More than $16M of art sold at Cowley Abbott's Spring Live Auction

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More than $16M of art sold at Cowley Abbott's Spring Live Auction
Lawren Harris, Quiet Lake (Northern Painting 12), circa 1926-1928. Oil on canvas, inscribed “Quiet Lake/Lawren Harris/Northern Painting XII 34 x 40” on a label on the reverse, 34 x 40 ins ( 86.4 x 101.6 cms ). Image courtesy of Cowley Abbott.

TORONTO.- Canada’s art market at auction continues to demonstrate high demand, with enthusiastic bidding driving strong sales at Cowley Abbott’s two-session Spring Live Auction event last night totaling $16M (all results are inclusive of the buyer’s premium).

The highlight of the evening was the second of three landmark sales of Canada’s preeminent, largest and most exhibited private collections of historical Canadian art. Exceeding the presale estimate, the sale grossed more than $11M and set 11 global artist records at auction. Comprising rare, museum-quality artworks, the private collection has cumulatively achieved a total of over $27M across the two auctions to-date, setting a noteworthy 21 artist records. It is on pace to become the highest-grossing private collection of Canadian art ever sold at auction. The final sale takes place December 6, 2023.

Highlights of the sale included masterfully painted prime examples by three of Canada’s most iconic historical artists. Lawren Harris’ widely exhibited masterwork Quiet Lake (Northern Painting 12), circa 1926-1928 sold for $2.16M, Emily Carr’s majestic depiction of totem poles in Kitwancool, circa 1923 exceeded expectation, achieving $1.92M; and Tom Thomson’s rare oil on panel Ragged Oaks, which was owned by the artist’s family before being acquired by the private collectors more than 50 years ago, also exceeded pre-sale estimates, selling for $1.8M.

Artist records achieved include:

·Heated bidding for Group of Seven painter Arthur Lismer’s oil on wood landscape titled, A September Gale, Georgian Bay, 1921, set a new auction record for a sketch by the artist at $432,000, nearly triple the high-end estimate.

·William Blair Bruce’s, Picking Pears in Barbizon (The Pear Orchard), 1882, tripled the pre-sale estimate at $264,000, and more than tripled the previous artist record.

·A charming oil canvas by Mary Eastlake, In the Orchard, circa 1895-1897, smashed the previous artist record ($22,000) nearly eight times over, selling for $168,000. Best-known for her depictions of girls and women in domesticated outdoor settings, the picturesque scene is of a girl kneeling beside an infant in an orchard.

·Henry Sandham, Low Tide, Murray Bay tripled the low end estimate, selling for $192,000, exceeding the previous record by more than $50,000.

Earlier in the afternoon during Cowley Abbott’s Live Auction of Important Canadian and International Art, Andy Warhol’s Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, from the Reigning Queens series (1985) attracted international bidding, selling for $936,000. The set of four colour print screens was part of the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq. Proceeds will support the development of an endowment fund to build more diverse representation in the Gallery’s permanent collection, beginning with contemporary Indigenous art. Cowley Abbott is donating their commission from the sale to the fund.

Results were solid for historical, post-war and contemporary Canadian and international art including:

·Rita Letendre, Rencontre enflame (1962) fetched $312,000, the second highest price ever achieved for the painter’s work at auction.

·Magdalena (Méditation), the 1921 canvas by Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté sold for $384,000, the highest auction price achieved for the historical Quebec painter’s work in twenty years.

·A highlight throughout Cowley Abbott’s Toronto and Montreal previews, Jean Paul Riopelle’s Sans Titre (1953) fetched $552,000.

·William Kurelek’s A Bolt Like That (1965) sold for $264,000, well exceeding its auction estimate after remaining in the same private collection in Toronto since the year it was painted.

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