Sotheby’s Offers Iconic Magritte for $60 Million

A defining surrealist image comes to London sales as the Belgian painter’s market continues to thrive.


Among René Magritte’s many famous images expressing the uncanniness of modern life, none is as recognizable as his composition titled L’empire des lumières, of which he made 17 different versions beginning in 1948. Among the largest of those works was made in 1961 for Anne-Marie Gillion, the Belgian collector and patron whose father was a collector of Magritte’s work and whose likeness Magritte believed he knew before having met her. 

Sotheby’s has now announced that Gillion’s version of the work, which has never been sold, will be offered in London on March 2nd during the Modern and Contemporary Evening auction with an estimate of in excess of $60 million. 

The price would almost triple the highest price ever paid for a Magritte at public auction. Last year, more than $82 million was spent on Magritte’s work in public auctions. 

The Gillion painting has been on loan to the Magritte Museum in Brussels for more than a decade prior to its sale. It has been exhibited in Rome, Paris, Vienna, Milan, Seoul, Edinburgh, and San Francisco. Sotheby’s will have the work on public view in Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong and London over the six weeks leading up to the auction.

Examples of L’empire des lumières are held in museums including 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 in Brussels. The first work in the series was bought by Nelson Rockefeller. 

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