Vancouver’s Heffel hosts highest-grossing art auction in Canadian history

Toronto auction fetched $23.4 million thanks largely to demand for Lawren Harris works

“I love standing in front of paintings. Especially this beauty by Lawren Harris,” comedian Steve Martin tweeted in January | Steve Martin

Vancouver-based Heffel Fine Art Auction House’s November 26 auction in Toronto grossed $23.4 million, which makes it the highest grossing fine art auction in Canadian history.

Up for grabs were museum-quality works by Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris, whose reputation has grown substantially recently because of a major exhibit at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and fawning tweets from comedian Steve Martin.

“I love standing in front of paintings,” Martin said in a tweet last January, which included a selfie next to Lawren Harris’ painting Isolation Peak. “Especially this beauty by Lawren Harris.”

As for Heffel’s auction, it exceeded estimates pre-auction that the event would gross up to $15 million.

“Our 20th year of live auctions has been particularly gratifying, thanks to Lawren Harris’s remarkable momentum,” said David Heffel, who is president of Heffel Fine Art Auction House.

“It’s rewarding to participate in the growth of the international art market and share sought-after masterpieces with the public as they pass through one set of hands to the next.”

The leading lot in the fall sale was Lawren Harris’ canvas Mountain and Glacier, which outperformed its estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million and sold for an auction record $4.602 million.

Combine that sale with two other sales for works by Lawren Harris and the total was $9.499 million.

Harris’ Winter Landscape sold for $3.658 million, while Winter in the Ward sold for $1.121 million.

Another Group of Seven artist, Tom Thomson, saw his After the Storm, which is believed by experts to be the last work he produced before enduring a mysterious death, fetched $1.298 million.

Other big sales include one for Alex Colville’s Harbour, which fetched $1.888 million. Works by Jean Paul Riopelle saw major interest from bidders in the room and on the phones. The 1950s canvas Sans titre doubled its presale estimate and achieved $1.239 million.