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News / October 25, 2013

Blue-Chip Art Interest Increases at Art Toronto

Reflecting a pattern at art fairs worldwide—like the growth of Frieze Masters—it seems interest in blue-chip art is increasing at Art Toronto.

Last night, Loch Gallery (Booth 428) reported that it sold more than $3 million in art at Art Toronto’s Opening Night Preview.

Much of the sale value was attributed to Canadian blue-chip works—that is, works by artists that are steadily or reliably increasing in value at auction—such as Tom Thomson’s Winter Sunset, Algonquin Park, Lawren Harris’s Northern Sketch XVII, and Paul Peel’s The Young Botanist.

Though Loch Gallery did not disclose exact sale prices, it did confirm that the Peel sale amount surpasses the 2010 auction record of $413,000 that was set with his work Orchestra Chairs at Joyner Waddington’s.

“Our biggest problem is finding the art; it isn’t selling the art,” gallerist Alan Loch says of the historical blue-chip situation surrounding Thomson, Harris, Emily Carr and select other artists. “We have some wonderful collectors, and there is not enough art to go around at a high level.”

This situation is exacerbated, Loch notes, as an increasing number of Canadian blue-chip collectors set up their own private museums or make plans to endow the works to public institutions.

As a result, Art Toronto becomes a chance not just to sell blue-chip work, but to meet possible future sellers—people who have been collecting similar works and might be ready one day pursue a private sale.

“If you don’t bring works of significance, you don’t get to meet the new clients,” Loch says. “Last year, we had a lot of Kurelek paintings, and I met so many people that owned Kureleks through that that it would have almost been worth it for me to bring paintings that weren’t for sale just to meet the people who owned them and who one day might allow us to sell them for them.”

Last year—its first doing a quarter-section of historical works at its booth—Loch did just under $2 million in sales, breaking its own 2011 record of $1 million.

Up until that point last year, Loch says, “we had always sort of felt that the art fair was for the living artists.” Now, the majority of the booth does continue to be living artists like Ivan Eyre, with a quarter firmly devoted to historical.

“If the historic continues to work, then we’ll continue to do it at the art fair,” Loch says. “But the issue always is you have to plan almost a year in advance and purposely sit on paintings in order to do that,” rather than selling them earlier in a private sale.

Other galleries are also carrying Canadian blue-chip work at the fair; Mayberry Fine Art (Booth 207) was displaying Eskimo Children Playing in Cape Dorset (1968) by William Kurelek. Bearing a red dot, it had a sale price of $350,000 listed.

Galerie BAC (Booth 300), Galerie Claude Lafitte (Booth 205) and Mayberry Fine Art have also brought works by Jean-Paul Lemieux, whose work famously set a record for contemporary Canadian art at a Heffel auction in 2011 with the $2 million sale of Nineteen Ten Remembered. (The record for contemporary Canadian art was later broken in May 2012 at Christie’s in New York with the $3.6 million of Jeff Wall’s Dead Soldiers Speak, but the Nineteen Ten Remembered sale remains a high point in the industry.)

Odon Wagner Contemporary (Booth 522) was also displaying prints by Pablo Picasso.

This article is part of Canadian Art’s daily Art Toronto 2013 coverage. For updates, visit To report sales information for future articles, please email

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor based in Toronto. Her arts journalism has appeared in the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications, and her creative work has been published in Prism, Room and Freefall. She can be reached via