Lemieux, Carr soar at Heffel auction

John Mackie, Vancouver Sun
Fri May 18, 2012

Jean-Paul Lemieux and Emily Carr set the standard at a $14.7 million Heffel auction of Canadian art Thurs-day at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Lemieux's 1973 painting La plage americaine sold for $1.813 million in an afternoon sale of postwar and con-temporary art. Carr's 1930 oil Eagle Totem was the high point of the evening auction of Fine Canadian Art, selling for $1.638 million.

Jean Paul Lemieux
'La plage americaine' by Jean Paul Lemieux

Both doubled their high estimate, and sold to determined telephone bidders.

The winning bidder for the Lemieux painting startled the audience by bid-ding $800,000 when the previous bid was $550,000. They then duelled with another telephone bidder before taking the painting with a hammer price of $1.55 million.

After Heffel's 17-per-cent commission, the sale price was $1.813 mil-lion, the second highest value for a Lemieux painting at auction.

"It's not very often that someone will call out a huge increment jump," noted David Heffel, who runs the auction with his brother Robert.

"[But] he knew what he was doing. The buyers and the bidders know the market better than anyone, because they're the ones putting the paddles up. I think at $800,000, he thought it was good value. And in retrospect, it was."

Carr's iconic image Eagle Totem also inspired spirited bidding, with a hammer price of $1.4 million and $1.638 million after commission.

"It was very exciting," said Robert Heffel.

"We were very pleased. I was very happy for the consigner, I think they did extremely well. But at the same time, the purchaser also got the prize, so everybody's happy."

It was the sixth biggest sale of Canadian art in history. The Lawren Harris sketch Lake Superior sold for $526,000, as did J.E.H. Macdonald's Early Autumn, Montreal River, Algoma.

A.Y. Jackson's Morning, Great Bear Lake went for $409,500, and another Jackson, Encampment, Eastern Arc-tic, sold for $351,000. Harris's early masterpiece Building The Ice House, Hamilton, went for $380,250, as did a Paul-Emile Borduas abstract, Jeunesse, and another Lemieux painting, Le mois du juin.

It was a good night for British Columbia artists. The Heffels kicked off the auction with B.C. Binning's small but delightful Two Ships Standing Off, with doubled its high estimate at $64,350. Several Gordon Smith paintings also sold in the $40,000 to $60,000 range.

jmackie@vancouversun.com

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