René Magritte masterpiece to be auctioned at London Sotheby’s for estimated £45m

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  • René Magritte
    Belgian painter (1898-1968)
The painting will go under the hammer in March (Sotheby’s)
The painting will go under the hammer in March (Sotheby’s)

A painting by the acclaimed Belgian surrealist René Magritte will be auctioned in London with an estimate of nearly £45 million.

The sale of L’empire des lumières at Sotheby's next month could set a new record for the late artist’s work and has an estimated price tag which is among the highest for a work of art in Europe.

It was created for Magritte’s friend, Anne-Marie Gillion Crowet, in 1961, and has remained in her family ever since.

Crowet, who met Magritte when she was 16, became a lifelong friend of the artist and appeared in many of his most significant paintings.

Helena Newman, Chairman of Sotheby's Europe, described the painting as a “masterpiece of 20th-century art”.

She said: “With its impressive scale, the cinematic painting draws the viewer into Magritte’s timeless world.

“Its immediacy and power encapsulate the ‘star quality’ that places Magritte firmly among the pantheon of the market’s most sought-after artists.

“We could not be more thrilled to start the new year by presenting this show-stopping work in London, where it represents a new benchmark both for the artist and the global art market.”

L’empire des lumières (The Empire of Light) is a “paradoxical” image of a nocturnal landscape beneath a sunlit sky.

It is one of a series of 27 oil paintings Magritte created from the 1940s to the 1960s.

Before being auctioned, Sotheby’s revealed the artwork is set to go on display in a number of different places including Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong, and then London.

It will then form the centrepiece of the auction house’s Modern & Contemporary Evening Auction on March 2.

Anne-Marie, alongside her husband Roland, is a key figure in Belgium’s cultural scene, having recently donated their Art Nouveau collection to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.

Currently, the most expensive Magritte work sold was his 1937 portrait Le Principe du plaisir which sold for the equivalent of £19.7m at Sotheby’s New York in November 2018.

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