Heritage Auctions just sold the original key art by John Alvin from E.T. for $394,000 after the buyer’s premium. The bidding was brisk and committed, and started way above the lowest required bid. Though the buyer wanted to remain anonymous, there’s no question a number of collectors were willing to go into the hundreds of thousands to obtain this original art from the recent sci-fi classic. Speaking as not only Cinema Siren, but also the owner of ArtInsights, the gallery that represents the estate of illustrator and movie poster artist John Alvin, the news of the hammer price came less as a surprise than a reaffirmation of the value of both traditionally illustrated film art and of the work of the renowned artist.
Unfortunately, the artist’s estate was not the owner of the art at time of auction, as is often the case with original film art, especially key art. With the insane timeline of deadlines, and the teams working to promote films ever turning towards the next project, even when the art remained the property of the artist, often the original art created during the campaign was never returned to them. This was rarely intentional. Sometimes the director or producer asked for it, and sometimes someone in the design firm just put it in a flat file and forgot about it, because the focus by everyone involved had turned to the next film. Little did everyone know traditionally illustrated film art was, even in the early 80’s, a dying art form.
That’s not to say Andrea Alvin, John Alvin’s widow and artistic partner in Alvin and Associates, wasn’t thrilled to see such public confirmation of the value of her husband’s work. To her it reaffirmed the increased embrace of his legacy as one of the foremost artists in the history of film. With the over 200 campaigns he worked on during his lifetime, John Alvin was one of the most prolific film artists, certainly, and not only recognizable, but so famed for his movie magic, the term “Alvin-izing” was coined by studio executives in referencing his style.
There are many around the world who have been collecting the art of John Alvin or supporting his legacy as a fine artist through their mentions of his work on their movie blogs, or as in the case of Kevin Burke’s new documentary “24 x 36”, through film. They know, unequivocally that those willing to pay nearly $400k represent far more than just fans of E.T. Those collectors were vying for the art of John Alvin as much as for the iconic image he created. That, after all, was what he was known for. The posters he made were splashed across every platform. His images were used throughout the world.
Whether, for example, you saw The Lion King in Pasadena or Paris, the poster depicting a majestic lion in the sky was probably partly responsible for getting you into the theater. That light-suffused and very emotionally evocative painting that was Alvin’s trademark was used for The Lion King poster, as well as the E.T., Aladdin, Cocoon, Empire of the Sun, Willow, and many more.
The $400,000 hammer price for the art of E.T is not only a celebration of the love of movies, but also a celebration of the acceptance of John Alvin as a preeminent film artist and indeed as a fine artist. It suggests that original film art, which is an art form largely relegated to history, is indeed fine art. It also shows, in a strange yet really real way, his work continues to have relevance. The estate recognized that phenomenon through the discovery of graphites John used in the making of two of the Pokemon movies. Who knew between that and every article on Blade Runner II using his famous poster for the original film, images attributed to John would continue to be used so frequently?
We who represent the estate of John Alvin are very excited about our plans for the future. We are busy with plans for museum shows, and with continuing to help people around the world acquire those pieces his family members are willing to sell to fine art collectors and film fans. Fortunately for Andrea Alvin, she does have a few pieces of key art that will be kept in the family and handed down to future generations. John’s art for movie campaigns capture the essence of who he was, and even casual observers can see he put his heart into every image. Every piece was personal. The E.T. image is a perfect example; his daughter Farah’s hand was the model for that of Elliott’s as he reaches to touch E.T., Sistine Chapel-style, in the poster.
If you want to know more about John Alvin, of course there’s the great book released in 2014 written by his wife Andrea Alvin, which you can get here:
and you can see the art available for sale through his estate here, as well as a series of chats with John Alvin: