Charles G. Martignette was eccentric even by the standards of kitsch art collectors. The Hallandale man, who died in February 2008 at age 57, started snatching up pin-ups and pulp art in the 1970s, long before the stuff gained credibility as a distinctly American art form. It seems Martignette treated his collection like a buried treasure, stowing away most of it in local warehouses where only he could find it. A story in the New York Times makes mention of his "kook-ball" ways, but I prefer the firsthand account of another collector, from Seattle, who in his obituary for Martignette describes a visit to South Florida.
When I entered Charles' apartment I was overwhelmed by the amount of illustration artwork and books that were stacked all over the floor, the walls and the beds. It was already sensory overload. We jumped in his car and headed to his warehouse. He was always nervous when he pulled in. He asked me if I minded guns and I said as long as they weren't pointed at me, I'm fine with them. He pulled a pistol out of the glove box and had me wait in the car until he had cleared the alarm and checked the building. As I entered the storage unit, I realized just what I was in for. Art everywhere. More art than I have seen displayed in the great museums around the world.
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The Times article says it took three, 53-foot-long trucks to haul away Martignette's material. It'll be sold in six separate auctions with the most valuable works expected to approach a sale price of a half-million.