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Sotheby’s Spring Auction: Up or Down

Jean-Paul Lemieux La Prairie 1964

Sotheby’s braves the recession landscape Monday morning with its annual spring auction of “important Canadian art” at Ritchies Auctioneers in Toronto. Highlights of the 142 works up for sale include a trio of Jean Paul Lemieux canvases, an iconic Emily Carr forest interior, Cathedral, and a tiny B. C. Binning oil on masonite, Device for Aesthetic Response, that is to die for in its modest perfection. (Lemieux’s La Prairie is estimated at $150,000 to $200,000, the Carr at $150,000 to $250,000 and the Binning at $12,000 to $18,000.)

Last November, with the market in free fall, Sotheby’s did better than expected with an $8.4 million dollar haul anchored by the sale of a Lawren Harris arctic picture that sold for $1.8 million dollars, up hugely from its $300,000 to $500,000 estimate. This year, restraint rules all expectations despite the quality of the assembled works. Sales are predicted to come in roughly $3 million dollars lower. Heffel, the strong Vancouver auction house, is slated to hold its sales of historical and contemporary Canadian art on June 17.

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