René Magritte’s “Empire of Lights”, a masterpiece of the 20th century, sold for 59.4 million pounds (about 71.5 million euros) at an auction in London on Wednesday, a record for a work by a Belgian artist.
Sotheby’s, which organized the sale, announced on Twitter that “to mark a new auction record for surrealist master Rene Magritte, the evocative ‘Empire of Lights’ rises to £59.4 million.”
In 2018, Magritte’s painting “The Pleasure Principle” sold for $26.8 million at an auction in New York.
Sotheby’s estimated the “Empire of Lights” at more than $60 million (54 million euros). This is one of his most famous works with “La Trahison des Images” (“This is not a pipe”) and “Son of Man”, which represents a man in front of the sea, a green apple in front of his face. .
The Empire of Lights was painted in 1961 for Magritte’s friend and muse Anne-Marie Gilion Croett, daughter of Belgian collector Pierre Croett. And since then she has remained in the family.
It depicts a house in Brussels at night, lit by a lamppost, while a clear blue sky strewn with clouds seems to indicate that it is daytime.
Description of the house “The frightening mixture of a dark street, at night under a bright blue sky is typical of Magritte’s surreal images – where two seemingly opposing things combine to create a ‘false reality'”.
This 114.5 x 146 cm painting has been exhibited worldwide in Rome, Paris, Vienna, Milan, Seoul, Edinburgh or San Francisco and was loaned to the Magritte Museum in Brussels from 2009 to 2020.
Sotheby’s considers this painting “arguably the most cinematic of all Magritte’s work,” noting that it inspired a scene from the 1973 horror film “The Exorcist.”
The painting is part of a series of seventeen oil paintings that “constitute Magritte’s only real attempt to create +series+ in his work,” Sotheby’s said.
The series was an instant hit with the public and collectors – with an early edition purchased by Nelson Rockefeller and examples now in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas and at – the Royal Belgian Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels.
“Web specialist. Freelance coffee advocate. Reader. Subtly charming pop culture expert.”