About Me

My photo
I am a Bicolano by birth and choice. By any standards, I am a slow runner but I like it that way. I look at running as a healthy and exciting way to make a difference. Together with my fellow runners from our family, school, office and the community, we use running to give back..

November 6, 2012


November 5 marks one year of the existence of my Bicolano Penguin blog. I was happy on this day, especially  given the success of our Tiwi-Sangay Road Run three days ago. My joy was doubled later that day when I received an anniversary gift from the "godmother" of my blog.

Mau Gines, a fellow blogger and the pro bono editor for my articles, gave me a framed reprint of one of the world’s most recognizable works of art --- "The Scream" by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944).  

A gift of The Scream
So, at least for this article, BP turns cultured and urbane.  We are off to the art world  to get to know more about this iconic masterpiece and perhaps discern its connection to my passion for  running, however remote.

First  stop is Sotheby’s in New York City and the date is May 2, 2012.  On this day, the "The Scream" was put up for auction and was sold for a record-breaking price of US$ $119,922,500 million, beating Pablo Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust" which was sold by Christie's in 2010 for just US$106.5 million.

The Scream for auction (photo from www.dailymail.co.uk)
To capture this momentous occasion, allow me to quote from the words of the Prospero blog of The Economist (http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2012/05/edvard-munchs-scream):

“At 7pm Tobias Meyer, who enjoys the reputation of being the James Bond of auctioneers, took the podium in a suit and haircut worthy of the nickname. He is flanked by banks of Sotheby's staff who take phone bids. The room holds about 800 seats in neat rows, bordered by press cameras. The big hitters sit discreetly in skyboxes on the upper storey, out of sight. They included Petter Olsen, a Norwegian businessman and the seller of the painting; his father was a friend and patron of Munch's. Known for having nerves of steel, Mr. Olsen had raised eyebrows when he waived a price guarantee for the work, an arrangement whereby the auction house guarantees a  minimum price in exchange for a larger commission. Your correspondent took up her position standing at the back of the room with a view of everything. The mood was quiet, well behaved, disappointingly dressed. No bling. Glamour came from a few exotic Japanese fashionistas who stood out like butterflies.

Tobias Meyer in action (photo from www.economist.com)

"The Scream" was Lot 20. The room was skittish during the first 19 lots. One by one the artworks were displayed on a kind of revolving magic cabinet. Seven lots fell short of their presale estimate, while 12 sold well above. Gauguin and Picasso did well, lesser figures like Bonnard, Van Dongen and Soutine did less so. 

"And now," said Mr Meyer in his silky but rather sinister German accent, "to a major moment." "The Scream" appeared on the revolving cabinet edged by a couple of body guards. The room stiffened. Bidding opened at $40m and rose fast in increments of a million. At $50m a new bidder in the room entered the battle. There were seven bidders up to $80m, and then the small fry dropped out. Two bidders took it up to $90m, where it stuck. Mr. Meyer, who confesses to loving moments of danger, became incredibly cool: "Take your time, I have all the time in the world." We were off again: $98m, $99m, $100m (applause). At $105m it stuck again, but then two quick bids and it was done, sold on the telephone for $107m hammer price, which with buyer's commission brings it up to $120m. Wild applause.

Who could have bought it? As soon as the hammer fell, speculation began. With a telephone bid one can make an educated guess. The big spenders tend to bid through their favourites among the Sotheby's staff. But for this sale Sotheby's mixed up the usual pairings. The mystery winning bid came through Charles Moffett, a Sotheby's vice president and vice chairman of its worldwide Impressionist, modern and contemporary art department. In New York, which this week has become a Little Oslo, you hear Norwegian spoken everywhere; rumours are swirling in both languages. (Sotheby's code name for the sale was SMORBROD, the Norwegian word  for sandwich.) Among the names floating about are Leonard Blavatnik, a financier, Paul Allen, a Microsoft tycoon, and members of the Qatari royal family. 

It took 12 minutes to sell the piece. They were the most successful 12 minutes in auction-house history—and a sadly amusing epilogue to the career of the once-penniless artist Edvard Munch."

Penniless? In 1895, the year Edvard Munch created "The Scream", the Norwegian artist was so poor that debt collectors entered his studio and carried away his easel in lieu of a small debt of 25 marks. 

Accustomed to such events, Munch propped his work on a chair and carried on.

Munch 1895

Such singular dedication to his artist craft.  No wonder Munch got to create an icon of modern art, a Mona Lisa of our time.  And I think, we have here, our first connection between "The Scream" and running. If we are to have a fabulous run, we should be focused for the quest for it. To a painter, the canvas is his jealous mistress. To a runner like me, running is the jealous mistress.

Second stop is Munch’s hometown of Oslo, Norway.  It is pointed out by Oslo residents that  the site of the painting is an overlook on the side of a road called "Valhallveien" on a hill above Oslo, Norway. The hill is known as Ekeberg Hill, Ekeberg being a neighborhood of Oslo just south of the city. The winding road up to the park on the top of Ekeberg Hill was a popular place for citizens of Oslo to view the city. The hill and park were also popular places for Oslo artists to paint. In a page in his diary headed Nice 22.01.1892, Munch described his inspiration for the image:

"I was walking along a path with two friends - the sun was setting - suddenly the sky turned blood red - I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence - there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and he city - my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety - and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature."
Valhallveien, Oslo (photo from www.potspotsnyc.com)
This is where I get my second connection between the painting and running. In a period of anxiety, the painter’s reaction was to scream. To me, in times of stress or anxiety or depression, my coping mechanism is to run. Try it, it is very effective.
Two connections on running and the painting.
Thank you, Mau, for the reminder. Thank you for the gift. 



  1. welcome, pading vic! you made an impressive connection between the painting and running.

  2. Thank you again Kumareng Mau. The gift made me revisit my fondness for paintings. Maybe I should be visiting a museum or an art exhibit soon. It can aid in visualization. Any suggestions?