Heffel’s $41m Canadian Art Sale Led By $11.2m Lawren Harris

Lawren Harris’s Mountain Forms set a new record for Harris and a Canadian artist at Heffel’s Fall sale in Toronto. The entire sale made $41m, we over the $32m high estimate on hammer prices. Here’s Heffel on the lead lot that owes some of its success to Steve Martin’s attention-grabbing exhibition:

Lawren Harris’s highly anticipated Mountain Forms led the fall auction with a remarkable sale price of $11,210,000. Strong competition from bidders in the saleroom and on the phones drove the 1926 canvas to a new artist record and a new record for a Canadian work at auction, more than doubling the previous record. The visual impact, date, provenance and exhibition history all factored into its successful sale. The work also had personal connections for Heffel as it was owned and sold in the 1980s by Kenneth Heffel, father of David and Robert. The painting recently starred in The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris, the celebrated exhibition that toured major institutions in Boston, Los Angeles and Toronto.

Other highlights from the sale were:
  • Other works by Lawren Harris fetched exceptional prices in the sale. Two impressive oil on boards led the pack –Mountain Sketch LXIII sold for $2,006,000 (est. $700,000 – 900,000) and Mount Robson from Berg Lake for $1,888,000 (est. $600,000 – 800,000). Inclusive ofMountain Forms, 10 works by Harris in Heffel’s fall auction totalled $16,961,320.
  • A.J. Casson’s Country Crisis canvas is considered the most famous work by the Group of Seven artist. The magnificent work sold for $1,534,000, smashing the previous artist record (est. $600,000 – 800,000).
  • Sleet Storm, the rare painting by the legendary Tom Thomson sold for $1,534,000 (est. $1,000,000 – 1,500,000). The work relates to a significant canvas by the artist, included in the Thomson Collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario.
  • Highly-anticipated works by Emily Carr also exceeded presale expectations, including the outstanding canvas, Alert Bay (with Welcome Figure) that sold for $1,062,000 (est. 900,000 – 1,200,000) and the vibrant Maude Island Totem that fetched $885,000 ($400,000 – 600,000).
  • William Kurelek’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, possibly the artist’s most important self-portrait, led the Post-War & Contemporary Art session and broke the artist record, selling for $531,000 (est. $300,000 – 350,000).
  • Iris bleus, jardin du Petit Gennevilliers, an 1892 oil on canvas by French Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte went for a strong price of $678,500 (est. $600,000 – 800,000).
  • Significant post-war and contemporary artworks by Quebec artists reached impressive heights, including Guido Molinari’s Mutation bi-sérielle at $306,800 (est. $100,000 – 150,000) and Jean Paul Lemieux’s Dimanche at $914,500 (est. $700,000 – 900,000).
  • An artist record was set for First Nations artist Bill Reid with the powerful Killer Whale (Chief of the Undersea World)sculpture. The work reached a final price of $1,180,000, well above its presale estimate of $400,000 to $600,000.
  • James Wilson Morrice’s classic Canadian scene, The Woodpile, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, sold for $1,180,000 and is demonstrative of the continued strength in the Quebec impressionist market (est. $1,000,000 – 1,500,000).
  • Major canvases painted during Group of Seven period brought in exceptional results, including Arthur Lismer’s 1920Spring on the Sackville River, NS for $855,500 (est. $600,000 – 800,000) and A.Y. Jackson’s 1930 Eskimo Summer Camp, Pangnirtung for $531,000 (est. $300,000 – 500,000).
  • A total of 10 artist records were broken in the fall auction including the sale of “The Flora S. Nickerson” (with Barked Sails) Outward Bound for the Labrador by David Blackwood for $177,000 (est. $60,000 – 80,000), White and Blue Out of Red by Gordon Smith for $177,000 (est. $50,000 – 70,000) and Inside Passage 2/87: Grenville Channel by Takao Tanabe for $188,800 (est. $30,000 – 40,000).