Business in Vancouver
January, 2001

David Heffel, 38
Co-owner, president, Heffel Fine Art Auction House

Birthplace: Edmonton
Residence: West Vancouver

Robert Heffel, 36

Co-owner, president, Heffel Fine Art Auction House

Birthplace: Edmonton
Residence: West Vancouver

Best business decision in the past 12 months:

To bring the entire management and production of the Internet aspect of our business in-house.

David and Robert Heffel took over their father Kenneth's fine art auctioneering business after his death in 1987. Aided by a firm grounding in art history at UBC and more than 20 years' experience, the pair have built their own solid careers in the industry and even added a wrinkle to it.

While developing an eye for detail, they have kept pace with changes in technology that have allowed them to bring a modern edge to the trade in time-honoured objects.

Younger than most in a business where the leading dealers are often in their mid-50s, the Heffels have achieved several landmark deals that underline the premier position of their $5-million-a-year business. In May 2000, they drew a record $1 million bid for an Emily Carr painting at an auction that pegged the top sales figure for a fine art auction in Western Canada.

Yet the brothers' success lies not in what people bid, but why they bid the way they do. It's a matter of expertise and the information they provide when selling a painting. David calls it "giving bidders the message," and it includes historical detail and critical commentary about the art.

In addition to context, the Heffels also assemble impressive auction catalogues. They were among the first auctioneers to issue the twice-annual guides in full colour, and recently began publishing them online. This, in addition to running a monthly art auction through their site, www.heffel.com.

Robert attributes their willingness to use technology in a traditional industry to their relative youth, something well-disguised behind the impressive growth of their business, which today employs 10 staff. Now at the forefront of their industry, with a client list that includes rock star Bryan Adams, they continue to maintain a discreet presence in the row of galleries along South Granville.

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