Christie’s London Evening Sales Feature a Record-Breaking $43.2 Million Magritte Masterpiece

A 1958 Magritte exhibiting one of the artist’s most well-known styles met the lower end of its estimate and led Christie’s The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale in London on Thursday.

L’ami intime, or “The Intimate Friend,” sold for £33.6 million (US$43.2 million) plus fees, above the expectation of £30 million to £50 million. According to Christie’s, this artwork was a prime example of Magritte’s surrealist nature, and it was auctioned for the first time in almost 40 years. The sale is the artist’s second-highest ever, trailing only the 2022 sale of “L’empire des lumières” (The Empire of Light), which reached £59 million.

Several British painters were also represented at the sale, with excellent showings. Francis Bacon’s Landscape near Malabata, Tangier sold for £19.63 million plus fees, exceeding the original estimate of £15 million to £20 million. The painting’s provenance was particularly noteworthy; it had previously been owned by novelist Roald Dahl and his ex-wife, actress Patricia Neal. It remains one of Bacon’s most popular works, appearing in 32 shows in 27 places.

California, David Hockney’s first full pool painting, sold for £18.710 million, including fees. No pre-auction estimate was published. Lucian Freud’s Kai, which debuted at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1993, sold for £4.638 million with fees, falling within the estimated range of £4 million to £6 million. Michael Andrews’ School III: Butterfly Fish and Damsel Fish set a new auction record of £3.125 million, including fees, surpassing the original estimate of £1.6 to £2.2 million.

Two Monets also appeared, in keeping with expectations.Matinée sur la Seine, temps net (1897) sold for £14.397 million with fees (estimate: £12 million to £18 million), while Prairie fleurie à Giverny (1890) sold for £6.29 million (estimate: £5.5 million to £8.5 million).

According to Christie’s, total sales increased 17% over the same event last year, with Christie’s 20th / 21st Century: London Evening Sale and The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale grossing a combined £196,685,600. According to auction data, the majority of sold lots fell within estimates, with only a few exceeding pre-auction numbers.

Unsold works included a Keith Haring painting from a private collection and Marc Chagall’s Flowers and Fruits.

The auction series will continue on Friday with the Impressionist and Modern Art Day and Works on Paper Sale, followed by the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale on Sunday.

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