Home Magazine Magritte: an artist with a "surreal" value

On the 10 of July, as part of "ONE: A Global Sale of the 20th Century", Christie's will auction René Magritte's L’arc de Triomphe from 1962 (estimate: 6.5 - 9.5 million USD). The sale is a global auction of 20th-century art spanning four cities in one relay-style format. The multi-part, live sale will take place in real-time across time zones, transitioning consecutively through Christie’s major hubs: Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York. 

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"L’arc de Triomphe" has a simple composition, in which a single tree is depicted against a full background of leaves. Magritte painted the work in 1962 and it was bought immediately afterwards by his friend Harry Torczyner. Torczyner was an important promoter of the surrealist artist in America who also published his correspondence with the artist in 1994 with the book Magritte-Torczyner: Letters Between Friends. Also noteworthy was the November 1998 sale of the Torczyner estate, which brought a total of fourteen works by Magritte to auction. Among the works for sale, "Les valeurs personnelles", 1952, sold for an impressive 6.5 million dollars, well ahead of its estimate of 2.5 and 3.5 million dollars.


René Magritte’s L’arc de triomphe (1962, estimate- £6.5-9.5 million). Courtesy Christie's.


Olivier Camu, Deputy Chairman of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s commented “[A]fter the outstanding results achieved for René Magritte’s work in London in February this year, we are thrilled and honoured to be able to present to the market the artist’s magnificent "L’arc de Triomphe" of 1962. One of only a handful of Magritte paintings of such a large scale left in private hands, "L’arc de Triomphe", formerly in the celebrated collection of Harry Torczyner, has not been seen in public since it was purchased from Christie’s over 25 years ago. The choice of title suggests Magritte believed that this composition was a triumph in his quest to answer the problem of how to represent trees whilst also revealing the mystery of reality. Magritte certainly has succeeded in capturing the essence of the tree in this work, and, as usual, he brilliantly subverts our expectations, playing with perspective by juxtaposing a massive and distant tree against a background of meticulously depicted leaves seen in close-up. The impossible contradiction makes a strong and poetic impression especially with such a large format, taking the viewer in, as a forest would.”

The market's growing interest in Surrealism is confirmed by the new record price reached by the artist. In November 2018, Sotheby's sold Le Principe du Plaisir for 26.8 million USD the work's estimate was between 15 and 20 million USD. This sale has placed the artist among the best-selling modernists currently on the market. The painting L’arc de Triomphe boasts an impressive exhibition history, having been exhibited for the first time at the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Charleroi in 1962 and then appearing at various exhibitions dedicated to Dada, Surrealism and its crossovers at the Museum of Modern Art in Los Angeles and at the Art Institute of Chicago. The collector and businessman Sidney Janis exhibited the work in a personal exhibition dedicated to the artist in December 1977. The work was last seen at auction in 1992 when it was sold at Christie's for 1.1 million USD. In 2000 it passed into the hands of the current seller through a private sale.

Written by Elisabetta Rastelli

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