As I mentioned in a story that followed, that sale, and the auction's glowing results in general, had some on this side of the border finally seeing the glass half-full -- no easy task in this past year of economic armageddon, where auction results have, by and large, stunk.
In fact, the New York sales have prompted experts and auctions houses to believe that the return of free-flowing discretionary capital could mean the tumbling of a Canadian all-time record. It was set in February of 2002, when a Paul Kane portrait, "The Surveyor: Portrait of Captain John Henry Lefroy," was bought for a shocking $5.1 million by Ken Thomson, who promptly donated it to the Art Gallery of Ontario.
That painting was estimated to go for a cool half-million, but competition was heavy and Thomson wouldn't be denied. So what to make of a pair of gems up for sale at Heffel's auction Nov. 26? Both are sketches by Group of Seven painter Lawren Harris, each of them a study for two of his best known works.
This puts them both squarely in Warhol territory, at least in the sense that they're both unique and significant. The first is what you see above, "The Old Stump, Lake Superior," a study sketch for one of Harris's most famous paintings, "North Shore, Lake Superior," owned by the National Gallery, with a pre-sale estimate is $2 to 2.5 million. The other is "Iceberg, Baffin's Bay North," a study sketch for the painting "Icebergs, Davis Strait," owned by the McMichael. Its estimate runs from $1.2 million to $1.6 million.
So will the Kane record fall? Significant works don't get moved in down economic times, for fear of not getting full value; this much we know. So don't be surprised if you see this image again on the front page of the paper Nov. 27, heralding a new record. In my humble opinion, it's a safe bet.
You can check out the Harrises, and works by Emily Carr, Paul-Emile Borduas, Tom Thomson and many others at the Heffel preview in their Yorkville Gallery this weekend at 13 Hazelton Avenue.