|By Brett Weiss
CHICAGO—Another day, another record Frazetta sale.
On May 16, the Chicago branch of Heritage Auctions sold Frank Frazetta’s 1969 fantasy painting entitled Egyptian Queen for $5.4 million to a bidder who has chosen to remain anonymous. This easily eclipses the previous Frazetta record of $1.79 million paid for Death Dealer 6, which Heritage sold in May of 2018.
The Egyptian Queen sale was not only the highest price ever realized for a Frazetta work, it set a house record as the most expensive item ever sold by Heritage, beating the 2016 sale of a luxury Dallas estate by nearly half a million dollars.
One of Frazetta’s best-known paintings, Egyptian Queen is a striking image revered for its dynamism, color, lighting, ornate column, mysterious central character, and overall magnificence. It originally appeared as the cover of a mass market comic book magazine, Eerie #23, issued by Warren Publishing in 1969. In subsequent years, Frazetta reprinted the painting as a very popular poster and print that hung in dorm rooms, bedrooms, and comic book stores all over the country.
According to Heritage Auctions Vice President Todd Hignite, the sale of Egyptian Queen, which had been in the Frazetta family since its creation 50 years ago, puts Frazetta in fine company. In a press release, he said, “This result elevates Frank Frazetta’s art into the stratosphere of visual narrative art on a par with the likes of Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, and other luminaries.”
“Frazetta was a technical master,” added Roberta Kramer, Managing Director for Chicago Heritage, in a phone interview. “He’s considered a godfather or grandfather of the fantasy genre — however you want to put it.”
Over the past couple of decades — the last few years in particular — fantasy, science fiction, and comic book art has skyrocketed in value. It is now chic to be geek, and Kramer believes she knows why.
“Geek culture is more popular because there’s so much more of it,” she said. “The internet probably has a good deal to do with it. A lot of stuff that is science fiction has come to pass, and we have all of this technology. Being a geek about it is cool.”
This is in direct contrast to when Kramer was younger.
“Decades ago, you didn’t dare tell anyone you went to high school with that you read comics,” she said. “You would have gotten stuffed into a locker. The kids who were way into fantasy and science fiction were considered nerds. Always picked last for dodge ball, and they certainly didn’t date cheerleaders. My son who is in his 20s says it’s cool to be a geek.”
The elevation of Frazetta to a master and the high prices realized for his paintings has had an enormous impact on the sales of similar art, particularly the works of such fantasists as Ken Kelly, Boris Vallejo, and Jeffrey Jones.
“We often see that when a genre of painting starts to take off in terms of popularity and in terms of auction prices, other good artists in that genre will also start to climb and increase in value,” Kramer said. “Now that the Frazettas are getting out of most people’s reach, the collecting public and the people who are interested start finding other artists who are very good, but aren’t necessarily a household name. As they say, the rising tide lifts all ships.”