Christie's BD Auction March 2015 catalog with Asterix on the cover

Christie’s Goes Comics: Visiting Original Art at Prestigious House

Last year, I was invited to the opening soiree at Christie’s Auction House in NYC that was previewing the art for their annual Bande Dessinee auction.

I wrote up my experience for the column at the time, and reprint it here as — well, a hint for something else I’ll be writing about this week. Take a guess.

Hint:

Peyo-drawn Smurf up for auction at Christies in 2016

OhMyGodIt’sSoBee-YOO-tiful!

::ahem::

Let’s set the clock back a year and a half to March 3, 2015 for this column.  After that, I’ll reprint a column from a couple weeks later which detailed the final figures for the auction, including what some of these pages wound up selling for.

 

Sampling Christie’s Next Auction

As part of their auction of Franco-Belgian comic artwork on March 14th in Paris, the Christie’s location at Rockefeller Center, New York City is hosting a small sampling of the artwork this week. I visited it on Saturday during their gallery opening.

 

Francois Schuiten crosshatched piece of original art at auction in 2015

This Francois Schuiten page needs to be seen at full size to appreciate how much work went into the cross-hatching to get the intended effect.

 

In the front hallway leading to other larger gallery rooms, you can find nicely framed (and mostly protected behind glass) originals from the sale. There’s about 20 pieces total, representing a strong sampling of the work in the catalog. This isn’t Christie’s pulling out the safest and cheapest pieces to show the world, either. No, this small sampling has some of the most desirable pages in the auction. You can see an original page each from “The Smurfs”, “Tintin”, and “Asterix”, for starters. Moebius has a page in there. Francois Schuiten has a beautifully cross-hatched black-and-white pile-of-trains piece. None of the “Largo Winch” pages made it across the Atlantic, but I can’t complain after the list I mentioned already.

The most eye-catching part, though, is the first piece you see when you walk into the hallway. It’s a gigantic painting from fantasy and steampunk painter, Didier Graffet, that measures 76 by 48 inches. (6 feet by 4 feet. Yikes!) It’s not behind glass, but it is framed. It forms the inside back cover to the auction catalog. It’s an angle on two trains in a station in graphic detail with bold colors. It’s gigantic and it’s breath taking. Even my six year old daughter gasped at it when she first laid eyes on it.

This scan from the catalog won’t do it justice. You need to see the contrasting colors pop off the canvas in person to appreciate it:

 

BD Original Art by Didier Graft

It’s so technically stunning that it’s almost hard to believe that it isn’t a page created on the computer. I can only imagine what the pencil work underneath it all looked like. The one point perspective grid must have been densely detailed.

At $50,000 or so, this thing feels like a steal.

Opposite that is another painting that pops brightly off the wall in a way that almost no publisher could ever get to work on the printed page. Even the PDF version of the catalog I have fails to do it justice. Juanjo Guarnido’s “Blacksad” motorcycle pin-up is bright, colorful, and lively. The listed price range puts it at about $30,000, but I have a hunch it’ll go for more.

 

Blacksad BD art up for Christie's Auction in 2015

Next to that is a painting from Jean-Pierre Gibrat whose work I wasn’t aware of before this auction, but who draws (and paints) beautiful and natural-looking people in period pieces from the time of occupied France. You can watch him create one such piece in this short video.

 

Jean-Pierre Gibrat original art is painted beauty

Jean-Pierre Gibrat had some pages in last year’s auction, too, but I think this year’s are even more stunning.

 

And just when you think it can’t get any better than that, you walk a few steps down to pages from Uderzo, Peyo, Herge, and Schuiten. I think my brain exploded just being in the presence of all that. Words can’t do any of it justice. I wanted to snap a selfie next to each of them, but decorum got the better of me. This wasn’t a comic con.

In fact, my outright ignorance of how these shows work got the better of me. I wasn’t sure what the accepted norms were, so I (with my wife and daughter) kept to ourselves, perused the art, and left. The announcement of the event said that three of the artists were going to be there and doing book signings, but I had no idea what constituted a “book signing” in this instance. And I had no idea what any of those three artists looked like, so I couldn’t just walk up to one and start chatting. Was I supposed to bring one of their books with me to ask them to sign? Was I supposed to buy the auction catalog right then and there to have them sign or sketch in?

In retrospect, I saw Gibrat signing a copy of the auction catalog for someone. I recognized him after the fact when I watched that video I linked to above afterwards.

So, yeah, I didn’t maximize my time at the gallery at all, but I did have an experience of seeing this art in person, much of which I never thought I’d get the chance to see or be near. There’s not much of that art floating around, and the stuff that is tends to sit still in an appreciative home for a long time.

A stunning image from Laurent Gapaillard

This black and white piece is enormous. It’s 52 inches square and intricately detailed. Tiny smudges near the top are the shadows from the people included for scale in the piece.

 

 

Olivier Grenson has an image to great Belgian characters in this painting

This one wasn’t at the show, but it’s included in the auction and is a sentimental favorite of a young boy surrounded by drawings of all his idols, including Franquin, Morris, and Peyo, of course.

 

 

Where Kirby Isn’t King

The auction also shows the different valuation of American art versus European art. There is a Jack Kirby page in the auction. It’s a solid panel page from “The Fantastic Four,” with Thing, Reed Richards, and Silver Surfer featured prominently. It’s expected to go for around $8,000.  (Won’t see one of those again anytime soon. –2016 Augie)

The Peyo Smurfs page that’s up for auction is listed at over $25,000.

That’s still nothing.

Juanjo Guarnido’s “Blacksad” painting is at $50,000. (I love Guarnido’s stuff, but there’s no way I’d pay twice as much for it over an original “Smurfs” page drawn by Peyo’s studio.)

Now, let’s take a quantum leap forward: An Albert Uderzo page of “Asterix” art which has been contributed to raise money for the families of those killed in the “Charlie Hebdo” attacks (for which Christie’s is forgoing its fees) sits at $300,000.

But, wait! There’s a Tintin catalog. Yes, it’s a separate catalog for 11 pieces of art, packed into a 50 page catalog. There’s a pencils-only rough of a Tintin page in it that’ll run you close to $90,000, assuming you don’t get caught up in a bidding war with another interested party next Saturday.

There’s a second penciled page that’s far tighter that starts at over $300,000.

Herge Tintin art always fetches a big price at auction

 

But, wait! The piece that was on display at Christie’s (seen above) is expected to fetch something closer to $450,000.

That’s the page where my wife looked at me and asked why anyone would pay that much for a page of art. I didn’t have the time to explain Herge and his long-lived popularity. On the other hand, I could pay off my mortgage and leave lots for my daughter’s college education for that kind of money. So perhaps my justification would have been too forced, anyway.

I wouldn’t want to pay most of the prices for any of the lots in this auction, though. I’d feel weird spending that kind of money on something I’d frame and hang on the wall. That’s just me, though. I understand why others have richer tastes than I, and don’t begrudge them that at all.

 

Scene from an Auction House

We stood in front of a page of Peyo’s original “Smurfs” art from 1970. I couldn’t take my eyes off it, with its lively small creatures prancing across the page, speaking in French and gesturing in a very animated style.

“How often do you get to stand so close to actual Smurfs art?” I asked my six year old daughter, the thrill in my voice.

She looked at me like I said something completely stupid.

“Every day, Dad. You always draw Smurfs.”

I hugged her and we moved along.

I came back to the Smurfs page later just to stare at it, though. I tried to find Peyo’s pencil lines. Couldn’t do it. Saw a couple of White Out dots, but that was about it.

Between that and the Uderzo “Asterix” page, I melted that afternoon.

 

Now, the follow-up column from three weeks later:

Final Hammer: The Auction Brings in over $5 million

The final tally came in at 5.1 million Euros. You can all the results, lot-by-lot, on the Christie’s site now.

The big pieces I was looking at went for more than expected. The original art page from 1971’s “Asterix and the Laurel Wreath” went for $200,000, which was in the expected range. Albert Uderzo’s “Asterix” cover painting that adorns the front of the auction catalog fetched $173,821 on an estimated price of $127,189.

I can confirm that I was NOT the winning bidder on either page.

“Blake and Mortimer” turned out to be more popular than I thought, with a page from that series by Edgar P. Jacobs bringing in $226,000, which is twice as much as was estimated.

The big Francois Schuiten page — a beautiful shot of a plane flying overhead between tall buildings — came in at $11,036. Other train-related paged stayed mostly in the $4000 range. A splash page from “Cities of the Fantastic: The Invisible Frontier” hit $13,000, though.

A Maruspilami/Spirou page by Andre Franquin got $114,000. I’m jealous. It’s a beautiful page.

A Moebius painting brought in $120,000, while his pen and ink pages ran from $10,000 to $50,000.

Did you like that Blacksad painting? It would have run you $48,000, right in the zone the estimate put it at. A page from the series would only set you back $16,554.

I’d rather own a page from the series, I think, and not just because I’m a cheapskate…

Jean-Pierre Gibrat was a big draw. He was featured in the catalog, and that paid off. His splash pages ran for $57,000 and $68,000, while his panel pages were at $22,000 and $38,000.

A 1954 “Peanuts” Sunday strip went for $48,000, which was on the low end of the estimates. Still, not a bad haul.

 

3 Comments

  • JC Lebourdais November 14, 2016 at 9:33 am

    I used to spend a lot on these, back when t was still kinda affordable. I’m more on the selling side now. Killed one mortgage already, one to go 🙂

    Reply
  • Arcturus November 14, 2016 at 9:45 am

    Art so pretty makes me wish I was filthy rich.

    As for Jean-Pierre Gibrat, IDW will publish one of his books in February, the paintings seem to be from that book (or they just feature the character)

    Reply
    • augiedb November 14, 2016 at 10:03 am

      Arcturus – I’m looking forward to the IDW book, though I think it might be the same one I bought digitally through Izneo in English not too long ago. But, still, a print edition would be very nice.

      @JC – Nice timing! I should have bought more of the high end stuff when I had the available cash 15 years ago. I could do the same. Instead, I sell a page here and there and buy an Artist’s Edition. It’s a fair trade. One original page of original art for a book of reproductions of 140 pages of original art. I’ll take what I can get.

      Reply

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