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'Scream' Mystery Buyer Unmasked as UES Billionaire Leon Black

By Amy Zimmer | July 12, 2012 12:24pm
Leon Black attends MoMA's 39th Annual Party in the Garden on May 15, 2007 in New York City.
Leon Black attends MoMA's 39th Annual Party in the Garden on May 15, 2007 in New York City.
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Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

MANHATTAN — The mystery buyer who snapped up Edvard Munch’s "Scream" for a record $119.9 million at Sotheby’s auction house in May has been unmasked as New York financier Leon Black, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The billionaire, who is well traveled in the city’s rarefied art circles, sits on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, potentially setting up a battle between the two powerhouse institutions for access to the rare piece, the Journal noted.

This version of Edvard Munch's famed masterpiece, which dates back to 1895, is one of four "Screams," but is the only one still in private hands, according to Sotheby's. 

It's considered the most colorful and vibrant of the four and is the only version with an original frame hand-painted by Munch, including a poem detailing the work's inspiration, according to the auction house.

Black is no stranger to shelling out big bucks for famous artworks. He bought a Raphael chalk drawing, "Head of a Muse," from Christie’s for $47.6 million that set a record at the time for a work on paper, according to the Journal.  His home at 760 Park Ave. already features a $750 million collection including drawings by Vincent van Gogh, watercolors by J.M.W. Turner, Pablo Picasso’s cubist works and ancient Chinese bronzes.

The 61-year-old lead partner of buyout firm Apollo Global Management was listed at No. 330 on Forbes' billionaires list, which ranked him No. 106 for the top U.S. earners.

Black helped fund a biography of Picasso, Forbes said. He also founded the stem cell initiative at Mount Sinai Hospital and, with his wife, established the Melanoma Research Alliance, which is reportedly the largest private foundation exploring a cure for the disease.