Thursday, July 16, 2009

The $ Game


Yesterday Heritage auctions sold off another wing from the warehouse of works from the Martignetti collection. The prices for the Bolles paintings on the auction block as well as some of his other pinups were in a word, astonishing. The previous record for Bolles at auction was a bit over 38 grand at an Illustration House auction held several years ago. It was the painting was for this cover of Breezy Stories published in 1937 (for some reason a lot of paintings from 1937 have survived) and when you look at the magazine cover (gotta love that nameplate) it's easy to see why bidders were so motivated.

But the prices realized yesterday put Bolles in a whole new ballgame. His top item was the Slipping Beauty cover for the February, 1935 issue of Film Fun. There's no doubt that it is a special Bolles but I was shocked to see that when the mallet fell the winning bid topped $65,000! It went more than the Petty's, the Vargas pinups for Playboy and even a really nice Elvgren (though two other Elvgren's went for an incomprehensible 200 grand!!). Unless pinup collecting has suddenly become a hobby of Goldman Sachs traders, it is hard to fathom this recent surge of interest. On one hand I'm pleased to see works of Enoch Bolles gaining wider recognition and interest (you can see a video of a couple of the paintings and other nice examples from Martignetti's collection at the Heritage auction web site) but on the other hand it bodes poorly for many collectors who might hope someday to own their own original. A few people have given me a bit of grief for contributing to this trend, but I sincerely doubt that anything I've written about Bolles has had an impact on this. I hope not, at least not until after I get my hands on that one particular Bolles original I pray is still out there sitting in somebody's closet, begging for a new home.

7 comments:

Alan Wrobel said...

Jack, frankly, I think our man's work is woefully underpriced. As people learn more about just how great he was, along with other illustrators, from a skill/technical viewpoint the works will continue upwards in value. The 'golden age' works will become more scrutinized and catalogued and taken more seriously. I could see the Ideal for a Hunting Lodge polar bear cover going for $500k within 3-5 years. An exciting time for speculators to be sure but the art is worth it, and it has the big bonus of being so great and fun to look at. Stuff we all know well. Nothing like being on the ground floor of a movement, eh? I'll bet that Hottest Thing on the Menu french maid soars past $100k when it comes up.

oeconomist.com said...

Eh, it would indeed be nice to have one of the originals, but one of the implications of these high prices is that these paintings can be expected to be properly conserved.

Jack R said...

Alan: Maybe we should have some sort of ongoing bet about the prices of the upcoming Bolles paintings. I think I'll see if I can set something up on the blog.

Oeconomist: Good point as many of these paintings were woefully treated.

Artman2112 said...

that's funny i just picked up a little print of that Breezy cover illo yesterday! it doesnt have the mag graphics so i didnt know what it was for, but now i do, thanks!

i agree, this is just the beginning as far as big ticket prices for this stuff.

Alan Wrobel said...

Ha! Nice one with the Elvgren update on the previous posting!!

Gary Underwood said...

Jack, I think this lot of illustrators from the pulp era and into the 50's and 60's are due for some recognition, and this auction seems to bear fruit. Pinup art in particular has been slighted and ignored for too long. It has not beeb recognized for what it was, a slice of pop culture,an art form peculiar and relevant to the time to which it relates.Yes, We may not be able to afford the original oils going forward, but maybe it will help shed some light on these great artists and the devotion and skill they applied to their work.

Jack R said...

Hi Gary,
I agree but at the same time I wonder what is fueling this surge in prices at this particular moment, especially given the general state of the economy.