Fine Art
8 min read

Rene Magritte's 'L'Ami Intime' sold for 33m GBP in 'The Art of the Surreal'

Published on
March 7, 2024
Sharon Obuobi
Editor in Chief
Akosua Kissiedu
Business Intelligence Editor
Hai Ngan Bui
Business Intelligence Writer
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London – Christie’s presented René Magritte's L'ami intime (The Intimate Friend) as the leading highlight of The Art of The Surreal Evening Sale in London on 7 March. Presented to coincide with the centenary of the Surrealist Manifesto, penned by André Breton in October 1924, the painting appeared at auction for the first time since 1980 and achieved a 33m GBP sales price (with buyer's premium).

Depicting the enigmatic bowler-hatted man, Magritte's 'everyman', L'ami intime (The Intimate Friend) is property from the Gilbert and Lena Kaplan Collection and was last exhibited in Brussels at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in 1998.

Gilbert Kaplan was a pioneering entrepreneur who founded Institutional Investor in 1967 at the age of 25. He was also a renowned cultural connoisseur. Having established and built a commercially successful company, he celebrated its 15th anniversary, together with his own 40th birthday, by conducting Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony, the Resurrection Symphony, at the Lincoln Center in New York. The debut was well received and following the sale of Institutional Investor, he went on to conduct the symphony around the world, lecturing and teaching at Juilliard. Reflecting his lifelong passion, he had a radio show on WQXR called ‘Mad About Music’. Two of the men close to Gilbert Kaplan’s heart were Gustav Mahler and René Magritte. Kaplan served on the Board of Carnegie Hall for more than 30 years and set up a fellowship programme at Harvard’s Music Department, which continues to support students today.

The figure of a man in a bowler-hat made his first appearance in Magritte’s work in the 1926 painting Les rêveries du promeneur solitaire (The Musings of a Solitary Wanderer). The figure came to function within Magritte’s oeuvre as a symbol of the bourgeois, of the anonymous, faceless masses, the everyday working man and that of the lone wanderer. In L’ami intime (The Intimate Friend) the distinctly ordinary, yet also mysteriously anonymous bowler-hatted man is seen, almost like a silhouette, from behind. Gazing out the window onto a serene, mountainous landscape and a cloud-filled sky, he appears oblivious to the strange sight of a baguette and wine glass floating in mid-air behind him.  

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