Home » Ritchie’s/Sotheby’s Auction Preview: Important Canadian Art

Ritchie’s/Sotheby’s Auction Preview: Important Canadian Art

We attended the auction preview last night at Ritchie’s, in association with Sotheby’s, as guests of Sotheby’s Real Estate.

The auction preview rooms – the sale will take place on Monday at 10:30 am – were filled cheek by jowl with major Canadian names including several works by Jean-Paul Riopelle, many by the Group of Seven including a tiny, perfectly formed Lawren Harris and a few works by First Nations artist Norval Morrisseau, whose enormous painting Androgyny has just been installed by Governor-General Michaëlle Jean in the grand ballroom of Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

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Norval Morrisseau’s Androgyny at Rideau Hall. Image: canadianart.ca

It appears that Ritchie’s/Sotheby’s are expecting great things, particularly given the results of last week’s Heffel auction that saw 175 lots valued at almost $12.5-million, a pretty big deal in Canada. According to James Adams in the Globe and Mail, this was the third-biggest sale by dollar in Canadian art auction history. Nonetheless, many lots went unsold last week, a fact that speaks to the conservatism in the market.

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This Riopelle, Sans titre (Composition #2), 1951, was estimated at $1,000,000 ~ $1,500,000 and sold for
$1,638,000.00 CAD at Heffel on Thursday. Image: Heffel.com

At the Ritchie’s/Sotheby’s preview, a few pieces stood out – a striking Emily Carr study for a totem, some Gershon Iskowitz paintings, a large Harold Town and a stunning watercolour of a fish resting on tin foil and cellophane by Mary Pratt, which we would reframe to make it more modern.

VoCA’s picks? A highly covetable 1948 edition of the manifesto Refus Global (edition 55/400) by Borduas was estimated at $10-15,000. The manifesto has been called “one of the most important and controversial artistic documents in modern Quebec society”.


Refus Global, edition 156/400. Image: voir.ca

Another highlight, for us, was a suite of 8 prints by General Idea. Direct from an American private collection, Fear Management is a series of shield-shaped prints inspired by armorial devices on flags in the battlefield.

Among the crowd, milling about sipping champagne, we spied architect Eb and his wife Jane Ziegler admiring a Morisseau, art constultant Robin Anthony, various contemporary collectors, dealer Miriam Shiell (who now represents the estate of Gershon Iskowitz), Popsy Johnstone who sits on Sotheby’s board as does artist Joanne Tod, who was there with her very large, unusual painting of what looks like an ormolu table ornament.

Artcore’s Fabrice Marcolini made a brief appearance, apparently to check out a piece. Which piece? He wouldn’t say.

With the economic downturn affecting the international auctions terribly, excellent examples of Canadian work is looking well-priced. Stay tuned for the results of Monday’s sale.

For a review of the Heffel auction in the Globe and Mail, please click HERE.

For the Ritchie’s website and to view works, please click HERE. For the Heffel website and auction results, please click HERE.

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