Colville a magic man at Canadian sales

Heffel auction house sold more than C$13 million in art, easily outstripping its two rivals, Joyner Waddington’s and Sotheby’s, who held sales earlier in the week

Alex Colville's Man on Verandah made C$1,287,000 (US$1,263,000) at Heffel

TORONTO. On American Thanksgiving, a Canadian nonagenarian got the biggest helping of all. Magic realistic Alex Colville, who turned 90 in late August, set a new standard for a living Canadian artist when his painting Man on Verandah, a glazed tempera on board, realized C$1,287,000 (US$1,263,000) at Heffel Fine Art’s afternoon sale of Canadian post-war and contemporary art in Toronto on 25 November.

Just 15 by 20 inches and dated 1953, it went to an unnamed European bidder. It was estimated at $400,000-600,000, in line with the record high price previously paid for a Colville —C$690,000 for Two Pacers. Another big ticket item at Heffel’s afternoon sale was an untitled abstract by Montreal-born Jean-Paul Riopelle, which garnered C$1,111,500.

It was a memorable day for Heffel, which also put on an evening sale of fine Canadian Art, made up of works by the ever-popular Group of Seven and their contemporaries. Group of Seven member and perennial crowd pleaser Lawren Harris was the evening’s big seller, his sizeable oil Houses, Winter, City Painting V netting C$702,000, while Emily Carr’s Hazelton realized C$585,000.

“To see two paintings break the million dollar mark and 23 paintings exceed the $100,000 mark is a tremendous achievement,” said vice-president Robert Heffel after.

The Vancouver-based firm moved more than C$13 million in art, easily outstripping its two rivals, Joyner Waddington’s and Sotheby’s, which had held their sales in Toronto earlier in the week. Sotheby’s reported just under $5 million in sales, while Joyner took in just over $3 milion.

Sotheby’s also divided its sale, leading off with more traditional works. The highlight of that portion was a small oil by Group of Seven co-founder J.E.H. MacDonald, a sullen landscape titled Wind Clouds. It realized C$589,000, easily bettering its estimate of C$150,000-C$175,000.

There was a noticeable lift as the contemporary work was unveiled, Sotheby’s president David Silcox saying “the room really lit up”. He senses “a shift in taste,” telling The Art Newspaper, “The bidding was a lot more varied, with new clients coming in.”

Riopelle’s Composition was tops among the post-war offerings at Sotheby’s at C$278,500. Attaining new heights were the late Guido Molinari, his Mutations Athematique Vert-Ocre raising C$83,000, and Plasticien Claude Tousignant, whose Absurdo sold for C$51,000, doubling its estimate. Realist Ken Danby (C$48,000) and aboriginal artist Norval Morrisseau (C$45,000) also established new standards.

At Joyner Waddington’s, a Paul Peel canvas dated 1892 commanded top dollar at C$413,000. But second best was Atttaca, a lyrical abstract by Jack Bush, who was a member of the Toronto-based Painters Eleven. It went for a record C$165,200, easily topping the pre-sale estimate of C$50,000-C$70,000.

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