Christie’s forthcoming Evening sale titled “The Art of The Surreal” is a special auction event focused on Surrealism and the Dada movement. The key highlight of the auction, which is scheduled to take place in London on March 7, is “L’ami intime” (The intimate friend), an artwork created by the renowned Belgian artist René Magritte (1898-1967). The painting is expected to fetch a price somewhere between 30 and 50 million pounds, which is roughly equivalent to 35-50 million euros.
The auction, which also marks the centenary of the Surrealist Manifesto penned by André Breton in October 1924, is bringing Magritte’s painting to the auction block for the first time since 1980. The painting, a representation of the iconic man in the bowler hat, a symbol widely used by Magritte, known as “the everyman”, originally belongs to the Gilbert and Lena Kaplan Collection. Its last public display was in 1998 at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels.
The figure of the man in the bowler hat first emerged in Magritte’s painting “Les rêveries du promeneur solitaire” (The Reflections of a Lonely Wanderer) in 1926. This figure has since become a recurring theme in Magritte’s work, symbolising the bourgeois, the anonymous and faceless masses, the daily worker and the solitary wanderer. In “L’ami intime”, this man with the bowler hat, ordinary yet mysteriously anonymous, is depicted from behind, almost like a silhouette, gazing out of a window at a tranquil mountain landscape and a sky filled with clouds, seemingly oblivious to the surreal sight of a floating baguette and a glass of wine behind him.
Gilbert Kaplan, the original collector of the painting, was an innovative entrepreneur who launched Institutional Investor in 1967 when he was just 25. He was also a respected connoisseur of culture. After establishing a successful company, Kaplan celebrated its 15th anniversary along with his 40th birthday by conducting Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony, the Resurrection Symphony, at the Lincoln Center in New York. The performance was well received, and after selling Institutional Investor, Kaplan continued to conduct the symphony worldwide, even lecturing and teaching at Juilliard. He also hosted a radio show on WQXR titled “Mad About Music.” Gilbert Kaplan had a lifelong passion for Gustav Mahler and René Magritte, and he served on the Carnegie Hall board of trustees for more than 30 years. He also set up a scholarship programme in the Department of Music at Harvard University, which is still benefiting students today.
Olivier Camu, a specialist at Christie’s, highlighted: “We are honoured to have been entrusted by the Gilbert Kaplan family with this masterpiece, which they have treasured for over four decades. René Magritte is arguably the most sought-after artist among all Surrealists on the international stage. ‘L’ami intime’ is part of one of Magritte’s two most iconic series of paintings, the other being his ‘Empire des lumières’. This painting is one of the most impactful and striking of the few iconic images remaining in private hands. It is a true demonstration of the artist’s hyperrealist technique, extremely poetic, serene, and mysterious, particularly considering the unknown identity of the subject and the suggestive title. We eagerly anticipate the market’s response to this remarkable painting, which has not been seen at auction since Torczyner’s 1998 sale of Magritte paintings.”