George Herriman, “Krazy Kat, My Old Kentucky Home.” India ink on Bristol board, 24 x 16 1/2 inches. Original drawing for a Sunday comic strip featuring Krazy Kat published in 1936 by King Features Syndicate. Signed. Artcurial pre-sale estimate: $40,000 – 50,000. Image copyright and courtesy Artcurial.
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak
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Before it was an auction house, Artcurial was an opulently furnished gallery of contemporary art, its 2500 square meter home lavishly underwritten by no less than l’Oreal and opening with a bang with permanent exhibitions featuring the likes of Bonnard, Atlan, Braque, and Poliakoff. Kandinsky’s “Music Salon,” created in Berlin in 1931, was reconstituted, monographs were published on the side for the likes of Wilfredo Lam and Salvador Dali, and le tout was augmented by what Opus International’s Jean-Louis Pradel described after the opening as “one of the richest contemporary art libraries to be found in Paris, [with] 4000 books on 20th-century art and more than a hundred international art revues.” All this was trumpeted on the gallery’s 1975 opening with a massive advertising campaign which broke with the traditional reserve of the toney neighbor galleries on the august rue Matignon. Counter-intuitively — because one would assume that the content of an auction is determined primarily by who’s decided to sell what — this curatorial instinct seems to have been retained in Artcurial’s auctions. Its second Hong Kong sale — to be held Monday in… a museum — is no exception. Notwithstanding company official Isabelle Bresset’s vaunting the sale of 80 examples of street and comics art as representing “a vibrant panorama of a part of *contemporary art* (emphasis added),” among the catalog of 80 lots are two original drawings which also fulfill the historical-educational function of a museum. In addition to a strip by Little Nemo father Winsor McKay, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat also shows up. If the original drawing in question, dating from 1936, doesn’t boast the surrealist mesas and arroyos of Herriman’s work from the 1920s, the three principal characters (see above) are in fine form and the landscape is still peopled by a cactus, a cluster of giant toadstools, and what could be a range of Arizona pyramids. (Source for background on Artcurial gallery: Jean-Louis Pradel, “Artcurial,” Opus International, February 1976.)