The opposition of Uderzo’s daughter to its sale, due to questionable provenance, tainted the enthusiasm of buyers. His complaint was ultimately dismissed. But the original gouache, signed but not dedicated, remained unsold, below the low estimate of 400,000 euros.
The affair that unleashed the media around the famous cover ofAsterix and Cleopatra contested by the Uderzo family, because it was not dedicated, will have derailed the sale of this flagship lot of the river dispersion of Millon & ociés (more than 600 numbers!), this Sunday, in Brussels. This legendary original gouache, bringing together the most famous hero of the Gauls and the most illustrious queen of Egypt, was expected to make the front page at the end of the evening, its rarity due to the fact of having been used for the pre-launch of the album in the magazine Pilot and to be the definitive drawing of the cover of the Dargaud edition of 1965. But the suspense was to know if the auction battle could suffer from the legal one, having pointed out the problem of the originals, not autographed by its author Uderzo.
The collectors’ appetite was not there, for fear of taking away this unsaleable lot afterwards, the family having cast suspicion on the origin of its acquisition from Uderzo. Priced at 350,000 euros, the 32×17 cm gouache, dated 1963, rose to 380,000 euros, below its estimate of 400,000 to 500,000 euros, the reserve set by the seller. Obviously, no real auctions in the room or on the telephone. We are far from the success of the sale of the Pierre Tchernia collection, at Drouot, in 2017, where his original Asterix covers were autographed “ To Pierre Tchernia, the modest expression of sympathy in tribute to the spirit and kindness of the great man of television”by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. Asterix’s Tour of Gaul (1964) had soared at the record price of 1,449,000 euros (with fees)AndThe Arvernian Shield (1968) at 1,197,000 euros. Both were carried out, at the time, by the Artcurial expert, Éric Leroy, for the same client.
The Uderzo family will have won their case. And it’s a shame for the comic book market and all the work of this talented designer. The family had done everything to try to break the sale of this cover ofAsterix and Cleopatra at Millon and to dissuade buyers from purchasing it. The designer’s daughter, Sylvie Uderzo, contacted the French lawyer, Orly Rezlan, deeming the conditions of acquisition by the seller doubtful. A complaint was filed at the end of November. But the Brussels public prosecutor’s office, at the last moment, noted “the absence of an offense» and decided, on Friday, to close the complaint, according to an email from a public prosecutor to lawyers of which the AFP declared to have been aware. This was not enough to convince collectors to take the risk, at such a price level.
Complaint without action
Me Orly Rezlan had warned that any buyer of this original gouache could be prosecuted for receiving stolen goods. “During his lifetime, Albert Uderzo publicly declared that he would oppose the sale of any drawing that did not include his dedication“, she argued, relying on the position defended by the family – Sylvie Uderzo and her husband Bernard de Choisy as well as Ada, Uderzo’s widow -, known to step up to the plate as soon as an unsigned original by the author goes on public sale. Before the sale, Bernard de Choisy did not hesitate to denounce “the croquignols of the art market”, to know “those who practice somewhat unhealthy barter, selling works whose traceability is doubtful as long as the artist does not specify them with a dedication.” And he remained convinced of the merits of the action taken by his wife and his mother-in-law, for which the Belgian public prosecutor’s office did not, however, take action. He had also cast suspicion on “the fact that a French person holding an untitled drawing chooses to put it up for sale not in Paris, but in Brussels, the headquarters of the Millon subsidiary,” thus insinuating less reliable sales practices.
The Millon study nevertheless advocated its good faith and was delighted with the decision of the Prosecutor’s Office, as announced when the price of the lot was set, by the study. She claimed to have the trace of this original drawing “acquired by the seller’s father from Uderzo himself, at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s, the work remained in the family patrimony for more than 50 years, in complete clarity”. As proof, she took out of her boxes a few days ago a photo in which we see a man presented as the buyer of the drawing sharing a meal at the table of the Uderzo couple, in the garden of a Norman hotel at the end of the 1960s. We showed this photo to Sylvie Uderzo to show her that the seller’s father knew her father well.», explained Arnaud de Partz, director of Millon Belgium.
As the auction date approached, tensions rose a notch, provoking a strong reaction from the seller: “For weeks we have opened the door to dialogue and, if necessary, to legal debate – to no avail. Ms. Uderzo and her council saw fit, a few days before the sale, to instead take the debate to the media and the public square. They intend to attack my possession, peacefully and in good faith. The most basic rules of law require Ms. Uderzo and her counsel to provide proof of their allegations – to my knowledge, this is not the case. he declared .
And to add: “ By choosing to release my name, and that of my father, to the press, Ms. Uderzo and her counsel chose to insinuate, publicly, without any proof, that my father was a thief, that I am a receiver – it It is shameful, unbearable and intolerable. I can only take note of this and reserve any recourse in this regard. “. Justice has ruled. The prosecutor’s decision did not reure potential buyers and should not comfort other enthusiasts in possession of original, undedicated drawings by Uderzo, fearing a similar recurrence by the family. Sellers who have received originals from Uderzo think they are sitting on a pile of gold. But today, this remains difficult to negotiate. When it comes to price, Uderzo, however, remains behind Hergé, unbeatable to this day with his latest record at 2.16 million, at Artcurial, for an original drawing byTintin in Americain black and white.
Contacted after its sale in Brussels, Me Alexandre Millon deplores this grotesque situation which led to the failure of the auction: “the maneuvers aborted by the Uderzo family’s justice system will not have prevented the family’s potential nuisance. This obviously discouraged the market. How can you play against your side like this? It’s detrimental to Uderzo’s work and frighteningly absurd.”, he protests. “From now on, our seller reserves the right to act. But the game is not lost, perhaps we will have after-sales offers”, he concludes. However, these will not reach the low estimate price, as is usual in the market. To be continued.