Exhibition: René Magritte photographs and films displayed in Hong Kong’s New ArtisTree

ArtisTree’s collection of original photographs and films taken by René Magritte bring new insight into the life and work of the influential Belgian artist

Jan 16, 2018 | By Mary Ann Lim

For the first time in Asia and Europe, an exhibition featuring 132 original photographs and eight films by the influential Belgian artist, René Magritte, will be presented by Swire Properties’ ArtisTree and Ludion at New ArtisTree in Hong Kong. Running from 19 January to 19 February, the exhibition entitled ‘René Magritte: The Revealing Image – Photos and Films’ will be presented alongside a series of educational programmes, and seeks to bring new awareness to the life and work of this prominent artist.

René Magritte, ‘La Clarvoyance’, 1936. Image courtesy Collection Charly Herscovici.

Magritte is no foreigner to the art world, having been established as one of the leading Surrealist artists of the 20th century. Setbacks in his Impressionist career spurred him to move to Paris where he subsequently joined the company of the French writer André Breton, writer of the ‘Surrealist Manifesto’, an association which projected Magritte’s artistic direction into the burgeoning Surrealist movement. Further, his interests in the philosophy of representation also influenced his own exploration of perception and reality, a key motif found in his acclaimed works, such as ‘The Treachery of Images’ and ‘The Son of Man’.

Less commonly known however, was the role of photography present in his Surrealist works. While many of his contemporaries, including the notable Man Ray and his former assistant Jacques-André Boiffard, centred their practice primarily on photography, Magritte concentrated on painting as his dominant and only medium of artistic expression. Thus, the discovery of the photographs and films depicting intimate aspects of his life and creative processes, not only illuminates a new relationship between the medium of photography and his main object of study in painting, but also brings to the fore Magritte’s own self-reflexive relationality with his works.

René Magritte, ‘René Magritte and the Barbarian (Le Barbare)’, 1936. Image courtesy Brachot Gallery, Brussels.

In this spirit, “René Magritte” promises to be a comprehensive collection encompassing spontaneous shots that bring new insight into Magritte’s life, to posed shots of friends and tableaus that shed light upon his creative processes. “This is a very important exhibition as it offers audiences around the world an intimate look at one of the most popular and influential surrealist artists of the 20th century,” says Chief Curator Xavier Canonne. “I’m delighted that the collection will be hosted at ArtisTree in Hong Kong, before continuing its Asia and world tour.”

Among the highlights in the exhibition is ‘The Oblivion Seller’, which was taken in the summer of 1936. It is a spontaneous composition of Georgette Magritte, Magritte’s wife, and is particularly revealing of the oblique processes that characterize the movement from photography to painting. Here, Magritte had placed his pipe and her necklace next to her hair as she lay upon the beach, seemingly unperturbed by external forces, before capturing the image. In the correlated painting, ‘Georgette’, completed the following year in 1937, Georgette Magritte is presented as a portrait with several items floating and circling her headshot against the backdrop of clouds. Where photography captured lucid details of Georgette’s image as mediated by Magritte’s gaze, painting extracted and obscured the lucidity in exchange for the emphasis on Magritte’s perceptual associations with a loving portrait of his wife.

René Magritte, ‘The Oblivion Seller (La marchande d’oubli)’, 1936. Image courtesy Collection Charly Herscovici.

Curated into six different sections which are all held at New ArtisTree, the first section offers its audiences an opportunity to gaze into the daily life of Magritte with ‘A Family Album’, before traversing from the private into the social with ‘A Family Resemblance’, which showcases images of Magritte’s relationship with the Brussels Surrealist group. In ‘Resembling a Painter’, audiences are made privy to Magritte’s own reactions to his works, which often included self-deprecatory posturing.

As a foil to the tongue-in-cheek illustrations in the previous section, the next three sections feature Magritte’s artistic deliberations that demonstrate the compelling correlation between his photographs, films and paintings, as well as Magritte’s commitment to documentation of his works. ‘Photography Enhanced’ highlights a series of images that reveal how his photographs became later inspirations for his paintings, while ‘The Imitation of Photography; Magritte and the Cinema(tography)’ explores the related influence of film with respect to extracts of Magritte’s own films. Lastly, an immersive journey through a series of portraits taken at different stages of his life constitutes “The False Mirror”, the final section, which invites audiences to contemplate upon Magritte’s illustrious artistic career and corpus.

For more information on the exhibition, please visit the official website


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