Tintin drawing sells for record $2.3m

PARIS • An original drawing from the popular Tintin adventure Explorers On The Moon sold for a record €1.55 million (S$2.3 million) at a Paris auction last Saturday, auction house Artcurial announced.

The 50cm by 35cm drawing in Chinese ink by the Belgian cartoonist known as Herge shows the boy reporter, his dog Snowy and crusty sailor Captain Haddock wearing spacesuits and walking on the Moon while looking at Earth.

It had been expected to sell for between €700,000 and €900,000.

Artcurial's comics expert Eric Leroy described the Explorers On The Moon as "a key moment in the history of comic book art".

He said: "It has become legendary for many lovers and collectors of comic strips. It is one of the most important from Herge's post-war period, on the same level as Tintin In Tibet and The Castafiore Emerald."

Later in the day, another drawing from Explorers On The Moon sold for €602,500 at rival auction house Christie's, also in Paris.

The 1954 book is viewed as one of Herge's masterpieces. It completes the lunar adventure started in Destination Moon (1953) and features several hilarious episodes including Haddock getting drunk on whisky and floating off into space to briefly become a satellite of the Adonis asteroid.

It turns on Tintin foiling a plot to hijack the rocket by the evil stowaway spy, Colonel Jorgen, who is backed by a mysterious foreign power.

Last Saturday's sale was a record for a single cartoon drawing. In 2012, the 1932 cover illustration of Tintin In America fetched €1.3 million.

Herge already holds the world record for the sale of a comic strip.

A double-page ink drawing that served as the inside cover for all the Tintin adventures published between 1937 and 1958 sold for €2.65 million to an American fan two years ago.

Besides the moon drawing, Artcurial also sold 20 ink sketches Herge created for a series of New Year's greeting cards known as his "snow cards".

The drawings, which include Tintin and Snowy skiing and hapless detectives the Thompson twins ice-skating, brought in €1.5 million.

In total, the sale of cartoon drawings at Artcurial fetched €4.45 million last Saturday.

Prices for cartoon art have multiplied ten-fold in the past decade, according to gallery owner Daniel Maghen, who also works with comic art.

Besides the Explorers On The Moon drawing sold by Christie's - on which neither Tintin nor any of Herge's other characters feature - another rare Herge strip was snapped up. A page from the unfinished story, Tintin And The Thermozero - which Christie's said was the first to come to market - brought in €230,500.

The sketch shows Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock helping victims of a road accident.

It was one of only eight drawings Herge did for the unfinished work, six of which are now housed in the Herge Museum in Louvain-la- Neuve, south of Brussels in Belgium. The other was given by the artist to his Tintin collaborator, Bob De Moor.

Why the artist never finished the tale of espionage and a terrifying secret weapon set against the backdrop of the Cold War is one of the great mysteries for Tintin fans.

The fevered auction sales come as Tintinmania again grips the French capital, with Herge the subject of a huge retrospective exhibition at the Grand Palais. He sold about 230 million Tintin albums by the time of his death in 1983.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2016, with the headline 'Tintin drawing sells for record $2.3m'. Print Edition | Subscribe