NEW YORK, NY.-
On November 13, Christies
will offer René Magrittes Lempire des lumières, 1949 (estimate: $14-18 million) as a highlight of the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale. The present canvas is celebrated as one of the artists most iconic works and is the very first example that Magritte completed from his landmark Lempire des lumières series a theme that he would spend the subsequent fifteen years exploring. Coming from a private collection, Lempire des lumières, was first-owned by Nelson A. Rockefeller. It was acquired by Rockefeller in 1950, then chairman and president of Chase National Bank, while also serving in similar roles at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. This marks the first time that this canvas has ever been offered at auction. Lempire des lumières, 1949 will be on public view at Christies Hong Kong from 28 September 3 October.
Sharon Kim, International Director of Impressionist & Modern Art at Christies, comments, Christies is honored to have the opportunity to bring this important work to auction for the first time when the global market is currently exhibiting a strong demand for surrealist masterpieces. This a landmark work in Magrittes oeuvrethe first complete canvas in the artists iconic series Lempire des lumièresmaking this an extremely exciting opportunity for buyers.
The iconic series that was launched with this picture, is centered around a concept which explores the harmony and tension between day-and-night, a theme at the very heart of Surrealism. Additional paintings from this series were acquired by many of the greatest private collectors of the 20th-century, including Jean and Dominique de Menil, Peggy Guggenheim, composer Richard Rodgers, and Harry Torczyner, one of Magrittes most dedicated collectors. They also can be seen in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels.
Each successive picture displays the key elements seen in the present, original Lempire des lumièresa nocturnal street scene in a placid, well-maintained quarter of town. This quiet view was similar to Magrittes own rue de Esseghem in Brussels, with eerily shuttered houses, windows faintly lit from within and a single lamppost, shining forth like a beacon. The hour is late, and most of the occupants are presumably asleep. Only the onlooker is witness to the bizarre vision abovea night sky with neither moon nor stars, lacking the least hint of darkness. For as far as one can see, a blue sunlit sky with lazily drifting white clouds fills the ether expanse. In the characteristic, straightly descriptive manner in which Magritte painted this scene, all is as naturalbut in myriad connotations, also as paradoxicalas night and day.
The beauty and revelation of Lempire des lumièresperhaps what contributed to its enduring statusis that Magritte reconciles the traditionally opposing elements of earth and sky, night and day, darkness and light to the underlying harmony found in these contrasts. After I had painted Lempire des lumières, Magritte explained to a friend in 1966, I got the idea that night and day exist together, that they are one. This is reasonable, or at the very least its in keeping with our knowledge: in the world night always exists at the same time as day. (Just as sadness always exists in some people at the same time as happiness in others.) But such ideas are not poetic. What is poetic is the visible image of the picture (quoted S. Whitfield, Magritte, exh. cat., The South Bank Centre, London, 1992, no. 111).