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Guardian of treasures: meet the Magritte collector

By Amanda Sheppard

For Isy-Gabriel Brachot, passion wasn't merely found in childhood, but passed on through a rich family legacy. Brachot is the son of one of the world’s leading René Magritte specialists and art dealers, and is the owner of the Brachot Gallery in Brussels, which has been in his family for four generations and has represented Magritte’s work for over 50 years. During this time, more than a thousand of the 1,300 Magritte paintings have passed through the private collection.

But the Brachots weren’t only interested in Magritte’s paintings. They acquired the entire Magritte personal photography collection in 1987 at a Sotheby’s auction following the passing of Magritte’s widow, Georgette. Many of these images feature in René Magritte: The Revealing Image - Photos and Films , on display now at the new ArtisTree.

Brachot’s interest in Magritte stems, in no doubt, thanks to deep familial ties. At the age of 22, his father, interested in who he deemed to be Belgium’s most exciting artist, went knocking on Magritte’s front door looking to purchase a piece of art. “Magritte told my father to keep his money,” Brachot says, “that it was not the work that was important, but the ideas.” The poster gifted by Magritte remains in the Brachot archives to this day.

As the relationship between the family and artist strengthened, Magritte and Brachot’s grandfather partnered to stage a retrospective exhibition. Sadly, both passed away before its debut, leaving Brachot’s father the momentous task of bringing the show to life – surrounded by those who knew the artist best. “All the surrealists and Magritte’s friends supported my father,” says Brachot. It resulted in a show of 150 paintings and the first-ever view of eight Magritte sculptures produced that year. The success of the exhibition not only cemented the family’s ties with the Magritte estate, but also afforded the Brachots a lifelong association with the late surrealist.

To Brachot, the significance of the collection lies not in its quantity but in its representation of the artist. “I’ve never been interested in knowing how many [pieces we have],” Brachot says of the extensiveness of the catalogue. “The most important aspect is to be able to keep Magritte’s memory alive; he kept every single photograph he did because each of them was very important to him.”

“[This collection] is both a treasure and also a responsibility,” he continues. “We [collectors] are just custodians of these wonderful pieces of art, to ensure that the works survive to be enjoyed for generations to come.”
“Magritte told my father that it was not the work that was important, but the ideas.”
Things to ponder as you’re exploring René Magritte: The Revealing Image - Photos and Films at the new ArtisTree:
• What value do Magritte’s photographs hold from a collector’s point of view?
• What new insights do the photographs and films in this exhibition provide into Magritte’s work?

The new ArtisTree and Ludion, in collaboration with The Magritte Foundation Belgium, presents René Magritte: The Revealing Image – Photos and Films.

19 January – 19 February 2018

See the programme page for more details

Follow @artistreehk on Instagram for all the #MagritteArtistree action

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