Despite these examples, however, comic books still appear to be a niche market, which traditional auction houses have yet to engage with or capitalise on, especially on a frequent basis. If Christophe Fumeux, the specialist behind Drouot’s recent record-breaking auction, is correct, perhaps they’d better hurry before other, more enterprising auction houses get there first: “I believe that the market of bande dessinée has, little by little, replaced the market for figurative painting,” he explains, mulling over the potential of Franco-Belgian comics, which are known as bande dessinée or BDs.
“This popular art, that reaches all levels of societies, has naturally became a response to contemporary art, which is more difficult to access, more abstract, and elitist. In the auction world, the market for bande dessinée emerged about 30 years ago in France and over 50 years in the US. It is a market that increases constantly but steadily, as it is based on a large number of collectors. The market works quite similarly as the markets for classical paintings or contemporary art: some extremely famous artists, very well-known and sought after, prevail over a multitude of authors more or less known.”
“It is a pyramid-shaped market that is common to every specialty. Together with Hergé (the creator of Tintin), Uderzo is part of these major stars. His genius talent is recognised globally and his original works are extremely rare in private collections. Colour covers of Astérix are rare exceptions. When facing works that are so valuable they could be in a museum, collectors have no financial limits. They know that these works will never appear again in an auction room.”