Over the Moon
Country Life UK|January 26, 2022
A Tintin drawing makes a record in Paris and a not-too frightening Bacon will be at the Royal Academy
Huon Mallalieu

THE fake news—les infox —that Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon was vigorously refuted on November 20 at the Artcurial sale in Paris devoted to the World of Hergé. Proof positive was the original 10¼in by 11½in ink, ecoline and watercolour drawing showing that the American astronaut was welcomed to the Moon by Tintin, Capt Haddock, Snowy and Prof Calculus, who had first landed there in the 1950s (Fig 1). As it was drawn by Hergé in 1969 at the time of the Apollo 11 mission, who could doubt that it was true?

The price of €573,000 (£481,583), a European record for a coloured Hergé drawing, provides further support for this view. What is not explained (although it may be in one of the books, Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon, which I have not read for a while) is how Calculus had managed to produce a welcoming bunch of roses.

Artcurial, incidentally, has an almost familial connection to Hergé. It is part of the Dassault industrial group and is based in the former townhouse of the eminent aircraft designer Marcel Dassault; he appeared as the manufacturing tycoon Laszlo Carreidas in Flight 714 to Sydney and in the unfinished Tintin and Alph-Art.

Given the splendour of its Monaco premises, Artcurial had no need to remodel itself during the various lockdowns, unlike the Drouot auction hub in Paris, which took the opportunity for a thorough overhaul of its tired sale rooms and warehousing.

All in all, Artcurial had a good year across the board and it was instructive, if in some respects saddening, to see how the €169 million annual total was composed: 48% came from 20th- and 21th-century art, 21% from collectors’ cars and automobilia, 18% from jewellery, watches and other luxury accessories and only 13% from all the fine-art categories. This includes not only Old Master paintings, drawings and prints, but Asian and Islamic art, furniture, works of art, books and manuscripts.

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