had quite the art collection before the latest Munch graced his walls. Previously, he turned heads in the art world for purchasing a Raphael drawing, "Head of a Muse," for $47.6 million — setting the record for a work on paper. He also owns works by Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and J.M.W. Turner, and sits on the boards of both of New York City's major art institutions, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA, which Crow suggests may set up a tug-of-war between the two museums over who eventually might end up with it in their collection.

That's a mystery that will take a few more decades to solve.