This season’s report must start with an admission: the Chris Cran retrospective at the National Gallery in Ottawa took me east and not, therefore, west for the Heffel sales in Vancouver. But thanks to the Internet and streaming video, I was able to view the entire Heffel sale from my hotel chair.
Heffel Fine Art, Post-War, Contemporary & Fine Canadian Art, May 25
The Post-War sale featured some great West Coast artists and further offerings of Quebec abstract art and Painters Eleven.
Gordon Appelbe Smith, "Vertical Painting (Rock Face)," 1950 ~ 1951
Gordon Appelbe Smith, "Vertical Painting (Rock Face)," 1950 ~ 1951, oil on canvas, 60" x 30"
Lot #1, Rock Face by Gordon Smith, was a rare work, large and done early in his career. The work exceeded its estimate, selling for $32,450. The Plasticien artists Claude Tousignant and Guido Molinari caught the attention of buyers, an important move forward beyond the Automatiste artists, who have ruled the roost for some time.
Edward Burtynsky, "Nickel Tailings #39, Sudbury, Ontario"
Edward Burtynsky, "Nickel Tailings #39, Sudbury, Ontario," chromogenic colour print, editioned AP 1 and inscribed "Original: 8 x 10 colour negative" / "Printed: 2002 on Kodak Professional paper," 40" x 60"
Ed Burtynsky, Lot #12, certainly captured people’s attention as it sold for $64,900, partly due to his films, books and regular exhibitions. Painters Eleven works suffered even though the offerings were good. It seems collectors are soft on them for the time being.
Edward John (E.J.) Hughes, "The Post Office at Courtenay, BC," 1949
Edward John (E.J.) Hughes, "The Post Office at Courtenay, BC," 1949, oil on canvas, 38" x 48"
The big news came with E.J. Hughes, Lot #18, The Post Office at Courtenay, B.C. Painted in 1949, the work features the kind of image-capturing the artist is famous for. And now he joins the list of million-dollar artists, as the work sold for $1.593 million.
Alexander Colville, "Swimming Dog and Canoe," 1979
Alexander Colville, "Swimming Dog and Canoe," 1979, acrylic polymer emulsion on board, 21" x 47"
The next big surprise was Lot #27, Alex Colville’s Swimming Dog and Canoe, 1979. A large work, it sold to a phone bid at $1,180 million. The hammer went down on a single bid that exceeded the estimate by $500,000.
Jack Hamilton Bush, "Fragment," 1958
Jack Hamilton Bush, "Fragment," 1958, oil on canvas, 30 1/4" x 24"
One last standout was Lot #48, Jack Bush, Fragment, 1958, originally sold in Calgary by the Newzones gallery. I’m sure the new owner is pleased with $103,000, as it’s an excellent early work that no doubt benefitted from this incredible painter’s recent exposure.
Fine Canadian Art had some noteworthy paintings: Lawren Harris, Emily Carr, A.J. Casson and David Milne were high on my interest list, along with Frederick Banting, Marc-Aurèle Fortin and Arthur Lismer.
Lawren Stewart Harris, "Laurentian Landscape," 1913 ~ 1914
Lawren Stewart Harris, "Laurentian Landscape," 1913 ~ 1914, oil on canvas, 30 1/8" x 35"
Harris, Lot #142, Laurentian Landscape, 1913-14 sold for $2.183 million. These paintings were once thought inferior in his production because of their decorative nature, but they’ve always been on my radar as special, and it seems others have taken note.
Emily Carr, "Gitwangak," circa 1927
Emily Carr, "Gitwangak," circa 1927, watercolour on paper, 27" x 21"
Carr’s Lot #146 Gitwangak is a perfect example of her 1912 wanderings. Her depiction of totems captures village life and it was a good buy at $413,000. Overall, the sale was solid, with good paintings sold at decent values.
Waddington’s, Art Of Canada, May 30
Waddington’s made changes in their auction this season, as reflected in the sale’s new title. Featuring Canadian fine art and Inuit art, it was a reasonable change and any bumps were likely noted for further adjustments. The sale was somewhat out of balance with too many Inuit items. But, that said, some important Inuit works did well and I enjoyed learning more about them. On the Canadian art side, Linda Rodeck did due diligence sourcing works with fresh provenance from collectors. It was odd, but the exciting works for me were all small. Of course, collecting small works means you can buy more.
James Edward Hervey MacDonald, "Freight Yard, Toronto"
M. Emily Carr, "Beaver Pot"
Marion Long, "In the Ward"
J.E.H. MacDonald, Lot #21, Freight Yard, was a spectacular gem, selling for $50,500. Of note, a tiny Emily Carr, Lot #34, Beaver Pot, was one of the best I have seen selling for $20,400. Also on the list was Lot #95, Marion Long’s In the Ward. This small work had everything right: colour, details, and light. It sold for $18,450.
William Kurelek, "A group of nine drawings"
William Kurelek, "A group of nine drawings," pen and ink, each 11" x 13.5"
Worth noting too, was Lot #64, a series of nine incredible drawings by William Kurelek. In brief, these are the real stories Kurelek can tell. The set, dating from 1969, sold for $84,000.
William Kurelek, "Trompe l"oeil with dollar bill," 1958
William Kurelek, "Trompe l"oeil with dollar bill," 1958, watercolour and ink, 4.25" x 9"
Finally, Kurelek’s Lot #146 Trompe l’oeil, 1958, was a magical painting, showing his incredible prowess with image and detail. It sold for $22,800.
Hodgins Art Auction, Calgary, May 30
I watched the Hodgins auction online from Toronto as I was interested to see the results of the one-night sale. It did well and had solid results considering Alberta’s troubled economy. A private collection of A.C. Leighton paintings and watercolours caught my attention. His incredible interpretations of the Rockies should be considered important, but have suffered a set back in recent sales. But Hodgins was able to garner good results overall.
William Goodridge Roberts, "Autumn Landscape"
William Goodridge Roberts, "Autumn Landscape," oil on masonite, 29" x 36"
Of note was a strong painting by Goodridge Roberts, Lot #62, which fetched $8,500.
Odd Nerdrum, "Shifting Eyes," 2001
Odd Nerdrum, "Shifting Eyes," 2001, oil on canvas, 67.5" x 72.5"
Most impressive though, was a work by Swedish painter Odd Nerdrum from the figurative collection of Dr. H. Freeze, of Calgary. This rare painting found a buyer at $65,000. Nerdrum’s work is sought after outside of Canada and it’s good to know an Internet platform can work.
Consignors Canadian Fine Art Auction, Toronto, May 31
Finally, to end an interesting season of changes and adaptations, Consignor held its first live sale at the historic Berkeley Church on Queen Street. I was looking forward to one of Canada’s best auctioneers. Robert Cowley did not disappoint. His quick eye and banter moved the sale precisely.
Lawren Stewart Harris, "Algoma (Algoma Sketch 48)"
Lawren Stewart Harris, "Algoma (Algoma Sketch 48)," oil on panel, 10.5" x 14"
The big story for Consignor was Lot #36, a Lawren Harris sketch that returned to Canada after some 40 years. The provenance was clear, simple and through family. Algoma, circa 1919-20, had gone to live in Australia, but Canadian buyers seemed happy to see it home again. The sale opened quickly and moved around the room, along with phone bids, until a private collector in the room bought the work for $977,500, looking happy he had stayed in the fight. The painting set a record for Algoma-period sketches by Harris.
Ivan Kenneth Eyre, "Cairn"
Ivan Kenneth Eyre, "Cairn," oil on canvas, 27" x 33"
Other works of interest were, Ivan Eyre’s Lot #19 Cairn, circa 1960, which sold at $25,300 to a phone bidder.
Jack Hamilton Bush, "Five Colour Prints (1965 Portfolio)"
Jack Hamilton Bush, "Five Colour Prints (1965 Portfolio)," housed in the original portfolio, 26" x 20.5" (each)
Certainly, Jack Bush, Lot #81 Five Colour Prints, 1965, also deserves mention. This incredible folio of handmade serigraph prints in the original folio sold for $57,500. It’s rare to see a whole edition in perfect condition, and the bidding indicated many knew the estimate of $15,000 to $20,000 was low. Overall, I’m happy to see Consignor enter the live sale market and achieve success. It’s a positive addition to the secondary market in Canada.
Back to you in the fall season with another auction report. Until then, remember previews are free and worthy of your attention.
ED NOTE: Prices shown include commissions.