A masterpiece by Belgian surrealist René Magritte, described as one of the most desirable works in private hands, is expected to sell for a record £ 45 million when it goes up for auction for the first time this year.
Helena Newman, president of Sotheby’s Europe, said the “striking” painting, L’empire des lumières, depicting a street at night under a bright blue sky, would be the star of an auction in London on March 2.
The 114.5 cm by 146 cm work was painted in 1961 for Anne-Marie Gillion Crowet, a muse and close friend who met the artist through her father, the Belgian surrealist collector Pierre Crowet. The family loaned it to the Magritte Museum in Brussels from 2009 to 2020.
If the painting’s $ 60 million (£ 45 million) estimate is reached, it would be the highest price paid for a work by Magritte, whose most famous paintings include La trahison des images (The Betrayal of Images) from a pipe that it is not a pipe. It is already one of the highest estimates for a work of art in Europe.
Crowet’s likeness is found in several of Magritte’s works, and even some of those he painted before the two met. The artist told her after their first meeting when she was 16 years old: “You see, I was already painting you before I met you(You see, I was already painting you before I met you).
Magritte, who died in 1967, played chess with Pierre Crowet at his favorite bistro and spent afternoons with him and his wife, Georgette, watching Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton movies.
He had started L’empire des lumières in 1948, returning and enriching his vision over time, to leave behind 17 works, the only real attempt to create a “series” within Magritte’s work.
The first version of the painting was purchased by Nelson Rockefeller with others now in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Menil Collection in Houston, and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels. .
The painting for sale is Magritte’s largest horizontal version and depicts a suburban setting believed to be a street near Parc Josaphat in Brussels, where the artist moved in 1954. The image is said to have served as inspiration for a scene in the 1973 film The Exorcist.
Before being auctioned, the painting will be on public display at Sotheby’s galleries in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, New York and London.
Newman said: “L’empire des lumières, a masterpiece of 20th century art, brings together the two most fundamental elements of everyday life, those of day and night, on a paradoxical canvas. With its impressive scale, cinematic painting draws the viewer into the timeless world of Magritte.
“His immediacy and power encapsulate the ‘star quality’ that places Magritte firmly among the pantheon of the most sought-after artists on the market.”
Crowet, who was a Belgian tennis champion in 1955, married Baron Roland Gillion, a Belgian businessman. They have donated much of their art collection to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.
Magritte’s most expensive painting so far is The Pleasure Principle, sold at Sotheby’s in November 2018 for $ 26.8 million.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism