Lemieux is Canada’s latest “$2-million-dollar man”
November sale breaks record for a post-war Canadian artist
By Larry Humber. Web only
Published online: 26 November 2011
Toronto. A 1962 oil on canvas by Quebec City’s Jean Paul Lemieux realised a record price for post-war and contemporary Canadian art on November 24.
The piece, titled Nineteen Ten Remembered, hammered at $2m ($2.34m including buyer’s premium, all prices in Canadian dollars) at Heffel Fine Art’s fall sale. Lemieux became just the fourth Canadian artist to realize $2m at auction, joining legends like Paul Kane, Emily Carr and Lawren Harris, with Tom Thomson knocking on the door.
“He becomes the first-ever contemporary Canadian artist to be crowned a ‘two-million-dollar man’,” said David Heffel, the auction house’s president, after the sale.
Lemieux eclipsed the previous high-water marks for a post-war or contemporary Canadian artist of $1.8m for a sale outside Canada and $1.6m for one held in the country, established by fellow Quebecer Jean-Paul Riopelle in 2008 and 2006.
Two unidentified phone bidders—with a single paddle being raised on the floor late in the proceedings—slugged it out for about five minutes before the Lemieux found a new home.
Nineteen Ten Remembered was just one of nine Lemieuxs on offer in Toronto, but easily the pick of the litter. It shows the artist as a six-year-old boy outfitted in a sailor suit flanked by his soon-to-be estranged parents, his father almost edging off the canvas.
The record price was hardly a surprise, as Nineteen Ten Remembered is a well known work in Quebec, with countless prints and frequent showings. As Heffel said earlier, “It is among the best known and most reproduced canvasses ever created by a Canadian artist. Such pieces traditionally are reserved to the domain of public museums.”
The artist, who passed away in 1990 aged 86, had given the painting to his wife Madeleine and daughter Anne Sophie Lemieux, who subsequently sold it to a Montreal buyer, who in turn sold it to his next-door neighbour, the consignor.
The consignor asked that a pre-sale estimate be waived and Heffel complied, a first for the Vancouver-based auction house.
A 1908 Emily Carr watercolour on paper, War Canoe, Alert Bay, provided another highlight, becoming the first Canadian watercolour to top $1m, securing $1.2m. Lawren Harris’s Rocky Mountain Sketch was the other big seller at $1.8m.
In all, nearly $17m changed hands, well above the estimate of $8m-$12m.
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