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Animation Art Auction - Pro and Con from Charles Solomon

by Off-Ramp®

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Gustaf Tenggren concept painting painting from Pinocchio. (Walt Disney, 1940.) Accomplished in ink, charcoal and tempera on two conjoined leaves of 12 ½ in. x 16 ½ in. animation paper; overall length is 33 in. with an image size approx. 12 in. x 28 in. Hollywood Auction 44/Gustaf Tenggren

There’s a big auction of artwork from animated films today at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. Off Ramp animation expert Charles Solomon says that's good, and bad. CLICK THROUGH for Charles' script.

(Hollywood Auction 44 will take place May 14-15 at the Saban Theatre, 844o Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills. The animation auction is on May 14.)

Charles Solomon writes:

As someone who spends a lot of time writing and thinking about animation, I’m of two minds about this and other auctions of animation art.

Animation has long been the unloved stepchild of film and traditional fine arts. Its artists rarely receive the credit they deserve for being among the finest draftsmen and designers working today. Many of them are the true heirs to a tradition of fine drawing that goes back to Renaissance.

When animation artwork brings in big bucks, artists get more respect in America. During the 80’s, buoyed by the booming economy and the success of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, art from animated film became a hot commodity. It climaxed in May, 1989, when a collector paid almost $470,000 for two background set-ups from the 1934 Disney cartoon “Orphan’s Benefit.” But, when one major buyer lost interest and sold off his collection, prices plummeted. Those two set-ups that brought close to half-a-million? Just three years later they sold for about $150,000.

Now, after two stagnant decades, the market seems to be coming back—partially due to the success of recent animated films. I’ll root for anything that gets animation and animators the respect they deserve, but as prices rise, their artwork is again becoming the exclusive preserve of a few Hollywood moguls and foreign collectors. Gustaf Tenggren's dazzling drawing for the opening shot of “Pinocchio,” when Jiminy Cricket hops into the village, has a pre-sale estimate of $80,000 to $100,000.

Some animation artists are now avid collectors themselves, who are eager to acquire the work of their predecessors -- like Mary Blair, Joe Grant, and Disney’s Nine Old Men. These collectors use the art to study … and if it’s locked up in private collections, that not only makes it harder for artists making films to see and study them, it limits the influence of the great work.

A hundred grand is beyond the means of animators —and most mortals. So I’ll be watching outcome of auction with great curiosity, eager to see what brings in most money, and worrying where the art will end up.

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