NEW YORK—The star lot at the Nov. 24 sale of Canadian art by Heffel Fine Art Auction House, Toronto, was a C$1.7 million ($1.5 million) painting by abstract expressionist Jean-Paul Riopelle (1924-2002). The auction house offered 220 lots and reaped C$11.7 million ($10.3 million), far exceeding the C$6/8 million estimate.
The Heffel sale built on a good week for Canadian art, following a Nov. 20 auction by Sotheby’s in association with Ritchie’s auction house, Toronto, which grossed C$7.4 million ($6.5 million) on 196 lots, well above the $4/5 million presale estimate.
Says Heffel co-owner Robert Heffel: “The Canadian art market is just very strong right now.” He attributes this to the overall strength of the Canadian economy and points out that “our last four auctions have doubled the low estimates.”
Three Riopelle Works Win $1.9M
Riopelle’s 1954-55 mosaic oil on canvas, Il était une fois une ville, fell after energized bidding to a western Canada buyer, Heffel reports. It was one of three works by the artist that realized a combined C$2.2 million ($1.9 million).
Ninety-two percent of the 217 lots in the Heffel sale found buyers. There was some representation from the United States and Europe, though most of the consignors and bidders were Canadian, the house reports.
Other notable sale prices: C$776,250, or $680,570 (estimate: C$275,000/375,000), for Northern Lights, a 1916-18 oil on divided panel by Tom Thomson; C$74,500, or $65,300 (estimate: C$10,000/15,000), for a 1929 linocut print, Concert Hall, by Sybil Andrews (1898-1992); C$149,500, or $131,000 (estimate: C$15,000/20,000), for Interior of the Woods, Doon, a 1949 oil on panel by Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969); and C$345,000, or $302,500 (estimate: C$60,000/80,000), for a double-sided oil, Geometric Composition/Biomorphic Composition (dated between 1938 and 1956), by Lawren Stewart Harris (1885-1970). Several U.S. collectors contended for the painting, but the winner was Canadian.
More than half the lots exceeded presale estimates. Heffel attributed the high purchase rate and unexpectedly high prices to “conservative estimates.”
A Thomson Leads at Sotheby’s/Ritchie’s Sale
Several days earlier, at the Sotheby’s/Ritchie’s auction on Nov. 20 in Toronto, 84 percent of the 196 lots found buyers. The top performer was an oil sketch by Thomson, Burnt Area with Ragged Rocks, which sold for C$934,000, or $816,000 (estimate: C$150,000/250,000), from a buyer competing with more than a dozen floor, absentee and phone bidders, all from Canada, reports Sotheby’s spokeswoman Gabrielle Peacock. “There’s not a lot of Thomson material in circulation,” she told ARTnewsletter.
Other top prices included C$267,000, or $233,300 (estimate: C$40,000/60,000), for a picture by Ethel Seath (1879-1963), Cab Stand in Phillips Square; C$244,000, or $213,200 (esti- mate: C$100,000/150,000), for a painting by Robert Wakeham Pilot (1898-1967), Twilight, Quebec; C$232,500, or $203,200 (estimate: C$200,000/250,000), for a painting by Alexander Young Jackson (1882-1974), Indian Homes, Fort Resolution; and C$336,000, or $293,600 (estimate: C$200,000/250,000), for a work by Edward John Hughes (b. 1913), Kitwanga.