Liberté & Fraternité: Brassens stripped by Sfar

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“Brassens Danse.” ©Joann Sfar and courtesy Cité de la Musique.

brassens-doisneau“Georges Brassens au métro Glaciére avec un sans abri, 1953.” (Georges Brassens at the Metro Glaciere with a homeless man, 1953.) ©Robert Doisneau and courtesy Cité de la Musique.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2011, 2017 Paul Ben-Itzak

If there are four things the French adore, they are: anniversaries, anarchists, comics, and Georges Brassens. The new exhibition at the Cité de la Musique at the parc La Villette in the north of Paris, co-curated by comics giant Joann Sfar (author of “The Rabbi’s Cat” comics series and director of the film “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life”) testifies to all these amours in a giant way, commemorating the 90th anniversary of the birth and 30th of the death of Brassens, France’s signature poet-troubador, in an creatively curated exhibition that uses comics to help revive the anarchist the patina of nostalgia has often obscured.

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krazyBesides Tintin, among the 68% of lots on offer sold during Artcurial’s Paris Bandes Desinées (Comics) and Hergé sales last week-end which helped the auction house gross $4.72 million, surpassing its pre-sale estimates by nearly $500,000, was, above, a rare Sunday color strip from George Herriman (1880 -1944)’s surrealistic “Krazy Kat” strip. The china ink and watercolor signed and framed original, measuring 57 x 37 cm, is one of only 12 remaining color strip originals.. Estimated pre-sale at 35,000 – 45,000 Euros, the lot sold for 38,300 Euros, or $40,598. Image copyright and courtesy Artcurial.

On a marché sur le marché: Original Tintin page sells for record-setting $1.6 million

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It may represent just one small step for Tintin, Snowy, and Captain Haddock, but the price paid by a European collector Saturday at Artcurial Paris for the original page depicting  the Hergé characters’ landing on the moon from the 1954 “On a marché sur la lune” (We walked on the moon) represented one giant leap for Tintin-kind: 1,553,312 Euros ($1,646,510), doubling Artcurial’s pre-sale estimate of 700,000 – 900,000 Euros and the most ever paid for a single original page by Hergé. An ensemble of the originals for 20 Christmas-themed cards created in 1942-43, meanwhile — pre-sale estimated at 60,000 – 120,000 Euros a pop by the leading auction house for all things Tintin — yielded a total of 1.5 million Euros, or $1.5 million. It’s enough to leave even a life-long Tintin fan… speechless. Above: Hergé (Georges Rémi dit), historic page from the album “On a marché sur la lune,” published in 1954. Copyright Hergé / Moulinsart 2016. — Paul Ben-Itzak

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In a moment in time when many in the mainstream media portray the urban ‘jungle’ as a place of menace where no one — concert-goers, cafe terrace denizens, sports fans, demonstrators, even policemen and women — is safe, so-called ‘street artists’ play an increasingly crucial role in reminding us that not just death but delight might be lurking on the corner. One of the modern miracle workers who has left his mark on the walls of Berlin, Bruxelles, Athens,  and Paris, the appropriately monikered Fred Le Chevalier is currently being feted in the more formal settings of le Bon Marché in the toney 6eme arrondissement of Paris, the Cité des sciences et de l’industrie in the Park la Villette and, in the upper reaches of Belleville on the rue Cascades (#57), the gallery Eko Sato, where his solo exhibition We’ll Dance until the World Turns Around runs through Saturday. For the artist, one of the charms of his work created on more exposed urban surfaces is “the idea that one never knows if the collages are going to last five minutes or a year. This conciousness that they might disappear is part of the game. The idea of the ephemeral is part of the beauty of the action; that’s the paradox.” Taking Le Chevalier’s point, we’d dispute that for anyone who’s ever had his sensibility singed by ‘street art’ these admittedly impermanent tableaux are so ephemeral que ca. Above: “On dansera jusqu’à ce que le monde tourne rond,” Fred Le Chevalier, 35 x 35 cm. Ink on paper. Copyright Fred Le Chevalier and courtesy Galerie Eko Sato. — Paul Ben-Itzak 

The Ink that dreams are made of, 3: On the wings of Hergé and Tintin

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The prices fetched at auction for the relics of Hergé’s Tintin can seem outlandish, even with the comic book’s international renown. But one of the admirable effects of this hyper-valuation is that it has lifted the esteem of the entire field of what Hergé referred to, in his last, unfinished Tintin adventure, as the “alpha-art” or half-art. Everybody wins. So even if one is not quite ready to fork out between $900,000 and $1.4 million for the 13 1/2 x 28 3/8 original ink and paper drawing for the artist’s 1979 fresco decorating the staircase of the Wallonie-Bruxelles Cultural Center in Paris (reuniting every protagonist of the saga), the pre-sale estimate from Artcurial (which has singularly carved out a name for itself as the leading auction house for comic art) for its October 3 sale in Hong Kong, one can only applaud the heightened encadrement Hergé has brought to his field. Copyright Hergé / Moulinsart 2016 and courtesy Artcurial. — Paul Ben-Itzak