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Flash News: The fabulous Prat collection – A new record for Astérix

[20 Oct 2017]

The fabulous Prat collection

Dubuffet, Yves Klein, Joan Miro, Max Ernst, Christo, Simon Hantaï… It sounds like a list of artists from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Paris but in fact it’s one of the most remarkable private collections in France. On 20 and 21 October 2017, in Paris, Christie’s is auctioning the collection of the lawyer Jean-François Prat who died in 2011. The collection was a large-scale project built over fifty years with his wife, Marie-Aline, an expert in contemporary art. This is the flagship autumn sale in Paris, estimated to be worth around 30 million euros.

The couple were well known in the art world, especially for having regularly lent works to exhibitions at the Pompidou Centre. Their collection began in the 1960s, when Jean-François Prat, then at the beginning of his career, and his wife roamed the lesser known auction houses of Paris. In 1965, they scrimped and saved to buy a lacerated poster by Jacques Villeglé, now valued between €80,000 and €120,000. « At the time, it was worth the equivalent of €1,500 in today’s money, » remembers Marie-Aline. The collection expanded when her husband’s legal career took off between 1980 and 1990, thanks to high profile litigations between flagship French companies. « The Prats chose artworks that take time to appreciate, » explains Paul Nyzam, an expert at Christie’s. They chose ‘unsung’ artists such as Martin Barré. » Focusing on 20th century art, this collection has, according to Marie-Aline, a dual theme, appearance/disappearance and unity/multiplicity. In fact, the couple were attracted by the works of artists who have pushed the boundaries of painting. The auction of the monumental Jim Crow that Basquiat painted in 1986 will undoubtedly be the highlight of this sale. The fact that its estimate remains confidential says it all. Referring to the Jim Crow segregationist laws and questioning racism, as well as the history of slavery, the work had been bought for nearly $113,000 at Christie’s London in December 1992. Another masterpiece among many others, Was machen die Russen in Mexico, by Sigmar Polke, illustrates the creative and irreverent brilliance of the German artist. Persuaded that Polke had as much importance as Richter, the Prats snapped up this work as soon as the doors opened at the 1999 edition of Art Cologne!

Although their collection is up for sale at Christie’s, Jean-François and Marie-Aline Prat’s love of art and artists continues: in 2012, the Prix Jean-François Prat was created by their children and the partners of the Bredin Prat law firm, to pay tribute to him and allow emerging artists of all nationalities to carry out their work.

A new record for Astérix

Tintin and Astérix have been a real hit at auction. The rush on original comic strip illustrations continues to create record prices. This time, it’s the turn of Astérix and Obélix to be the talk of the town, thanks to the record sale of €1,449,000, including fees, obtained on 13 October 2017 by auctioneer Mr. Patrick Deburaux at Drouot, while the high estimate was only €200,000. This illustration in gouache and coloured inks was used for the original cover of the Astérix comic book Le Tour de Gaule, published in 1965. The dedication on the drawing, which was part of the collection of French TV host Pierre Tchernia who died in 2016, is testimony to the friendship between Tchernia and the creators of Astérix and Obélix, Goscinny and Uderzo, which reads: « To Pierre Tchernia, a modest token of friendship in homage to the spirit and kindness of a major figure in television ». This is the first million-euro sale for the emblematic Astérix the Gaul, a character invented, according to René Goscinny himself, « in two hours by Uderzo in a fit of laughter! ». The previous record dates back to 2011 and stood at €230,000 for illustration 36 of Astérix gladiateur (sold at Kahn – Dumousset Paris, 10 April 2011). But Astérix is still far behind Tintin, whose best illustrations have been reaching over a million euros in the last five years, and whose record was set at more than €2.6 million in May 2014 at Artcurial. The prices for Astérix illustrations have rocketed even more as the best examples are rare at auction: the availability of Uderzo & Goscinny’s work is indeed three times less than Hergé, of which more than 900 drawings have already been sold at auction since the late 1980s.

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