The 2017 calendar year was extraordinary at Heritage Auctions, as a slew of records fell, offering further evidence of Heritage’s ascent through the art auction world and solid status as a place to acquire extraordinary art that is in high demand among collectors of all levels. Some of the year’s record-setting art-related lots in different departments included:
1. The August Platinum Night Sports Collectibles Auction featured Norman Rockwell’s Tough Call, Saturday Evening Post cover study, which sparked a flurry of bidding and raced far beyond its pre-auction estimate before ultimately realizing $1,680,000. Initially believed to be a print of the final work now housed in a permanent collection in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., the most famous of Rockwell’s baseball-related paintings also is known by three alternate names: Game Called Because of Rain, Bottom of the Sixth and The Three Umpires.
2. Heritage Auctions’ May Comics & Comic Art Auction was headlined by Robert Crumb R. Crumb’s Fritz the Cat Cover Original Art (Ballantine, 1969), which also soared beyond its pre-auction estimate amid frenzied bidding before finally closing at $717,000, establishing a new world record for the most valuable piece of American comic art. Revered as the godfather of the Underground Comix movement, Crumb’s iconic image was published first by Ballantine in October 1969, served as the inspiration for a statue by Randy Bowen and Neil Surges and even led to Fritz the Cat landing starring roles in a pair of feature-length animated movies: Fritz the Cat (1972) and The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat (1974).
3. The top lot in the October Illustration Art Auction was Patrick Nagel’s acrylic-on-canvas Bold, which crushed pre-auction expectations when it brought $200,000 – an auction record by nearly $40,000 for Nagel. If the image looks familiar, there’s good reason: among Nagel’s most famous works is the cover of Duran Duran’s Rio album.
4. Among the gems in the November Modern & Contemporary Art Auction was Paul Jenkins’ Phenomena Blue Rules the Day, which drew a final sale price of $93,750 a new record for the most ever paid for a work by the artist.
5. Another artist record fell when Joan Mitchell’s Sunflowers II crossed the auction block at the October Modern & Contemporary Prints & Multiples Auction at $78,125 – more than double the previous standard for any work by Mitchell. Originally published by Tyler Graphics in Mount Kisco, N.Y., the 1992 lithograph on wove paper is signed, dated and annotated in pencil along the lower edge, and features the publisher’s blindstamp.
Written By: Steve Lansdale