Paris Art Week, a series of live and online sales devoted to Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art held by Sotheby’s (26/21/14.9% buyer’s premium) Paris rooms, was headlined on October 26 with a 35-lot auction titled Modernités which realised a premium-inclusive total of €43.9m.
It was led by the Belgian Surrealist René Magritte’s (1898-1967) painting L’Art de la Conversation (above). The 19 x 23¾in (48 x 60 cm) oil on canvas, which dates from 1950, comprises two overlaid nocturnal scenes which spell out the word ‘Amour’.
Signed Magritte lower left, this work is titled L’Art de la Conversation, numbered (II) and dated 1950 on the reverse. It was in the collection of prominent dealer Alexander Iolas, who introduced Magritte to the American market, and paved the way for the artist’s first major retrospective in US.
However, Magritte was so fond of the painting that less than a year after having given it to Iolas he asked for it back and kept it in his personal collection for several years, before selling it to his close friend Harry Torczyner in 1958.
It then passed through several other private collections coming to Sotheby’s from a private collection in Belgium.
The painting, a lot which had a guarantee and an irrevocable bid on it, was offered for sale with an estimate of €8m-12m, the highest estimate ever placed on a single lot offered by Sotheby’s France. It sold for a hammer price of €10.7m (£9.07m).
The work was one of three by Magritte included in the auction. L’Ingénue, a 2ft 7½in x 23½in (80 x 60cm) oil on canvas signed lower right and titled and dated 1945 on the reverse, was making its auction debut.
It was acquired by the Belgian collector Robert de Keyn, who owned an art supply shop frequented by the artist, during the Surrealist exhibition organised by Magritte himself at the Galerie des Editions de La Boétie in 1945 and has been in the same family ever since. It sold for €4.6m (£3.9m), the second-highest price of the auction.
The third Magritte work was La Perspective Amoureuse, a 13 x 8¾in (33 x 22 cm) gouache on paper laid on canvas, from 1936 which was signed and dated lower left and titled on the reverse.
This was last under the hammer at Sotheby’s London in 2018 when it made a hammer price of £1.15m, where it was acquired by the vendor. This time around it sold for €1.25m (£1.06m).
Among the other top prices in the Modernités sale was Kurtz Schwitters’ painting Ohne Titel (Untitled) of 1921 which was previewed in ATG No 2514.
One of his multi-media Merz paintings, a 16 x 13in (41 x 34cm) assemblage of oil, paper, metal, cotton wool and button on nailed board, sold for €4.5m (£3.8m) against a €2.5m-3.5m guide.
£1 = €1.18