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Auction: Christie's Paris, 14/03/2015

jock123
Moderator
#1 · Posted: 11 Feb 2015 15:37 · Edited by: jock123
With a total estimated value of 1.5m €, the ten lots being presented by the Christie's auction house, in association with the Daniel Maghen Gallery, provide some of the best and most interesting pieces from the pen of Hergé to be made available for sale in what has become a veritable golden age for his art being offered to the public.

When works such as the cover-art for The Shooting Star and the original design for the early end-papers sell for over 2.5m € each, and his cover painting for Tintin in America set a record for comic art at auction several years back, it has to be said that Hergé is no longer seen as "just" a comic-book artist, but as a figure with a profound effect on his craft's history, and a major figure in contemporary 20th Century art.

To comics enthusiasts his work stands on his own merits, but even for the many who equate the ability to command large sums of money in the commercial market with the validation of an artist's importance, he is being reassessed in a positive way.

More to the point for those of us without the financial resources to buy the art itself, sales such as this give us the opportunity to see many items which otherwise might be left in a vault or on the walls of a private collection.

Foremost in a selection of fine items is the pen-and-ink art for a poster which Hergé drew for Casterman in March of 1945, depicting Tintin carrying - and dropping! - a stack of the albums available up to that time. This means that in addition to very nice main images of Tintin and Snowy, the purchaser will get, at a single stroke, eleven small vignettes representing all, or at least portions of, the cover art for those books, reproduced in miniature to an exacting level of accuracy.

There will be equal interest, I imagine, in pencil art for what is described as the last cover designed and drawn by Hergé for the Tintin magazine in 1978; this would be a significant event in and of itself, but the piece is made even more special by being a retrospective gallery revisiting what is held by many to be a milestone in his career - The Blue Lotus; it depicts not just Tintin, but many of the heroes and villains of the piece, and was used to herald a colour republication of the original Black-and-white version of the strip.

Surprisingly this cover seems to have been used on the French but not the Belgian edition of the magazine (the colour version may not have run there); it was also used on the cover of one of the hard-back collections of the magazine that same year.

Hergé's covers grew fewer and fewer over the years, but after this there was nothing other than art which had already appeared elsewhere, such as for the 50th anniversary, which reproduces the cover of the Casterman limited edition Cinquante ans de Travaux Fort Gais ("Fifty Years of Jolly Hard Labour").

The cover contains a written dedication and signature from Hergé, placed in a box originally left blank by the artist, which contained information about The Blue Lotus re-print when the final cover was composed for publication.

If you can live with them being pencil roughs rather than finished art, the two examples of work in progress pages from The Red Sea Sharks might be for you. Corresponding to pages 40 (the rescue of the castaways from their raft, and arrival on the Scheherazade) and 56 (Haddock on the bridge of the S.S. Ramona, attacking the ship's engine-room telegraph) of the finished album, they have slight differences in composition to the final versions, and come with doodles, sketches and some sums in the margins.

These star items should not overshadow the other lots, any of which would be the centre piece in anyone's collection: two individual inked frames from Prisoners of the Sun depicting Captain Haddock; a page-long advert for a chocolatier in the form of a Quick & Flupke strip, featuring Quick and Agent 15; the design for a greeting's card to be sent as press publicity for the Tintin and the Temple of the Sun film in 1969; another publicity piece, showing the major characters walking out of the frame (which given that it has several of them carrying books, and Professor Calculus is carrying what appears to be both the Belgian and U.S. flags, might have been intended for use in the States, perhaps by Little Brown?); and last but not least, an unusual item - a collaboration between Hergé and Greg (Michel Régnier), which shows Tintin welcoming Zig, Puce and Alfred the penguin to the offices of the magazine in 1963.

Zig et Puce was a strip of which Hergé had been very fond, and he admired the artist Alain Saint-Ogan who created and drew it (he owned a page of original art, which Saint-Ogan had dedicated and autographed to him); these new, later adventures were to be written and drawn by Greg, who worked with Hergé on the aborted story Les Pillules/ Tintin et le Thermozéro, edited the magazine, and who later wrote the animated feature Tintin and the Lake of Sharks.

Two new Zig et Puce stories were to appear by him: Le Prototype Zéro-Zéro and La Pierre qui Vol (The Flying Stone).

This piece, with contributions from both Hergé and Greg, and featuring characters created by one of Hergé's artistic heroes is certainly unusual, and possibly unique, so it will be interesting to see how it fares when the sale takes place.

A sign of just how seriously the comics world is being taken by collectors of contemprary art, is that there is to be a viewing of the lots in New York prior to the sale in Paris, allowing a wider number of connoisseurs to see the pages in person before considering a purchase.

There is every possibility of the sale exceeding the estimates, especially for a work as well known as the book-shop poster, which, through a reproduction of the original included as a facsimile in Dominique Maricq's excellent Hergé and the Treasures of Tintin, as well as being the inspiration for a popular statuette by Leblon, has become an iconic image of Tintin.

The lots will be on display at Christie's in New York from February the 27th until March the 4th, 2015, and then at the firm's auction house in Paris before being sold on the afternoon of the 14th March. This forms a separate showcase sale to the company's comic art sale which is taking place the same weekend.
jock123
Moderator
#2 · Posted: 19 Feb 2015 18:40
The catalogue for this sale is now available to read on line, and to download as a PDF, at the Christie's site. There are options to buy the catalogue if you prefer a hard copy.
mct16
Member
#3 · Posted: 4 Mar 2015 23:03
Here is an article from a French website about the auction. It includes the black-and-white illustrations of pages from Asterix's "Laurel Wreath" adventure and Blake and Mortimer's "Yellow M".

The article states that these are just the tip of the iceberg: the work of dozens of other European comic artists are up for grabs, including Franquin ("Marsupilami"), Pratt ("Corto Maltese"), Morris ("Lucky Luke"), Peyo ("Smurfs"), Moebius ("Blueberry"), Vance ("XIII"), etc. etc.
jock123
Moderator
#4 · Posted: 15 Mar 2015 16:16 · Edited by: jock123
Yesterday's auctions are now over, and it has to be said that the headlines are suggesting that they are being thought to have been something of an anti-climax, after the build up to them over the last few weeks.
Many lots went for less than expected, or barely made the estimated value; perhaps more importantly for the critics, star lots such as the Tintin poster art (mentioned before) failed to sell at all.
However, in amongst the doom and gloom "the comic art market bubble has burst" angst of some reports, it has to be said that there were many highs as well, which makes me think that the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

A round up of the Tintin lots which sold is as follows:

Lot 2. Cover for Tintin Magazine, depicting characters from The Blue Lotus, sold for €577,500, well in excess of the valuation estimate made prior to the sale. This was the last cover Hergé designed and drew for the magazine, and The Blue Lotus is held by many to be one of his masterpieces, so there obviously was a lot going for this piece, and the price reflects the interest in it.

Lot 4. Pencil roughs for p.56 of The Red Sea Sharks, sold for €109,500, again well over the estimate.

Lot 6. Ink rough for design of a press invitation card to a screening of the Prisoners of the Sun movie (1969), sold for €17,500 (again well over the estimate).

Lot 8. Advert for Jacques chocolate, in the form of a comic strip featuring Flupke and Agent 15, which was published in Le Petit Vingtième in 1935; sold for €47,100.

Lot 9. Frame featuring Captain haddock, dropped from album of Prisoners of the Sun, but present in the 1947 magazine edition (it was dropped presumably because it was the first frame of the strip that week, and as such it basically repeats the content of the previous week's last frame - which is Haddock and Snowy in the rowing boat, hearing the gun shots from aboard The Pachacamac which ends p.8 of the album; it also is visually very similar to the frame which follows the sequence of the Captain trying to row the boat, where he sees Tintin in the water, so my feeling is that Hergé felt it added little or nothing to the flow of the book). This single frame sold for €20,000.

Lot 10. Frame featuring Captain Haddock, dropped from album of Prisoners of the Sun; it ran in the magazine version, and comes from the scene now on p.50, where it would have fallen just before Haddock finds the old newspaper in his pocket. This sold for €21,250.

Other notable items which were to be found in the earlier general comics sale, were a page of Asterix and the Laurel Wreath, to be personally dedicated to the buyer by Uderzo, and sold without commissions or premiums to the auctioneers, proceeds for the benefit of victims of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, which achieved €181,500; and the pen and ink art for p.8 of E.P. Jacobs's Blake and Mortimer classic, The Yellow 'M', which set new record for the artist's work with a staggering €205,500 price tag.

So there were many highs amongst the lows!

It may be fair to say that the sale was not the runaway success with which Christies might have been said to have opened up the Franco-Belgian/ European comics market to America that they had hoped for, but with several millions of euros in the coffers it was a lucrative event by anyone's measure.

It's also important to bear in mind that the art is what matters, and the price tag is not validation of an artist's true value, or indicative of how good it is, so while events like this and the recent Sotheby's sale have given a shot of publicity to the marketplace, let's just sit back and admire the quality over the financial issues.

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