Sotheby's auctions Rene Magritte painting

Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby's

Magritte Painting Sells for Record-Breaking A$109m at Sotheby’s

A painting by renowned surrealist artist René Magritte has gone on to fetch an eye-watering £59 million, approximately A$109 million, at Sotheby’s yesterday, breaking the Belgian artist’s auction record.

Titled L’Empire des lumières, the painting came with an original estimate in excess of A$82 million. Making its market debut at Sotheby’s London on Wednesday evening, the painting was the star of the auction house’s Modern & Contemporary Evening Auction. After a short bidding war that saw bidding increase by a million pounds at a time, the painting sold for more than double Magritte’s previous record sale; A$36 million for Le Principe Du Plaisir.

L’Empire des lumières by René Magritte | Source: Sotheby’s

The 1961 work was painted for Magritte’s friend Anne-Marie Gillion Crowet and has remained in the family up until now. Most recently, the piece was on loan to the Musée Magritte in Brussels where it was exhibited from 2009 until 2020.

Contrasting a bright blue sky with a dark night-time streetscape, Magritte offers a surrealist depiction of a quiet street near the Parc Josaphat in Brussels.

I have always felt the greatest interest in night and day, without however having any preference for one or the other. This great personal interest in night and day is a feeling of admiration and astonishment.

René Magritte

According to Sotheby’s, the painting is one of 17 oil paintings that represent Magritte’s “only real attempt to create a ‘series’ within his oeuvre”.

The winning bid for the modern masterpiece was made over the phone through Sotheby’s chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art in Asia.

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