If the projected $80 million price for Edward Munch's painting "The Scream" does not make you want to do just that, you may have what it takes to brave today's record-breaking art auction prices.

Modern and contemporary and Impressionist artwork are the hottest items in the art world right now for collectors and investors, according to experts. Munch's painting, for example, will be sold by Sotheby's in May with an estimated minimum price of $80 million.

There are four versions of "The Scream" and this version, a pastel painted on board, has an inscription on the side about the roadside walk during a blazing sunset that inspired the artist. It is the only one left in private hands and is being offered for sale by Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen with proceeds to go to a museum and art center on Olsen's farm.

Other works have brought record prices at recent auctions. Pablo Picasso's 1932 painting of his mistress Marie-Therese Walter, "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," sold for $106.5 million at Christie's International in New York in May 2010. Last year, Paul Cezanne's painting "The Card Players" was bought by the emirate of Qatar for $250 million, reportedly the most ever paid for a work of art.

According to Patrick van der Vorst, a veteran of Sotheby's who founded the web site www.ValueMyStuff.com, modern and contemporary art are seen as good investments today. Works by young artists such as Jacob Kassay, Sterling Ruby and Thomas Houseago are in demand because the value of their creations is expected to increase.

"A lot of money is being spent on these pieces with the hopes they will escalate even more in value," he said.

Traditional and classical paintings are not as popular as investments because big collectors tend to be older, have acquired their collections and will only purchase something on rare occasions, van der Vorst said. Likewise, furniture from centuries past is not in vogue, but coins and jewelry are performing well because of their inherent value and appeal to collectors.

"Auctions for modern and contemporary art are having some of the best years in the past two to three years that they have ever had," van der Vorst said.

Investors need to be aware that artwork investments need to be carefully maintained, he added. "There is a lot more involved with artwork than investing in gold or silver that you just stash away. Art has to be insured and you have to decide how and where to display it," he said.

Even before you start thinking about a purchase, an investor should have a general idea of what a piece of art is worth and then have it officially appraised before bidding on it, he said.