Heritage Auctions solidifies status as worldwide leader for illustration art with $2.1 million auction

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Heritage Auctions solidifies status as worldwide leader for illustration art with $2.1 million auction
The cover of the auction’s catalog – Robert Peak’s Brando as Col. Kurtz, one of three posters made for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Apocalypse Now – sold for $212,500, shattering the artist’s previous auction record.

DALLAS, TX.- On Oct. 4, Heritage Auctions’ Illustration Art Signature® Auction realized $2.18 million, toplined by the world-record sale of a Marlon Brando painting made for Apocalypse Now by The Father of the Modern Movie Poster.

With 1,664 bidders participating in Monday’s auction, the timing certainly could not have been better: This week’s extraordinary event served as a prelude to the auction house’s upcoming American Art Signature® Auction, which takes place Nov. 5 and features among its wide-ranging offerings some of the most important pieces by several of the world’s most renowned artists, among them Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker and Maurice Sendak.

Heritage Auctions already holds world records for Leyendecker and Frank Frazetta, not to mention virtually every other artist ever to work in the fields of science fiction, pulp, fantasy, movie poster and pin-up art. Monday’s sale, which saw an astonishing 97.1% sell-through rate, further solidified the Dallas-based auction house’s position in the illustration art market.

Science fiction and fantasy masterpieces from the Gary Munson Collection shattered numerous auction records, among them works by James Allen St. John, Robert Gibson Jones and Lee Browne Coye. There were strong prices across the board, too, for pulp and paperback, pin-up and Golden Age Illustration.

“Because of our deep and unrivalled commitment to all facets of the category for close to 20 years, Heritage owns the Illustration Art category from high to low, and the continued expansion of collector interest and cultural awareness is extremely gratifying to see,” says Todd Hignite, Heritage Auctions Vice President and Senior Illustration and Comic Art expert. “As the undisputed worldwide leader, Heritage holds auction records for virtually every artist to work in the field. Over the years we’re proud to have been entrusted with scores of important institutional and private collections, and Monday’s auction further solidified our status as the go-to auction house for the best work by the top illustrators across genres.”

The cover of the auction’s catalog – Robert Peak’s Brando as Col. Kurtz, one of three posters made for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Apocalypse Now – sold for $212,500, shattering the artist’s previous auction record. It’s little wonder this work is now peak Peak: It shows Brando alone, water and sweat pouring off a shaved head that looks sculpted of wet clay, and serves as visual snapshot of the film's most potent scene, as Kurtz confronts Martin Sheen’s Willard about his mission and intention.

"This image of Brando coming out of the darkness has become iconic," says the artist’s son, Roberto Santo. Never more so than now.

Two James Allen St. John paintings that served as classic Edgar Rice Burroughs dust jackets likewise flew off the figurative shelves Monday: The Chessmen of Mars and At the Earth's Core, each from 1922 and each from the acclaimed assemblage of renowned illustration art collector Gary Munson, whose landmark rare-book collection heads to auction later this month. The two St. John covers each sold for $150,000, well above pre-auction estimates.

A trio of Gil Elvgren’s iconic pin-up girls, each painted for a calendar, rounded out the auction’s top six lots: 1960’s A Weighty Problem sold for $87,500; 1963’s Measuring Up realized $68,750; and 1969’s Squirrely Situation sold for $65,625. Not far behind was an early work by the father of the genre: Alberto Vargas’ 1925 work Beauty and the Beast, created as a composite of Ziegfeld Follies Girls, which brought $40,000.

James Avati, so renowned as a maker of paperback covers there’s a book devoted to his work, set a new auction record Monday when his cover for Christopher Isherwood’s 1952 novel Goodbye to Berlin brought $27,500. One of pulp and horror maker Lee Brown Coye’s most famous covers – The Vampire, which in July 1947 scared the hell out of readers of Weird Tales – likewise set a new auction record for the artist when it sold Monday for $25,000.

And Robert Gibson Jones’ haunting I Remember Lemuria, an amazing entry from the March 1945 cover of Amazing Stories, shattered the painters’ previous auction record when it sold for $21,250. No wonder this work has become the artist’s most valuable work to date, as it has made the rounds in recent years, appearing on the cover of Richard Silver’s 2011 The Shaver Mystery by Richard Shaver (Armchair Fiction, 2011) and inside such books as 2000’s The Classic Era of American Pulp Magazines, 2002’s Art of Imagination: 20th Century Visions of Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy and 2017’s The Art of the Pulps: An Illustrated History.

One unforgettable work among many in a yet another Illustration Art event to remember.

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