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Heffel Fine Art Gallery opened in 1978 under the watchful eye of industrialist and art collector Kenneth G. Heffel, who quickly built the Heffel reputation in the Canadian art business with hard work and his deep love of Canadian art. Opening an upstart gallery in the old Royal Bank of Canada heritage building on Vancouver's established Gallery Row, the gregarious Heffel slowly built up his collection and clientele armed with an initial investment of valuable paintings by Canadian masters. Mr. Heffel established a reputation for buying and selling the very best works by Canadian artists and soon rose to prominence in the gallery world. In 1987, after nearly a decade in the fine art business, Heffel passed away leaving his sons, David, then 25, and Robert, 23, to carry on the family name.
Brothers David and Robert Heffel grew up in a home filled with fine Canadian art and which inspired both to study Art History at the University of British Columbia. Within a few years of taking ownership, David and Robert identified a significant shift in art collecting and noticed the rapid growth of the international fine art auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's. Further down the West Coast, the success of regional fine art auction house Butterfield & Butterfield, in San Francisco, confirmed to the Heffel brothers that here was a strong need for a quality fine art auction house in the Pacific Northwest. Challenged by the prejudice against their youthful age in a fine art industry that prides itself on old~age wisdom, the Heffel brothers instead took advantage of their unique combination of skills, their years of experience in the fine art business, and their unique understanding of how Internet technology could be the utilized by the art business.
Heffel Fine Art Auction House, a division of Heffel Gallery Limited, was established in 1995 and with its inaugural auction became the first western Canadian fine art auction to achieve over $1,000,000 in sales. Heffel has revolutionized the way art is sold in Canada, and now conducts two live auction events annually, one in the spring in Vancouver and one in the fall in Toronto.
Robert and David Heffel
with their mother Marjorie,
Based on the success of Heffel Fine Art Auction House and the rapidly growing of use the Internet in every aspect of business, Heffel was soon fast at work creating another way to bring quality masterworks to the public. In September of 1999, Heffel.com Online Auctions was launched. The monthly online auction combines the buzz and anticipation of a live auction with the dynamism of the Internet. Says David Heffel: "When we hold a live auction in a ballroom, there is a buzz in the room, an excitement, a thrill. We have found that same sort of excitement and anticipation generated online." The success of Heffel's monthly online auctions has grown vigorously, with specialty sales that include Canadian, American and European art. In April of 2007 Heffel had a record online sale of Fine British, European, Russian, Asian and American Art of $2.4 million. In November of 2011, Heffel completed its 146th consecutive monthly online auction.
Heffel.com soon increased the services it offered to the serious art collector by introducing the Canadian Art at Auction Index, a subscription resource database of over 45 years of Canadian art at auction sales. The sophisticated index contains in excess of 74,000 records and 61,000 image reproductions. Today heffel.com has become the number one Internet resource site for the Canadian art market.
Heffel publishes its entire live auction online (www.heffel.com), from initial promotion and illustrated lot listings to the auction's live multi~camera web cast and final sale results. This, combined with the printed catalogues, has generated unparalleled collector participation in sales, with bidders from across Canada, the United States, the U.K. and Asia. Because of Heffel's strength in the Canadian and international art market, a large percentage of the fine art offered is purchased by collectors residing outside of British Columbia, reflecting the growing worldwide prominence of Heffel's semi~annual auctions. It is no wonder collectors from across Canada send their important artwork to Heffel for resale.
Heffel grew into a national auction house with the opening of Heffel Gallery, Toronto in 2002 and Galerie Heffel, Montreal in 2005. Today, works by important contemporary and historical Canadian painters hang in all three galleries. With offices and galleries in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and a representative in Calgary, Heffel has the most experienced team of fine art specialists in the business, providing customers with the best opportunity for maximizing the value of their works.
In May 2000, Heffel achieved the highest priced Canadian painting sold at auction in that year, an Emily Carr canvas that sold for more than one million dollars. In November of 2004 Heffel conducted what was at that time the largest dollar value art auction in Canadian history with their live auction of Fine Canadian Art at $8.49 million. Heffel subsequently surpassed that sale total on November 24, 2005 with a $12.4 million sale, then broke that record on May 23,2007 with the unprecedented sale total of $23 million. This sale holds the record for the highest grossing art auction in Canadian history. In fact, Heffel has held the top twelve auctions in Canadian history. Heffel is the only auction house in Canada to have sold more than 50 million dollars of art in a year. To date Heffel has sold at auction more than $300 million dollars in fine art.
Heffel Fine Art Auction House was also the first to realize the value of dividing its sale into two sessions to allow collectors to focus on works of interest to them, and thus now holds a two~session sale featuring Post~War & Contemporary Art in one session followed directly by a second session showcasing Fine Canadian Art. Heffel provides friendly and unpretentious access to art, and has left the stuffiness of the old~style gallery behind. Heffel's attention to detail, accuracy, knowledge of the works they handle, and above all, their ethical guidelines have contributed to their industry leading success. Heffel's most recent sale, in May of 2010, was the second highest grossing art auction in Canadian history, and second only to the Heffel sale in May 2007.
View Heffel's Timeline
Heffel Gallery Limited has developed a unique approach to the fine art auction business by taking a very traditional business formula, as developed by Sotheby's and Christie's over their 150 years in business, and adapting this sales and marketing process and philosophy to modern Internet technology. By developing heffel.com's Canadian Art at Auction (an art market informational database available via the Internet), Heffel has given the private collector the tools to make a professional and informed decision in the buying and selling of fine Canadian art. A resource like this in a print format was always outdated.
Heffel's semi~annual live Canadian fine art auctions are unique because Heffel is the only Canadian auctioneer who pampers their bidders. Rather than sitting in a dusty warehouse, bidders at a Heffel live auction event sit in the luxurious ballroom of a five~star hotel, complete with complimentary gourmet cookies and coffee, black tie ambience and a young, bright staff to assist. They pay attention to the little things that make a difference.
Heffel Fine Art Auction House was the first auction house in Canada
- to produce their live auction printed catalogues in full colour
- to post and reproduce their live sale catalogue online on the Internet
- to broadcast in real time their live sales on the web
- to conduct monthly auctions on the web, exclusively of fine art
- to offer multi~city preview of their live Canadian art auctions in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal
- Canada's number one fine art auction house with record total live auction sales of $20.9 million is the Fall 2009 sale, $22.2 million in the Spring 2010 sale, and $23 million in the Spring 2007 sale
- Heffel is the number one fine art auction firm in Canada with total sales in the year 2007 of over $50 million
- Heffel holds over 60 percent market share of worldwide Canadian art auction sales, with over $300 million in art auction sales since 1995