René Magritte painting goes under the hammer alongside FIAC contemporary art fair

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"L'Art de la conversation" ("The Art of Conversation") by René Magritte (1950) goes under the hammer October 26 at Sotheby's.

Sotheby's is hoping to make an impression during the next edition of the International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC) in Paris. For the occasion, the auction house will offer for sale the René Magritte masterpiece, "L'Art de la conversation" ("The Art of Conversation"). The painting could fetch up to €12 million (or around $13.9 million).

For Thomas Bompard, senior international specialist at Sotheby's, this painting has everything that explains why many international collectors put Magritte at the top of their wish list. Indeed, the Belgian painter deploys some of his favorite themes, such as the "word-paintings" that have been an integral part of his work since the 1920s, and the famous Magritte night.

"L'Art de la conversation" was created in 1950, a time when Magritte returned to surrealism after having definitively turned the page on his ironic and garish paintings of the war years. At the same time, he had just embarked on a collaboration with Greek-American art dealer Alexandre Iolas -- a partnership that would open the door to the American market.

The painting for sale at Sotheby's testifies to this context of new ambition, where Magritte was working towards his international consecration and went in search of perfect poetic images. "It is an absolutely magnificent surrealist image, an invitation to travel opening onto a world of poetry and mystery, under a moonlight as only Magritte knows how to paint them," says Thomas Bompard.

Sotheby's has estimated "The Art of Conversation" at between €9 and €12 million (between $10.4 and $13.9 million). The amount attests not only to the painting's prestigious provenance, but also to its rarity on the market. Indeed, the auction house claims that this is the first time the painting has featured in a public sale.

FIAC is back

Bidding could rise, however, given collectors' enthusiasm for Magritte's works in recent years. One such work, "Le principe du plaisir" ("The Pleasure Principle") sold for $26.8 million at Sotheby's New York in 2018 -- a record price that's as yet unmatched for the Belgian Surrealist.

"L'Art de la conversation" will go under the hammer at the next edition of the Sotheby's "Modernités" sale, alongside another painting by Magritte, "L'Ingénue," and "Ohne Titel (Dein Trefrischer)" by the German artist Kurt Schwitters. Thirty-five lots will be offered for auction during this event, including 17 works never before seen in public sales.

The "Modernités" auction will be held October 26, coinciding with the end of the FIAC art fair. This year, the fair is setting up in new spaces at the French capital's Grand Palais Éphémère and the Galerie Eiffel. Participating in this first real-world "post-covid" edition of the fair will be more than 160 galleries of modern art, contemporary art, design and publishing from 25 countries.

Caroline Drzewinski

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