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Some (hopefully fun) thoughts on works of art coming to market.

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Origin of the Constellation Pleiades

June 16, 2021

William Kurelek, 1975

12” x 9.75”

Estimate: $12,000-30,000

Price Realized: $72,000 (including buyer’s premium)

Auction House: AH Wilkens

My last post was anticipating the spring season in the Canadian auction market. While we are still waiting for Heffel’s major sale to happen (and there are so many amazing works up for auction that it was too tough to pick just one to talk about), many auction houses have had their big nights resulting in many records being shattered. One of the lots that stood out to me was the Kurelek above offered by AH Wilkens on June 8th. Estimated at $20,000/30,000 CAD, its price realized (hammer + plus buyer’s premium) was $72,000. Kurelek has always been a bit hit or miss for my personal tastes. However, I love the dreamy and atmospheric quality of this work. Kurelek had a turbulent life and his paintings often displayed his personal turmoil. His pieces seem to vacillate between happy vignettes of children playing in quintessential Canadian landscapes and disturbing scenes heavily laden with religious symbolic meaning. However, this work feels like a breath of fresh air. Congrats on the fantastic result!

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Spring Fever!

May 25, 2021

Jean-Paul Lemieux

Nude on a Blue Background, 1963

11.25” x 12”

Estimate: $325,000-425,000

Current bid: $175,000

Auction House: BYDealers

The spring auction season as descended upon us here in Canada! So many of the large auction houses have amazing works available this season. For me, however, the stand out of the season is this fantastic piece by Jean-Paul Lemieux being offered by @bydealers in Montreal. While covid has placed cast a pall over everything for the last year and a half, I feel that this piece embodies the light at the end of the tunnel that we are starting to see. Bright, cheerful, but restrained, this figure represents all of us gazing out into the beautiful spring weather with the hopes of a brighter tomorrow. It’s a steal right now in comparison to its estimate at $175,000. I’ll be keeping my eye on this one for sure! Bidding closes on the 30th.

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A Doorway in Venice, 1911

May 7, 2021

Alexander Young Jackson

8.25” x 10.5”

Estimate: $15,000-25,000

Price Realized: $73,250 (including buyer’s premium)

Auction House: Heffel

At the end of a relatively quiet month, this AY Jackson made a splash at Heffel “The Group of Seven and their Contemporaries” sale that closed April 29th. However, it’s easy to see why this excellent representative of Canadian Impressionism by one of Canada’s most recognizable member of the Group of Seven sold for almost three times its high estimate. Works by the Group of Seven (and their contemporaries) that have distinct European content consistently perform very well at auction. I have to say I’m loving these smaller, more curated auctions that Canadian auction houses seem to be gravitating towards as of late! Incidentally I find that I can discern overall trends from smaller auctions much more than larger ones. I feel it focuses buyers as they tend not to disperse their bids over multiple lots of relatively similar quality in case they don’t get the one they want - but rather put their all their eggs in one “basket”.

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Folk Art Fix!

April 26, 2021

Maud Lewis

Winter Sleighing Scene

11.25” x 12”

Estimate: $15,000-20,000

Price Realized: $22,800 (including buyer’s premium)

Auction House: Cowley Abbott

I am a proud lover of Folk Art. At a former workplace I was frequently the butt of many jokes due to my known love for this genre. I have a prominently displayed piece of folk art above my fireplace at home – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. How could you not fall in love with this piece by Folk Art legend Maud Lewis?! The above piece recently sold (March 30) at Cowley Abbott demonstrates the persistence of a market for these types of pieces. So why is there a perceived snobbish attitude towards Folk Art? Is it an internalized misogynistic mentality that if it’s Folk Art then it’s “lesser”? Many argue that because women were not provided the same opportunities as men, or that women have been provided the same amount of consideration as men, that the works they produced such as the one above (or other works from different media such as needlepoint, hooked rugs, etc) have been relegated to more of an artefact rather than considered to be fine art. Or can we just chalk it up to a difference of opinion? One thing is for certain: I will always be a champion for Folk Art!

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More broken records!

March 28, 2021

Jean-Michele Basquiat

Warrior (1982)

48” x 60”

Estimate: $30,000,000/40,000,000 USD

This past Tuesday, Christie’s Hong Kong sold the above Basquiat for a record-breaking $41.8 M USD. This sale marked the highest western work of art in Asia. A couple of weeks ago I was curious to see how this piece would fare in comparison to another giant of their time – Van Gogh. Both works slightly outperformed their high estimate. However, what’s interesting to note about Basquiat’s work is its history on the auction market. It has been offered three times in the past seven years. This offering provided the seller a tidy $30 M on their investment. It is fascinating to me to see patterns in the way people in the art world treat the works or certain artists in comparisons to others – how the works of some artists are viewed as commodities to be traded while the worth of others lies more in their consumption value. At the very least, we can point to this sale as an indicator of the health of the art market during such an economically turbulent time.

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It sold for how much??

March 14, 2021

Mary Pavey, 1988

French Shawl

Oil on panel

48” x 60”

Estimate: $1,000-1,500

In honour of March’s various celebrations of women, Waddington’s held a “Women in Art” themed auction of works created by, you guessed it, women. Mary Pavey’s cozy interior scene of colourful mixed patterns blew its very reasonable estimate of $1,000/1,500 out of the water (Pavey has limited auction results with the previous record of $2,600 held by Heffel). The final hammer price was… drumroll… $11,400!! What a fantastic result for this Canadian artist!

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Happy Women’s History Month!

March 7, 2021

Molly Lamb Bobak

Evening in Venice

Watercolour

Currently on offer at Cowley Abbott for $27,500

Why not celebrate Women’s History Month by purchasing a piece of Canadian Women’s history? This lovely piece is currently on offer at Cowley Abbott in their “Buy Art Now” section. No last minute auction drama! Bobak was the first Canadian female artist to document the war and has been achieving great prices at auction as of late. In fact, according to an article (published in 2019) by Sotheby’s Mei Moses, art by women has seen significant growth over the past 20 years. Women’s art increased by 72.9% between 2012 and 2018 while art by men increased by 8.3% over that same period. While the article attributes this growth rather glibly by stating: “When the market runs out of art produced by its superstars, it tends to move onto related areas for supply…” I’d rather interpret this growth more optimistically. Perhaps this growth signifies a shift in the demographic of the buyer. Maybe this generation of art buyer is willing to challenge the canon established over a century ago by white male buyers. This could account for the rising stock of women artists and artists of colour.

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It sold for HOW much??

February 27, 2021

William Griffiths Roberts

Pure Canadian Honey

Watercolour

18.75” x 14.5”

Estimate: $300-500

Price realized: $1,000

Heffel recently closed their Post War and Contemporary sale this past week and had many great pieces on offer. Out of their thirty lots, 8 were watercolours by Canadian artist, William Griffiths Roberts. Most were estimated at the modest $300-500 range, and 7 out of 8 achieved a price realized within the estimate or lower. The outlier being Pure Canadian Honey. Why did this one perform so much better than the others? The bidding history didn’t show a spirited back and forth between two bidders, so I can’t help but wonder what attracted so many people to this particular watercolour (all watercolours clearly came from the same collector as they were all framed beautifully in a consistent modern style). Maybe the colourful roses and whimsy of the honey pot inspired so many to bid on this work. Regardless it was a great result for a Canadian watercolour!

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Not the Reichstag!

February 21, 2021

Package, Christo

Estimate: 100,000-150,000 euros

Price Realized: 520,700 euros

Sotheby’s successful sale of works belonging to the estate of Christo continues to demonstrate the strength of the contemporary market. This piece, reminiscent of the artist’s wrapping of the Reichstag in 1995, sold for almost four times its estimate this past Wednesday. Overall, the sale tripled it’s low estimate and was followed by the second portion of the sale on Thursday - which had a 100% sell-through rate!

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Lot to watch

March 4, 2021

UPDATE!

The drawing sold for over the high estimate – a whopping $10.4 million (USD)!! This result marks a slight improvement over the last time a Van Gogh drawing came to market in 2003 (that offering sold for $10.3 million). Could this be an upward turn for the struggling 19th century art market? I suppose it’s too soon to tell, but this is certainly a fantastic result. A round of applause for all involved in this sale 👏👏👏

February 14, 2021

What: This sweet drawing titled: La Mousme, 1888

When: March 1, 2021

Where: Christie's New York

Who: by Vincent Van Gough

Why: This drawing is one to watch as it will take the temperature on the dwindling 19th century European art market. Done by arguably the most recognizable artist from this era, Van Gough, this drawing has remained in private collections since its completion in the final years of the artist’s life. The value for these types of drawings has significantly been overshadowed by a burgeoning contemporary art market (incidentally, Christie’s Hong Kong will be auctioning a potentially record breaking Basquiat late March) and will be interesting to see if it can live up to its lofty $7-10 million estimate.

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It sold for HOW much??

February 7, 2021

This sculpture, by Dutch/Canadian artist, Arend Nieuwland, smashed its pre-auction estimate of $300/500 by achieving $4,500 (buyer’s premium included) at the recent Waddington’s Discovery Art auction. The sale, known for selling lesser-known Canadian artists, proved to be an excellent first showing for the artist on the auction market.

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Welcome!

February 1, 2021

Welcome to my site! We opened for business February 1st, and I'm still getting some website details set-up and organized, but this page is a place where I thought I'd post some thoughts on the Canadian art market. I am likely to focus on Canadian auction news, and highlight some interesting pieces that come to the market. The plan right now is to keep a weekly posting schedule, but that could change. In the meantime, welcome to the site.