R. Crumb’s Top 10 Most Expensive Works at Auction

His 'Art & Beauty' series is on view at David Zwirner in London.

COLOGNE, GERMANY: American cartoonist Robert Crumb gives a press conference at the Museum Ludwig in the western town of Cologne, 27 May 2004. From 28 May to 12 September 2004, the museum shows a general view on the artist's work in the exhibition "Yeah, but is it Art?". Crumb is one of the founders of the American underground cartoons and is known for his figures "Fritz the Cat" and "Mr. Natural". AFP PHOTO DDP/TORSTEN SILZ GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read TORSTEN SILZ/AFP/Getty Images)

As Robert Crumb’s inaugural exhibition of drawings from his Art & Beauty series opens at David Zwirner‘s London gallery this weekend, we take a closer look at the celebrated illustrator’s market, examining how he moved from the realm of comic books to the walls of a blue-chip institution.

In 1962, Crumb began working at American Greetings Corporation in Cleveland, where he designed family-friendly cards. Six years later, he launched Zap Comix in San Francisco. From then on, Crumb rose to prominence in the cartoon and punk worlds with comic strips like Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural, and Keep on Truckin’.

He was also a source of controversy in 1969, when bookstores were busted for selling Zap Comix #4, which contained a parody of the nuclear family, featuring incest. “Fear was a weapon the bastards used very effectively,” Crumb says in an interview about censorship during that era.

LONDON - MARCH 9: A girl holds onto the R.Crumb Handbook on March 9, 2005 at Bonhams auction house in London, England. The R.Crumb Handbook, to be launched this month, tells the story of how the artist became a cultural icon, and is more than just another celebrity tell-all sexploitation. (Photo by Graeme Robertson/Getty Images)

A woman holds onto the R. Crumb Handbook on March 9, 2005 at Bonhams auction house in London, England.  Photo by Graeme Robertson/Getty Images.

In the years to come, his use of eroticism, humor, cultural stereotypes, and depictions of celebrities and pop culture icons catapulted the illustrator to new heights.

Crumb’s works appeared at auction as early as 1999, but it wasn’t until his solo exhibition at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 2005 that the artist gained mainstream recognition.

Here’s a look at Crumb’s top 10 performing lots at auction:

R. Crumb Zap Comix #0 Complete 3-Page Story "Ducks Yas Yas" Original Art (three items) (1968). Photo: Heritage Auctions.

R. Crumb Zap Comix #0 Complete 3-Page Story “Ducks Yas Yas” Original Art (three items) (1968). Photo: Heritage Auctions.

1. Zap Comix #0 Complete 3-Page Story “Ducks Yas Yas” Original Art (three items) (1968) sold for $131,450 at Heritage Auctions Texas on August 9, 2014.

R. Crumb Robert Crumb Zap Comix #0 Complete 5-Page Story "City of the Future" Original Art (five items) (1968). Photo: Heritage Auctions.

R. Crumb Robert Crumb Zap Comix #0 Complete 5-Page Story “City of the Future” Original Art (five items) (1968). Photo: Heritage Auctions.

2. Zap Comix #0 Complete 5-Page Story “City of the Future” Original Art (five items) (1968) sold for $101,575 at Heritage Auctions, Texas on August 1, 2013.

R. Crumb Mr. Natural #1 Cover Original Art (1970). Photo: Heritage Auctions.

R. Crumb Mr. Natural #1 Cover Original Art (1970). Photo: Heritage Auctions.

3. Mr. Natural #1 Cover Original Art (1970) sold for $101,575 at Heritage Auctions, Texas on November 17, 2007.

R. Crumb Carload O' Comics Cover and Title Page (1976). Photo: courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

R. Crumb Carload O’ Comics Cover and Title Page (1976). Photo: courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

4. Carload O’ Comics Cover and Title Page (1976) sold for $95,600 at Heritage Auctions, Texas on August 9, 2014.

R. Crumb Zap Comix #3 "Street Corner Daze". Photo: courtesy Heritage Auctions.

R. Crumb Zap Comix #3 “Street Corner Daze”. Photo: courtesy Heritage Auctions.

5. Zap Comix #3 “Street Corner Daze” 2-page Story Original Art (1968) sold for $95,600 at Heritage Auctions, New York on May 6, 2011.

R. Crumb Big Ass Comics #1 "All Meat Comics" Page 1 Original Art (1969). Photo: courtesy of Heritage Comics.

R. Crumb Big Ass Comics #1 “All Meat Comics” Page 1 Original Art (1969). Photo: courtesy of Heritage Comics.

6. Big Ass Comics #1 “All Meat Comics” Page 1 Original Art (1969) sold for $77,675 at Heritage Auctions Texas on August 7, 2008.

R. Crumb Abstract expressionist ultra super modernist comics (3 works) (1967). Photo: Heritage Auctions.

R. Crumb Abstract expressionist ultra super modernist comics (3 works) (1967). Photo: Heritage Auctions.

7. Abstract expressionist ultra super modernist comics (3 works) (1967) sold for $72,000 at Bonhams & Butterfields on May 22, 2007.

Mr. Natural (7 works) (1971) Photo: Bonhams & Butterfields

Mr. Natural (7 works) (1971). Photo: Bonhams & Butterfields

8. Mr Natural (7 works) (1971) sold for $72,000 at Bonhams & Butterfields on May 22, 2007.

R. Crumb Zap Comics #8 Cover Original Art (1975-76). Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

R. Crumb Zap Comics #8 Cover Original Art (1975-76). Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

9. Zap Comics #8 Cover Original Art (1975-76) sold for $71,700 at Heritage Auctions Texas on May 11, 2012.

R. Crumb Hup #3 Cover Original Art (1989). Photo: courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

R. Crumb Hup #3 Cover Original Art (1989). Photo: courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

10. Hup #3 Cover Original Art (1989) sold for $68,712 at Heritage Auctions Texas on May 22, 2008.


Follow artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Share

Article topics