Just how much did you love Where the Wild Things Are? For many of the book's 20 million-plus readers, the answer is "very." For a few collectors at Sotheby's, the answer might be "just under a million dollars, before tax."
For the next three weeks, $4.5 million worth of art by Maurice Sendak, the much-loved children's book author, who also wrote In the Night Kitchen (1970) and Outside Over There (1981) is on view (and on sale) in Sotheby's New York gallery. (As opposed to the format of a traditional auction, any Sendak lover with $30,000 to spare can walk in and buy a drawing of a monster eating a pile of books without facing competition.) The show runs through Dec. 18.
The 47 works in the sale were assembled by two anonymous collectors who were friends with Sendak; most was bought straight from the artist. While some of the dollar amounts are steep—$150,000 is a lot of money for a pencil and watercolor on paper, no matter how you cut it—there's already an established market for original works by Sendak, just as there's a similarly robust market for Tintin drawings (an original plate from Tintin Au Congo sold for a reported 770,000 euros ($820,000) on Saturday at Artcurial in Paris.
"Most higher-end pieces have been sold privately, rather than at auction for that [price] level," said Richard Austin, a specialist of books and manuscripts at Sotheby's who put the sale together. "We priced these for what we knew items of similar quality have sold for in the past eight years."
There's also a thriving market for less expensive work. Bonham's has had over 150 Sendak drawings and pieces of memorabilia come up at auction; Christie's has sold dozens, too, including a first edition of Where the Wild Things Are that sold for $20,000 in 2001.
Still, the sheer number of high-quality lots available this month at Sotheby's is unprecedented. Below, you can find the top 10, worth a collective $3.3 million. If those numbers make you roar terrible roars and gnash your terrible teeth, there's always a cheaper alternative: a new softcover edition of Where the Wild Things Are retails for a manageable $6.
1. Wild Thing Christmas Tree, 1976
2. Watercolor for JEWISH BOOK MONTH, 1985
3. New York Is Book Country, 1979
4. IBBY Congress 1990, 1988
5. Wild Things in the Grass, 1997
6. You First, 1997
7. Seahorse, 1997
8. Aliens, 1998
9. Tailored Solutions, 1998
10. A Tabletop Cow (“Moo-Reese”), 2000
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