CURRENT ISSUE | SUMMER 2017: KINSHIP
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Fall Auction Preview: Postwar Wonders

This week, Canadian auction houses Heffel, Joyner Waddington’s and Sotheby’s hold their major fall Canadian-art events in Toronto. Besides a number of intriguing stories that have surfaced around certain works—some were found in a Massachusetts barn, others in a Montreal bank vault—it’s worth noting that many of the pieces going under the gavel are from the postwar era, a possible signal of increasing interest in post–Group of Seven artworks in the Canadian market.

On November 24 at the Park Hyatt Hotel, Heffel is offering an iconic work by Jean-Paul Lemieux. After selling his 1964 work Les Moniales for more than a million dollars last May, Heffel auctioneers are handling Nineteen Ten Remembered, a disarmingly understated 1962 self-portrait of the artist as a child with his parents. The estimate pricing for this piece is only available upon request, generating speculation regarding its potential selling price. Furthermore, a 1952 abstract painting by Jean Paul Riopelle, Grande Fête, has a pre-auction estimate of $900,000 to $1.2 million.

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Emily Carr’s 1908 watercolour War Canoe, Alert Bay is estimated at $200,000 to $300,000 for Heffel’s November 24 Toronto auction / image courtesy Heffel Fine Art Auction House

Emily Carr’s 1908 watercolour <em>War Canoe, Alert Bay</em> is estimated at $200,000 to $300,000 for Heffel’s November 24 Toronto auction / image courtesy Heffel Fine Art Auction House

Emily Carr’s 1908 watercolour War Canoe, Alert Bay is estimated at $200,000 to $300,000 for Heffel’s November 24 Toronto auction / image courtesy Heffel Fine Art Auction House
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Jean-Paul Riopelle’s Grande Fête from 1952 bears an estimate of $900,000 to $1.2 million for Heffel’s Toronto auction on November 24 / image courtesy Heffel Fine Art Auction House

Jean-Paul Riopelle’s <em>Grande Fête</em> from 1952 bears an estimate of $900,000 to $1.2 million for Heffel’s Toronto auction on November 24 / image courtesy Heffel Fine Art Auction House

Jean-Paul Riopelle’s Grande Fête from 1952 bears an estimate of $900,000 to $1.2 million for Heffel’s Toronto auction on November 24 / image courtesy Heffel Fine Art Auction House
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Lawren Harris’ 1911 painting The Return from Town is due to be a highlight of Joyner’s auction on November 25 in Toronto

Lawren Harris’ 1911 painting <em>The Return from Town</em> is due to be a highlight of Joyner’s auction on November 25 in Toronto

Lawren Harris’ 1911 painting The Return from Town is due to be a highlight of Joyner’s auction on November 25 in Toronto
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Handel’s Messiah at Massey Hall, a 1973 painting by William Kurelek, is estimated at $60,000 to $80,000 for Joyner’s November 25 Toronto auction

<em>Handel’s Messiah at Massey Hall</em>, a 1973 painting by William Kurelek, is estimated at $60,000 to $80,000 for Joyner’s November 25 Toronto auction

Handel’s Messiah at Massey Hall, a 1973 painting by William Kurelek, is estimated at $60,000 to $80,000 for Joyner’s November 25 Toronto auction
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Guido Molinari’s Untitled (October 1962) is estimated at $70,000 to $90,000 in Joyner’s November 25 Toronto auction

Guido Molinari’s <em>Untitled (October 1962)</em> is estimated at $70,000 to $90,000 in Joyner’s November 25 Toronto auction

Guido Molinari’s Untitled (October 1962) is estimated at $70,000 to $90,000 in Joyner’s November 25 Toronto auction
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Jean McEwen’s 1962 work Arc-en-Ciel Noir is estimated at $50,000 to $70,000 in Joyner’s November 25 Toronto auction

Jean McEwen’s 1962 work <em>Arc-en-Ciel Noir</em> is estimated at $50,000 to $70,000 in Joyner’s November 25 Toronto auction

Jean McEwen’s 1962 work Arc-en-Ciel Noir is estimated at $50,000 to $70,000 in Joyner’s November 25 Toronto auction
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Jean-Paul Lemieux’s 1972 painting Country Club is due to be among the highlights of Sotheby’s November 28 auction in Toronto

Jean-Paul Lemieux’s 1972 painting <em>Country Club</em> is due to be among the highlights of Sotheby’s November 28 auction in Toronto

Jean-Paul Lemieux’s 1972 painting Country Club is due to be among the highlights of Sotheby’s November 28 auction in Toronto
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Alex Colville’s Cattle Show from 1955 is estimated at $250,000 to $350,000 in Sotheby’s November 28 Toronto auction

Alex Colville’s <em>Cattle Show</em> from 1955 is estimated at $250,000 to $350,000 in Sotheby’s November 28 Toronto auction

Alex Colville’s Cattle Show from 1955 is estimated at $250,000 to $350,000 in Sotheby’s November 28 Toronto auction
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J.W. Morrice’s Evening Stroll, Venice is estimated at $250,000 to $350,000 in Sotheby’s November 28 Toronto auction

J.W. Morrice’s <em>Evening Stroll, Venice</em> is estimated at $250,000 to $350,000 in Sotheby’s November 28 Toronto auction

J.W. Morrice’s Evening Stroll, Venice is estimated at $250,000 to $350,000 in Sotheby’s November 28 Toronto auction

Also among the lots up for grabs at the Park Hyatt is a 1908 watercolour by Emily Carr, entitled War Canoe, Alert Bay and estimated at $200,000 to $300,000, and a pair of works by Albert Robinson, a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters in 1933, which were recently rediscovered in a Massachusetts barn. Several of the highlight works in the auction come from the François Dupré Collection, which focuses on Canadian impressionism and came to light of late after being stored for 24 years in a Montreal bank vault.

On November 25, Joyner Waddington’s presents some rare works by the Group of Seven and other well-known Canadian painters. The morning auction will take place at the house’s new facility at 275 King Street East and it proffers 206 lots of Canadian art. Of particular note is a 1911 work by Lawren Harris, The Return from Town, which is a painterly depiction of merry lumberjacks returning to their camp through a snowscape; the work is estimated at $500,000 to $700,000. William Kurelek’s Handel’s Messiah at Massey Hall, a 1973 painting of the Mendelssohn Choir singing in the landmark music venue, is estimated to fetch between $60,000 and $80,000, and a black-and-white work by Guido Molinari, Untitled (October 1962), is being auctioned for $70,000 to $90,000. Further items of interest include a collage of geometric abstraction by Harold Town (Three As One), estimated at $30,000 to $40,000, an abstract composition by Jock Macdonald (Lilt of Songs) going for $50,000 to $70,000 and Jean McEwen’s Arc-en-Ciel Noir, a complex, layered work that is estimated at the same price.

The season comes to a close at the Sotheby’s auction being held on November 28 at the Royal Ontario Museum, which will parade a roster of postwar Canadian artists. Jean-Paul Lemieux is found once again at the top of the “must-watch” list with a 1972 painting entitled Country Club. Deemed “heavenly” by Sotheby’s president David Silcox, it bears an auction estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. Also of note is a work by Alex Colville (Cattle Show) and a work by J.W. Morrice (Evening Stroll, Venice), both of which are estimated at $250,000 to $350,000. Other lots in this auction include works by Paul-Émile Borduas, David Milne, Norval Morrisseau, Jack Bush, Brian Jungen, Kazuo Nakamura and Edward Burtynsky.

Interestingly, the fate of postwar artists at the auctions has also been highlighted in a different way this week by a timely press release from CARFAC, a major national nonprofit organization of Canada’s professional visual artists. The release notes that the Artist’s Resale Right has not yet been implemented into the Canadian Copyright Act. The right, which has already been adopted in 59 other countries, would entitle artists to receive 5% from subsequent public sales of their work through auction houses and commercial galleries. Given that last year’s major Canadian fall auctions totalled sales of more than $18.7 million, the Artist’s Resale Right, if enacted, could theoretically direct upwards of $1 million annually to living Canadian artists.

Factoring in the potential for record prices, for increased interest in postwar art, and for tension around the Artist’s Resale Right, our fall auctions are shaping up to be a dramatic, not-to-be-missed season.

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