Canadian Art Auctions Defy Art Market Downturn –

canada art Canadian Art Auctions Defy Art Market Downturn   artmarketblog.comIn my final post in this series on the Canadian art market and the market for Canadian art I want to take a look at recent auction results as well as well as the upcoming auctions of Canadian art to see what emerging trends are developing. Having remained relatively resilient during the art market downturn that gripped the market during the GFC, the signs are positive that the market for Canadian art will continue to grow in the currently confused global art market that is experiencing strong sales yet is shrouded in a growing sense of negativity.

The last round of major auctions of Canadian art took place in May 2011 with Heffel, Joyner Waddington’s and Sotheby’s all vying for a slice of the pie. Heffel were the most successful, as one would expect, with their May 2011 live sale in Vancouver going on the record as the sixth highest grossing Canadian fine art auction.  According to Heffel, “The auction exceeded its conservative pre~sale estimate of $8 to $12 million, selling $13.5 million worth of Canadian art and breaking the $1 million mark three times”. Heffel set two new auction records for Jean Paul Lemieux during the May round of auctions, the first of which came with Dimanche which sold for $819,000 followed by the next lot, Les Moniales, which broke the record set with the previous lot with a sale price of $1,023,750.  A rare E.J. Hughes painting from the 1940s was the second work of the sale to sell for over a million dollars blitzing the 700,000-900,000 estimate with a final price of $1,140,750.  The third lot to go over a million was  Jean-Paul Riopelle’s Sans titre which sold for $1,082,250.

Sotheby’s May 2011 Canadian art sale wasn’t as near as successful as Heffel’s but still found success with works under $150,000. The top lot,  a signed work by Jean-Paul Riopelle with an estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million, failed to find a buyer even though Sotheby’s had a financial interest in the painting.  Also failing to sell during the auction was Tom Thomson’s Early Snow, Algonquin Park which had the second highest estimate of $450,000 to $650,000.  The sale wasn’t a complete failure with lower priced works by Lawren Stewart Harris, James Wilson Morrice, Christopher Pratt and Frederick Simpson Coburn, among others, exceeding their estimate.  David Silcox, president of Sotheby’s Canada, stated in a press release that “The variety and quality of the paintings in this spring’s offering at last brings Canada closer to other countries in the sale of contemporary art”

Joyner Waddington’s held their auction of Canadian fine art on the 27 May 2011 and stunned the Canadian art market with their sale of Lawren Harris’s Island Off Greenland, Arctic Sketch XIX, for an astounding $1.77 against an estimate of $500,000-700,000.  The twelve by fifteen inch oil sketch achieved the highest price of any work during spring 2011 Canadian art auction season and entered the top ten most expensive works by Harris to be sold at auction.  Another small by Tom Thomson measuring eight and a half by ten inches also found a buyer at $472,000 against an estimate of $400,000-600,000.   According to Joyner, “The Joyner auction was the top grossing Toronto-based auction of the spring 2011 season”.

As preparations continue for the upcoming November round of auctions of Canadian art, all eyes will be on Bonhams who will be holding their first sale of Fine Canadian Art in New York on November the 29th.  Holding a sale of Canadian art outside of Canada is a huge deal and a big gamble for Bonhams’s which I hope will find success. Heffel will hold their sale on the 24th of November followed by Joyner Waddington’s on the 25th and then Sotheby’s on the 28th.  Previews of the November auctions can be viewed here:


Joyner Waddington’s:



Overall, the market for Canadian art is strongly geared towards the work of the major groups of artists to come out of Canada including The Group of Seven, The Painters Eleven, Les Automatistes and the Eastern Group of Painters.  Recently released books on the Painters Eleven, Les Automatists and abstract painting in Canada as well as the launch of major exhibitions of work by some of Canada’s most famous artists all point towards a growing interest in Canada’s artistic heritage.  What was once a market that struggled to develop an internationally relevant identity is now a blossoming market that is only just beginning to reach its potential while defying the current growth in negativity surrounding the art market.

See parts 1 and 2 here:

Re-evaluating the Canadian Art Market Pt. 1 –

Re-evaluating the Canadian Art Market Pt. 2 –




medium: oil on board

Height: 12 ” – 30 cm

Width: 15 ” – 37.5 cm

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.comt Canadian Art Auctions Defy Art Market Downturn, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

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