A René Magritte painting featuring a doubled figure in a bowler hat could set a new auction record for the Belgian Surrealist when it makes its auction debut at Christie’s in London on February 27th. Le Lieu Commun (1964) will be the star lot of the auction house’s “The Art of the Surreal” Evening Sale and has been tagged with a pre-sale estimate of £15 million to £25 million ($19.5–32.5 million). Magritte’s current auction record of $20.5 million was set by L’empire des lumières (1949) at Christie’s New York saleroom almost a year ago. Le Lieu Commun features a doubled view of one of Magritte’s iconic, bowler-hatted men against a truncated backdrop featuring a stone column and a verdant forest.
In a press release announcing the sale, Olivier Camu, Christie’s deputy chairman of Impressionist and Modern Art, said:
The everyman figure of the bowler-hatted man was used by Magritte as a pictorial cypher, moving between layers of reality. The present work is highly enigmatic and inventive. In Le Lieu Commun Magritte subverts the traditional genres of portrait and landscape painting and challenges our understanding of reality and representation; he plays with the viewer’s sense of what is real and what can be perceived. Uniquely we see this figure both in front of and behind the column so that he is at once revealed and obscured.
Le Lieu Commun boasts a stellar provenance: It formerly belonged to preeminent Magritte collector and patron Gustave Nellens, and was at one time in the collection of the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum. It will be sent on a world tour of Christie’s showrooms—beginning in New York, where it is currently displayed—through late February, when it goes on view in London. The tour does not, however, include a stop in Brussels, where a street was recently named after the artist’s most famous painting.