Surrealist artist Magritte's US$10.4 million painting to lead Paris auctions

Sotheby's Paris will soon be in the limelight with their Modernite sales on 26 October. It is part of the Paris Art Week, which will see a series of sales and exhibitions continue until 28 October. 

Belgian Surrealist artist Rene Magritte’s The Art of Conversation painting is the leading lot. It is estimated between €9 million and 12 million euros (around US$10.4-13.9 million dollars). The painting will be sold alongside highlight lots by different Modern Art Masters – including Kurt Schwittzer, Zao Wou-ki and Rembrandt Bugatti.

This Parisian sale follows the successful auctions in Hong Kong and London earlier in the month. Sotheby's Hong Kong saw record-breaking Asian prices for Picasso and Vincent van Gogh's masterpieces, while Sotheby's London saw Banksy's self-destructing artwork set an auction record for the mysterious graffiti artist. 

Rene Magritte | The Art of Conversation, Oil on canvas

Created in 1950
48.4 x 60.2 cm

  • Alexander Iolas, Paris (consigned by the artist from January 1951 to August 1952)
  • René Magritte, Belgium (from August 1952 to February 1958)
  • Harry Torczyner, New York (acquired from the artist in February 1958)
  • Peter de Maerel, New York (acquired from the above)
  • Private collection, Philadelphia (by 1993)
  • Private collection, Antwerp
  • Private collection, Brussels (acquired from the above)

Estimate: €9,000,000 – 12,000,000 (around US$10.4-13.9 million)


Rene Magritte was a Belgian-born artist, known for his Surrealist and thought-provoking masterpieces. Magritte reimagined painting as a critical tool that could challenge perception and engage the viewer’s mind. He used a method of severing objects from their names, revealing language to be an artifice – full of traps and uncertainties. 

This painting travelled around the world, and was once owned by the influential Greek collector, Alexander Iolas. He represented Magritte and the Surrealist art movement in his galleries across the world in cities such as Paris, New York and Milan. 

Renowned Greek collector, Alexander Iolas 

Iconic art collectors, John and Dominique de Menil 

The Greek collector also opened the doors of the American market to the Belgian artist – particularly to prominent French-American Modern Art collectors, John and Dominique de Menil.

Magritte's artworks were part of approximately 17,000 items in the Menil Collection. Ranging from ancient to contemporary artworks, the Collection is considered as one of the most important privately assembled collections of the 20th century. 


The Art of Conversation is a collage of two nocturnal visions that meet to form the word Love. It is the artist's declaration of love for all variety of signs (the word sign here being the phonetic equivalent of French of swan (cygne) available to him to paint the visible world and reveal the invisible. 

Rene Magritte | L’Ingenue, Oil on canvas

Created in 1945
80 x 60 cm

  • Robert De Keyn, Brussels
  • Thence by descent to the present owner

Estimate: €3,500,000 – 5,500,000 (around US$4-6.4 million)


L'Ingenue belonged to the renowned Belgian collector, Robert de Keyn, and his family since 1945 until now.  

De Keyn bought L'Ingenue and La Vie heureuse in 1945 at Brussels' Galerie des Editions de la Boetie. The Galerie was an important Surrealist exhibition organised by Magritte himself. These purchases of the paintings emphasised de Keyn's strong support for the artist. 

Rene's wife, Georgette 


The Second World War was an intense period of rapprochement for the Magritte couple. Both figures almost separated shortly before the invasion of Brussels in May 1940 due to infidelity on both sides. 

The painting's nude woman is modelled on Georgette, the artist's wife and muse. It was part of a series of nudes which became a manifesto of rekindled love between the couple. 

L'Ingenue represents this search for love and sensuality. Georgette is portrayed using a tight yet sensual brushstroke that places the artist at summum of Magritte's technical and pictorial mastery. While the velvet of her skin calls for touching, her closed eyes echo the private interiority of love. Georgette is depicted with red rose, further symbolising gentleness, tenderness and romantic love. 

Other highlight lots:

Kurt Schwittzer | Ohne Titel (Dein Treufrischer) (Untitled, Yours Treusfrischer) | Assemblage, oil, paper, metal, cotton wool and button on nailed board, in its artist’s original frame

Created in 1921
38.2 x 30.8 cm

  • Raoul Hausmann, Berlin (by 1921, probably gift from the artist)
  • Galerie Berggruen, Paris (before 1952)
  • Sidney Janis Gallery, New York (1952)
  • Joseph Randall Shapiro, Chicago (until 1971)
  • Galerie Tarica, Paris (1971-73)
  • Private collection, Paris (by 1973)
  • Linda Hyman Fine Arts, New York (circa 1995)
  • Pace Wildenstein, New York (1995, commission)
  • Galerie 623, Paris
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1995-96

Estimate: €2,500,000 – 3,500,000 (around US$2.9-4 million)

Zao Wou-ki | 2.6.1961, Oil on canvas

Created in 1961
73 x 116 cm

  • Kootz Gallery, New York
  • Private Collection
  • Christie's, Hong Kong, 20th Century Chinese Art, 25 April 2004, Lot 721
  • Private Collection
  • Poly International Auction Co., Ltd., 4 June 2019, Lot 4515
  • Private Collection, Asia

Estimate: €2,000,000 – 3,000,000 (around US$2.3-3.5 million)

Rembrandt Bugatti | Hippopotame baillant, Bronze

Conceived circa 1905
Height: 36 cm

  • Joseph Reinach, Paris
  • Alain Lesieutre, Paris
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1964

Estimate: €1,500,000 – 2,000,000 (around US$1.7-2.3 million)

Rene Magritte | La perspective amoureuse, Gouache on paper

Created in 1936
32.8 x 22.3 cm

  • Private collection (acquired directly from the artist and sold: Sotheby's, London, April 22, 1971, Lot 72)
  • Paul Stooshnoff (acquired at the above sale)
  • Galleria Gissi, Turin
  • Private collection, Italy (acquired from the above circa 1975 and sold: Sotheby's, London, February 28, 2018, Lot 44)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: €1,400,000 – 1,800,000 (around US$1.6-2.1 million)

Auction Details:

Auction House: Sotheby’s Paris

Date and Time: 26 October 2021 | 6pm (Paris local time)

Sale: Modernites, as part of Paris Art Week   

Number of lots: 35