Cowley Abbott bridges the gap
between traditional art auction services and the online fine art
marketplace. Our experienced specialists strive to form relationships with
clients built on professionalism, transparency and trust. We believe that art collecting
should be approachable, educational and rewarding for both new and seasoned
collectors. We invite you to become acquainted with our specialists in our new
blog series and learn more about Cowley Abbott’s prominent place in the
Canadian art industry.
Canadian Art Specialist
Did you know Canadian
Art Specialist, Katlin Rogers is also a qualified personal property appraiser?
Specializing in Historical and Post War Canadian Art, Katlin has been a Member
of the International Society of Appraisers since 2018. Receiving Chapter Impact
Awards from the Canadian Chapter of ISA and practicing hundreds of hours of
appraisal work, Katlin can assist you with your formal appraisal needs!
As a member of
the International Society of Appraisers, Katlin, you are part of a leading professional personal property appraisal
association, which allows you to perform a myriad of fine art appraisals
as a specialist at Cowley Abbott. Can you tell us more about the appraisal
services offered at the firm and your role as an
ISA qualified appraiser?
Many of our clients
have practical issues of insurance and estate concerns when it comes to their art
collection. Receiving top training with the International Society of Appraisers
sharpened my skill set to provide our clients with bespoke appraisal services.
I have been fortunate to be able to work with clients who have built
exceptional collections of blue chip Canadian art, including works
by Jack Bush, Jean McEwen, Jean Paul Riopelle, David Milne, A.Y. Jackson, Maud
Lewis and William Kurelek, among many others. Many of these artworks have not
been traded on the open market and it is a pleasure to be able to handle these collections,
connect with clients and discuss current market conditions.
The Sotheby’s Institute of Art London in the United Kingdom is where you received your Master’s in Art Business. Can you tell us about what your studies were focused on and how that experience informed your decision to work in the auction industry?
Studying in a global
art center was certainly an important experience. The Sotheby’s program in
London was open to a global view, however, I tailored my studies towards the
Canadian marketplace, taking a deep dive into the public and private sectors of
our regional art market. For my Master’s Thesis, I took a very focused look on
how the world perceives regional markets and examined the Canadian art market
from qualitative and quantitative perspectives. Researching the auction market
between 1967- 2015 provided invaluable insight into previous and current trends
in the market and auction business strategies. This research allowed me to hit
the ground running when I returned to Canada and began working in the auction
industry. Ever since it has been a pleasure linking undergraduate art history
and theory studies, and post-grad art business studies, with real world
experience handling incredible artworks.
Katlin Rogers can be reached
directly by e-mail at [email protected].
Stay tuned for the next installment of “Introducing the Cowley Abbott Team” in
Cowley Abbott is pleased to welcome Peter Ohler to the firm. Peter acts as Cowley Abbott’s Western Canada Representative, pursuing artwork for inclusion in the company’s live and online auctions while also providing superior service to collectors related to private sales.
The Cowley Abbott team is excited to work
with Peter, who has forty years of experience in the Canadian art industry. Peter’s
career as an art dealer began in 1980 at Masters Gallery in Calgary. Founded in
1976 by Peter’s father, he later became a partner in the gallery in 1995, and
established Masters Gallery Vancouver, which he ran from 2011-2017. In 2018,
Peter established Ohler’s Fine Art, further establishing his reputation for
adhering to the highest ethical standards within the Canadian art community.
Peter is recognized for his expertise in
dealing with high-value artwork of historical significance and will continue to
advise clients who wish to buy or sell art, providing expert evaluation and
advisory services through this new venture with Cowley Abbott. We asked Peter a
few questions about his vast experience and had the opportunity to learn a bit
more about his experience in the Canadian art world.
We are so pleased to welcome you to Cowley Abbott, Peter. What are you most looking forward to about your new role?
Meeting new clients and collectors. In my
experience the auction buyer and seller aren’t necessarily the same person who
deals with a retail gallery or private dealer. Of course there is some
crossover but I think I will get to know a great group of new people now that I
am with CA. Of course, I am also looking forward to working with the Cowley
Abbott team. They have a great reputation, so I’ll have to be on my best
behavior to fit in.
Drawing upon your vast experience in the Canadian art market, what would you say has drawn you towards the auction industry and is there a facet of the auction house world that you are eager to learn more about?
Cowley Abbott deals with such a wide variety
of art. It will be interesting to have hands-on experience with so many
different things that I wouldn’t typically deal with.
Have you noticed any fundamental or striking changes in the Canadian art industry and the art collecting practices of collectors since you became an art dealer in 1980?
1980? That’s a long time ago. I started in the business when I was 5 so I’m really not that old. In “the old days” it was mostly the dealers who bought at auction and took things back to their galleries to resell to their clientele. The dealers were tastemakers and educators. Identifying, for their clients, what they should consider and collect. Over time buyers began acting on their own behalf and buying directly from the auctions. So much more information is available now to buyers it seems that collectors feel confident in making their own decisions regarding the art they buy without the input of the dealer.
Throughout your career in the art world, what have been some memorable or “standout” artworks that you have handled?
I’m probably supposed to talk about an expensive Emily Carr or Riopelle, there have been a lot of those. Honestly though I spent many years dealing with contemporary art and artists in the retail world before becoming a private dealer. It was very rewarding working with the living artists and helping them gain the exposure and notoriety they deserved.
The thrill of the hunt must be a phrase you have thought of often throughout your career of discovering gems for collectors to consider acquiring. Were you always interested in seeking out rare artworks of quality and discovering the stories behind them? Was there a particular artwork with an interesting provenance or historic story that you can share?
My Dad and I used to walk a golf course in
Calgary that was near his house. We would go in the early evening on a Sunday
after the course was closed to look for lost golf balls. Walking through the
long grass and the woods around the course you would step on them as you walked
along. It was always a small thrill to pick one up and see what you had
found. Finding great historical art is like looking for golf balls. It
happens if you know where to look but the conversations, shared experiences and
relationships you build with clients along the way is what really makes it
meaningful. In my experience it is the clients that are the gems.
Lastly, what drew you to the art industry initially? What are your earliest memories of the art world?
Nepotism. Masters Gallery was my dad’s shop
and he let me work there while I was in highschool. Pete Sr. never liked
seeing me sitting around so I always tried to look busy so he wouldn’t find
some terrible job for me to do like cleaning the baseboards.
Peter is located in Calgary and is looking forward to connecting further with collectors, art lovers and the Canadian art community. Peter Ohler can be reached directly at 587-317-6564 or by e-mail at [email protected].
Peter Ohler will act as the firm’s Western Canada Representative, providing expert evaluation and advisory services for auction and private sale purposes.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Toronto, ON (January 10, 2022) Cowley Abbott is proud to announce that Peter Ohler has joined the firm. Peter will act as Cowley Abbott’s Western Canada Representative, pursuing artwork for inclusion in the company’s live and online auctions while also providing superior service to collectors related to private sales.
Ohler’s Fine Art has been acquired by Cowley Abbott and this new collaboration continues the firm’s growth, furthering our expertise and industry-leading service to collectors across Canada and internationally.
Peter’s career as an art dealer began in 1980 at Masters Gallery in Calgary. Founded in 1976 by Peter’s father, he later became a partner in the gallery in 1995, and established Masters Gallery Vancouver, which he ran from 2011-2017. In 2018, Peter established Ohler’s Fine Art, cementing his 40 years of experience in the Canadian historical art market to provide top-level service to clients across Canada. Peter has a reputation within the dealer and collector community for adhering to the highest ethical standards and his expertise in dealing with high-value artwork of historical significance has established him as a nationally recognized dealer. Peter will continue to advise clients who wish to buy or sell art, providing expert evaluation and advisory services through this new venture with Cowley Abbott.
Regarding his new role, Peter Ohler remarked, “Combining my experience and knowledge gained in the retail and private art dealing business with the highly successful team at Cowley Abbott will allow us to offer the widest range of services available in Canada. I am thrilled to begin this exciting new chapter with the team.”
“Having had the pleasure to work with Peter over many years in the Canadian art industry, our collaborations have always been professional, constructive and enjoyable, with a shared focus to best serve our clients”, said Rob Cowley, with Lydia Abbott adding, “We could not be more excited and privileged to have Peter join Cowley Abbott; his experience, knowledge and ethical business acumen is a perfect fit for our firm, which only add value to our growing company.”
Established in 2013, Cowley Abbott (originally Consignor Canadian Fine Art) was formed in response to the changing Canadian art market and art collecting practices of clients. The company has rapidly grown to become a leader in the sale of fine Canadian & international art, providing a wealth of services for today’s collector.
Peter Ohler can be reached directly at 587-317-6564 or by e-mail at [email protected].
The final auctions of 2021 have come to a close. Cowley Abbott rounded out a successful year with three concurrent Online Auctions: Coast to Coast, Holiday Charm and Works on Paper, Books & Tapestries. Each of these auctions featured an impressive array of genres, styles and mediums of artwork, from across Canada and beyond.
Celebrated Canadian artists Doris McCarthy, Alan Collier, John Little, Maud Lewis and many, many more were included in our most recent Online Auctions. Works of art ranging from historical to modern to contemporary were presented for discerning collectors and spontaneous buyers alike.
Among the notable works on paper were a set of lithographs by contemporary Inuk artist Shuvinai Ashoona. Teeming with colour, detail and imaginative forms, the dazzling lithographs sold above their estimate for $5,040.
Camp, a 2006 canvas by Kim Dorland also generated excitement among visitors. Rendered in fluorescent paints, a tent glows dramatically in the dark night. The detritus of wild times is strewn about in the foreground. Both quiet and exuberant, the distinctive painting sold well over the estimate for $26,400.
One of the stand-out results of the December auctions was Evening, Algonquin by Frederick Nicholas Loveroff. Reminiscent of the Algonquin Park sketches of the iconic Tom Thomson, the small oil sketch captures a dramatic sunset with confident brushwork and glowing colours. The appealing landscape caught the eye of a number of collectors and bids poured in for the painting. Evening, Algonquin soared to a price realized of $38,520.
Covered Bridge in Winterby beloved Canadian artist Maud Lewis was a wonderfully apt addition to Cowley Abbott’s “Holiday Charm” auction. Featuring snowy pines, horse-drawn sleighs and colourful east coast buildings, the painting exudes heart-warming appeal. The wintry scene demonstrated Maud Lewis’ enduring popularity with a strong result of $43,200.
The team at Cowley Abbott extend our gratitude to all the collectors, bidders and buyers who ensured 2021 was a year of growth and success. We very much look forward to the many new opportunities and experiences to come in the year ahead.
Cowley Abbott continues to smash auction records and draw competition for rare and exceptional artwork.
The Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian Art on November 22nd was a spirited evening which experienced overwhelming interest, as lively bidding was invited from collectors in-person and remotely via absentee, telephone and online participation. Providing the greatest variety of convenient options for clients this season, the sale attracted robust competition from bidders across Canada and outside of our borders. The success of the auction is solidified by a healthy 87% sell-through rate, with 55% of lots sold exceeding the high-end of the pre-sale expectation (more than 90% of the artworks sold either within or surpassed the estimate).
The Cowley Abbott team connected collectors with excellent artworks representing the country from coast to coast. Superior artworks by Canadian historical, post-war and contemporary artists attained overall success, as multiple records were set during the auction, including new artist records for Molly Lamb Bobak, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Wyatt Eaton and J.W. Beatty. Cowley Abbott was pleased to host a live auction with an in-person audience, allowing for both excitement and momentum to be created by the auctioneer, Rob Cowley.
Drawing ample pre-sale attention was Sans titre by Jean Paul Riopelle, a 1959 masterwork by the celebrated artist that graced the catalogue cover. Painted while the artist lived abroad, this oil on canvas has primarily been owned outside of Canada by collectors, galleries and auction houses in New York and London. The painting made its Canadian auction debut with Cowley Abbott this season, soaring to $504,000 on November 22nd. The value reached for this important work by Riopelle is one of the highest results achieved for a work dated 1959/circa 1959 by the artist.
The astounding result of a J.W. Beatty painting provided an exciting start to the Fall Auction. Early Spring, Algonquin Park soared to $168,000, smashing the pre-sale estimate of $10,000-15,000 with fierce bidding taking place between two dedicated telephone bidders. This oil on board by Beatty glorifies the beauty of the Canadian landscape in the simple representation of light and shadow. This quintessential Canadian landscape painting has been snapped up by a discerning private collector, attaining a new auction record for the artist.
Among the star highlights of the auction was a monumental 1965 canvas by Jack Bush entitled, Purple, Lime, Brown. Owned for decades by beloved singer and variety show host, Andy Williams and his wife, Deborah, this painting is a prime example of Bush’s best work in oil. Executed during a significant time in the artist’s career in 1965, the year in which Bush held his first solo European exhibition at London’s Waddington Galleries. Bush reserved his best work from 1964 and early 1965, in total nine paintings, to impress the overseas crowd for this important exhibition. Purple, Lime, Brown was one such work. After Williams passed away in 2012, four significant Bush paintings from their collection went up for auction in 2013. However, the estate held on to Purple, Lime, Brown until March 2021, when it was sold at auction in New York. The painting then returned to Canada, after 56 years abroad, to be offered by Cowley Abbott in the November 22nd evening auction. This important 1965 work by the celebrated colour-field painter has now found its new home with a Canadian buyer after ascending to $432,000 after considerable competition between bidders at the Four Seasons Hotel. This masterwork is of similar importance and quality to Bush’s Column on Browns, a canvas that set an artist record at auction selling for $870,000 at Cowley Abbott in the fall of 2020. Cowley Abbott is thrilled to have been entrusted with these phenomenal artworks.
Two avant-garde artistic groups that dominated the Quebec art scene starting in the 1940s, les Automatistes and the Plasticiens, were well represented in the catalogue auction. Rétine Ying Yang by Marcel Barbeau is a bold and mesmerizing black and white abstract canvas. A member of Les Automatistes, Barbeau was also influenced by post-war abstract movements in France. Rétine Ying Yang is aligned in formalist concerns with Op Art, an extension of hard-edge painting characterized by lines, shapes and movement that appear to the viewer as a result of optical illusions. This confident and arresting work from 1966 sold for a price realized of $60,000. Jacques Hurtubise, who was enamored with the spontaneous and gestural painting of the Abstract Expressionist, developed a unique style that straddled painterliness and hard-edge painting. Rose Slush, attaining $28,800, contains Hurtubise’s signature ‘gestural splash’ forms.
As one of the few women artists at the centre of abstract art in Canada, Rita Letendre held an important position in Canadian art history, having produced some of the most innovative examples of post-war art. Regrettably the artist passed away shortly before our evening auction in the fall. Cowley Abbott is honoured to have been entrusted with WYKI, dating to 1975. This magnetic canvas explores her fascination with depicting speed and vibration and was greatly admired by collectors selling for $26,400.
The auction house was delighted to offer two works by the accomplished female artist, Molly Lamb Bobak. Beach Crowd is an important example of the artist’s lively crowd scenes, her most celebrated subject. This cheerful and vibrant work fetched $108,000, a new record at auction for the sought-after artist. Bobak’s Interior, appearing serene and static in nature, yet quietly energetic, was popular amongst collectors, selling for $22,800.
Contemporary Canadian artists continue to experience ample interest at auction. Kim Dorland, who is based in Toronto, pushes the boundaries of pictorial representation in his electric oeuvre. Alley, painted in 2006, when the artist had solidified his artistic style and was beginning to see significant success in the gallery world. The scene, with graffiti on the garage door, recalls the gritty, working-class environment Dorland grew up in and challenges the conventional notion of the romantic Canadian landscape. This gestural work realized $31,200, further solidifying his robust secondary market after Cowley Abbott set the auction record for the contemporary painter’s work in spring 2021 with Green Tree Blue Tree ($66,000).
A prolific and provocative Indigenous artist, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun is a Vancouver based contemporary artist of Coast Salish and Okanagan descent. Landscape, Spruce Pine Beetle Kill contains many of the elements employed by Yuxweluptun to articulate, through an Indigenous lens, the impact of colonial paradigms that have led to the desecration of land and, in turn, the lives of Indigenous peoples. This critical painting that speaks to humanity across the globe exceeded the pre-sale estimate to sell for $78,000, setting an auction record for this remarkable artist.
William Kurelek, Behold Man Without God (#3) (auction estimate: $60,000 – $80,000) is a well-known image for the artist, as versions of this painting currently hang in the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It is a decidedly personal and dark portrait of human hypocrisy. Consigned from a New Jersey collection, this detailed and noteworthy painting realized $78,000 in the evening auction.
A rare depiction of the Quebec landscape, Lawren Harris’ Near Métis, Quebec appeared for the first time at auction this season. The composition drew bidder interest from across Canada the moment the catalogue was published, offering a glimpse into the little-known vacations in Quebec that the artist took in the prime years of his career. This important oil on panel fetched $114,000 and was complemented by two exquisite drawings by Harris also offered in the auction. Tonquin Valley, Jasper and Study for ‘Lake, North Labrador’ were both widely admired and achieved success.
Admiration for the Group of Seven was apparent with the realization of four paintings by the renowned artist A.Y. Jackson. Morning, St. Tite des Caps, a depiction of the valley northeast of Quebec City hammered down at $55,200, and St. Lawrence At Trois Pistoles, Quebec sold for $31,200. Two works gifted directly from the artist after his various visits to Onward Ranch in Cariboo, British Columbia attained $26,400 and $24,000, respectively. Paintings by Edwin Holgate and Franz Johnston experienced significant results in the auction, while A.J. Casson rounded out the Group of Seven offerings with Near Kincardine reaching $40,800 and Woodland obtaining $31,200.
Historical Canadian art demanded attention at the auction, signified by the auction record achieved for Wyatt Eaton, a Barbizon school painter. La Moisson (The Harvest) is a well-executed study for the canvas in the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, exuding warmth, sentimentality and Eaton’s skill in draughtsmanship. The gravity of this work was astutely recognized by collectors, selling for $11,400 at the Fall Auction. A rare and vibrant canvas by Arthur Heming, a favourite ahead of the auction and from the collection of General Motors, achieved $36,000. Two works by Cornelius Krieghoff were offered in the evening auction – a nostalgic winter scene with ladies and a habitant sleighing extended to $48,000, while The Old Habitant, a man in a red toque with a jug of ale in hand and an impish grin sold for $27,600.
Further interest for historical works was displayed when Girl in a Dutch Bonnet, a charming portrait of a young subject by Laura Muntz fetched $13,200. Two works by Frederick Verner were highly sought after by buyers – Elk Browsing, an 1888 oil on canvas once owned by Henry Winnett, the “Queen’s Hotelier”, sold for $27,500, and the first work exhibited by the artist with the Ontario Society of Artists in 1873, The Rest, Muskoka River, found a new owner for $10,800. Similarly, a serene and contemplative work be William Brymner, Longings/At the Window was a favourite amongst collectors during the previews and sold for $28,800 the night of the live auction. To no one’s surprise on the Cowley Abbott team, Quebec Village in Winterby R.S. Hewton, a joyful and vibrant winter landscape, rose to $28,800, more than doubling its estimate.
One of the most anticipated lots of the evening was a rare work by J.W. Morrice, A Bridge in London (ca.1913-15). This intimate oil on board, executed while the artist was in London, soared to $192,000 from the pre-sale estimate of $50,000-70,000. An impressive result for this busy urban scene by Morrice.
A continually favoured painter amongst collectors is Doris McCarthy, an artist known for her wonderful character and effervescent personality. Two rare depictions of small towns in Newfoundland were entrusted to Cowley Abbott for the Fall Auction. Brigus, Newfoundland, a simple and bright depiction of the local architecture was competed for, selling at $78,000. Equally a beautiful depiction of the province’s rocky shorelines, Bishop’s Harbour, Newfoundland attained $16,800. Arctic scenes by McCarthy are widely beloved for their clear colours and simple, abstract shapes. Reflections in the Melt Water continues to explore the North through geometric forms and after competitive bidding the work was hammered down by the auctioneer at $64,900.
A prime highlight from the collection of abstract paintings in the auction were two works by William Perehudoff. AC-78-28, a vibrating and electrically coloured canvas measuring 31.25 x 94 inches achieved $48,000. Another work by the artist which pulsed with energy is AC-83-94. The bold strips of colour on this canvas caught the attention of buyers and after a frenzy of bidding a telephone bidder won at $24,000.
This Fall Auction was a delight to execute through all the stages of collecting, cataloguing, research and promotion. Cowley Abbott spent close to 150 hours previewing the 83 works of art offered in the catalogue and thoroughly enjoyed sharing and discussing the artworks with collectors and art lovers alike. The opportunity to host a live auction with an in-person audience at the Four Seasons was of supreme importance to the firm and we extend our thanks to the collectors, clients, bidders and buyers who ensured that the Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian was a triumph. We look forward to the Spring Auction and connecting further with the Canadian Art community.
Cowley Abbott’s Fall International Art Auction Features Multiple Important Works by the Twentieth Century Icon
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art”.
The candid Press Release from Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in
1981 for the exhibition of Warhol’s Myths Series, invites the public to the
opening on Saturday, September 12th. It goes onto state which characters are
included in the series and that they were derived from original photographs
Warhol took of actors he hired or acquaintances portraying each character.
The Press Release goes onto say “They represent fantasies,
dreams, hopes and fears.”
It is interesting that Warhol choose these characters and included
himself as “The Shadow”, the last print in the series. The Myth Series is now
one of the most discussed and written about collection of prints by Andy
Cowley Abbot is pleased to offer two works from this iconic series, both consigned from an Important Private Collection. Howdy Doody was one of the first television shows to be shown in colour and apparently the show was used to sell color television sets in the 1950s. Like the other characters from the series the image of Howdy Doody was not appropriated from the media but was based on a photograph that Warhol took of the puppet.
The second work we are offering from Myths is Mammy. Not a character from a specific story, but she is a character that can be seen in various forms of popular culture. Warhol photographed Sylvia Williams, who was the former director of the National Museum of African American Art at the Smithsonian, in the role of the maternal figure.
Also included in the auction are a further two works by Andy Warhol, both inspired by women he adored. Marilyn Monroe I Love Your Kiss Forever Forever 1964 is from the unsigned edition of 2000 issued in an unbound book entitled “1cent Life”. The book was compiled by Walasse Ting and Sam Francis. This work was adapted from a painting Warhol did of Marilyn Monroe’s lips in 1962 and incorporates the poem “Jade White Butterfly” by Walasse Ting.
Cowley Abbott is pleased to have been entrusted with these renowned works for auction. The entire Fall Auction of International Art can be viewed by following this link.
Literature: “Press Release for Andy Warhol’s ‘Myths’”, Ronald
Feldman Fine Arts, New York, September 1st, 1981 [online publication]
Cowley Abbott’s Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian Art, November 22, features important artworks by Jack Bush, Jean Paul Riopelle, Lawren Harris and William Kurelek, among many other Canadian masters.
Toronto, ON (November 1, 2021) – As the Canadian art market continues to experience overwhelming interest and activity, with the highest level of collector engagement in more than a decade, art auction house Cowley Abbott is returning to a live in-person auction event, the first in more than a year due to the pandemic. Cowley Abbott’s Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian Art takes place on Monday, November 22 at 7pm ET at the Four Seasons Hotel, 60 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto, and offers a hybrid of in-person, absentee, and real-time online and phone bidding.
In June, Cowley Abbott’s Spring Live Auction of Important Canadian Art saw a staggering 96 per cent of artworks sold, with two-thirds of the works exceeding the high-end of pre-auction expectation with active global bidding participation welcomed via absentee, telephone and real-time online bidding. The upcoming fall auction is also drawing significant pre-sale interest, with a registration list for limited in-person bidding.
“The pandemic has
influenced a boom in the Canadian art market at auction. As collectors continue
to spend more time at home, they are choosing to update and beautify their
surroundings; while some are parting with rare and quality works of art that
they have considered selling for years to make room for new work and still others
are looking to art as a more active part of their investment portfolio,” said
Rob Cowley, Canadian art specialist and President of Cowley Abbott. “It has led
to many important and rare works being presented at auction and contributed to driving
record-setting sales while countless individuals engage actively in their
passion to collect.”
Among the Fall Auction highlights is Jack Bush’s Purple, Lime, Brown (1965) (auction estimate: $350,000 – $550,000), owned for decades by beloved singer and variety show host Andy Williams and his wife Deborah. The painting is an excellent example of Bush’s best work in oil and is from a significant period in his career. It was created the same year, and is of similar importance and quality to Bush’s Column on Browns, a canvas that set an artist record at auction, selling for $870,000 at Cowley Abbott in fall 2020. Purple, Lime, Brown is expected to attract similar interest from collectors.
Purple, Lime, Brown debuted to the public
in 1965 during Bush’s first solo European exhibition at London’s Waddington
Galleries. That year, Bush took a hiatus from showing in Canada to make a
strong first impression overseas, reserving nine of his best paintings from
1964 and early 1965.
After Williams passed away in 2012, four significant Bush paintings from
their collection went up for auction in 2013, however the estate held on to Purple,
Lime, Brown until March 2021, when it was sold at auction in New York. With
pandemic travel restrictions in place, and prioritizing safety, the painting
could not be examined in person by the artist’s estate prior to the New York sale,
leading to the painting being offered without its title, concrete date and
confirmation of its history.
The painting returned to Canada, after 56 years abroad, where upon inspection with the painting removed from its stretcher, the artist’s inscription of title and date were revealed and its history fully researched and confirmed by the estate of Jack Bush, establishing the painting as Purple, Lime, Brown, an important 1965 work by the celebrated colour-field painter.
While the primary market for works by Canadian artists is in Canada, Cowley Abbott has seen a spike in global interest. This auction features several important Canadian works from global collections that could find a new home back in Canada.
For more highlights, an online catalogue and an interactive virtual preview, please visit CowleyAbbott.ca. Located across the street from the Art Gallery of Ontario on Dundas St. West in Toronto, Cowley Abbott is open to the public by appointment, allowing collectors to view artwork on offer in the gallery. Offering more previewing hours than any other major auction house this season, public viewing of the fall auction is open Monday to Saturday (and Sunday, November 21st) until the sale day on November 22nd.
Since its inception in 2013, Cowley Abbott’s live and online auctions have included headline-grabbing works such as a rare 100-year-old Tom Thomson portrait (Daydreaming, sold for $172,500); and a celebrated depiction of Kensington Market by William Kurelek (Hot Day in Kensington Market, sold for $472,000). Their inaugural live auction in May 2016 set the record for the highest-selling Algoma sketch by Lawren Harris, fetching $977,500, tripling the previous auction record. Their Fall 2020 virtual live auction set a new artist record for Jack Bush with Columns on Brown selling for $870,000 with their Spring 2021 virtual live auction witnessing an unprecedented 96% of artworks sold.
interested in consignment can arrange a complimentary and confidential
consultation by contacting Cowley Abbott’s specialists at 1-866-931-8415 or [email protected]. Preliminary auction assessments are offered
on a complimentary and confidential basis with no further obligation.
Cowley Abbott’s 2021 Fall Live Auction of
Important Canadian Art presents strong examples of Quebec post-war abstract
painting, by artists who took varying approaches to gestural and hard-edge
styles within a thriving and groundbreaking art scene.
Canada’s breakthrough into abstraction largely
began in Montréal in the 1940s. Two avant-garde artistic groups came to
dominate the Quebec art scene: les Automatistes, formed in the mid-1940s who
shared an interest in gestural abstract painting inspired by the surrealist
practice of automatic writing and drawing, and the Plasticiens, a hard-edge
abstraction movement formed in 1954 by a group of artists who sought a return
to order and control.
The catalogue cover lot, Sans titre (circa 1959) (pictured above) is a masterpiece by Jean Paul Riopelle, one of Canada’s most celebrated artists. The oil on canvas contains energetic brushstrokes that are at once controlled and spontaneous. Riopelle was a prominent member of Les Automatistes and signatory of the 1948 manifesto Refus Global, until he moved to France in 1947. There, he became acquainted with André Breton and the Surrealist circle. After many exhibitions and an active artistic production, including Sans titre (circa 1959), Riopelle returned to Québec in 1972.
Rétine Ying Yang by Marcel Barbeau is a bold and mesmerizing black and white abstract canvas. A fellow member of Les Automatistes, Barbeau was also influenced by post-war abstract movements in France, and his travels in Europe and the United States. These experiences helped him form a distinct and more international style of abstract painting. Rétine Ying Yang is aligned in formalist concerns with Op Art, an extension of hard-edge painting characterized by lines, shapes and movement that appear to the viewer as a result of optical illusions. The painting was completed in 1966, while Barbeau was living in New York City and exhibiting with the American Op Art School.
Born in 1923, Jean McEwen trained as a pharmacist at the University of Montreal and wrote poetry for Québec based literary journals. As a self-taught artist, he was most interested in the feelings that paintings gave him and the exploration of colour and light. McEwen was mentored by Automatiste artist Paul Émilie Borduas in the early 1950s and traveled to Paris for a year to study with Jean Paul Riopelle. Following his European sojourn, the artist adopted a style that loosely combined French Impressionists as well as American Abstract Expressionism. Suite des pays vastes, dating to 1972, embodies McEwen’s signature style of large, open areas of layered and softly-applied colour, creating complex and moody compositions.
As one of the few women artists at the centre of abstract art in Canada, Rita Letendre holds an important position in Canadian art history, having produced some of the most innovative examples of post-war art. She is an example of a painter who fluctuated between gestural and hard-edge abstraction throughout her prolific career. WYKI, dating to 1975, explores her fascination with depicting speed and vibration. The use of the airbrush technique, combined with sharp wedges or arrows that cut across the image plane, was characteristic of her large canvases from the decade.
Jacques Hurtubise attended the École des beaux-arts de Montréal until 1960, when a grant enabled the young painter to spend nine months in New York. There, he became enamored with the spontaneous and gestural painting of the Abstract Expressionists, such as De Kooning and Pollock. Hurtubise divided his time between Montreal and New York for much of the 1960s, as he developed his unique style that straddled painterliness and hard-edge painting throughout his career. Rose Slush contains Hurtubise’s signature ‘gestural splash’ forms, during the 1980s when he was exploring the theme of symmetry.
These five abstract paintings in the November 22nd auction serve as fantastic examples of the varying and converging directions taken by Quebec’s avant-garde artists in the post-war era. Of course, the sale also includes numerous other important works of art on offer, by historical, Group of Seven, abstract and realist, Indigenous and contemporary artists. The complete catalogue of artworks included in the Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian Art can be found by following this link. For more information on the sale, to book a private preview appointment, and for information on our consignment process, please contact us at [email protected].
Our current October online auctions offer a wide range of artworks by renowned Canadian artists, representing the country from coast to coast. The Abstractions Auction offers many commanding and stunning artworks to tempt the eye, while appealing to all levels of collectors. The artistic post-war movements that propelled Canadian art forward after the Group of Seven were innovative and exciting, demonstrating the influence of world views and a new social dialogue.
Four captivating works by Claude Tousignant are exemplary of the artist’s minimalist, expressionist and abstractionist style. The vibrant colours, rich tones and large compositional format of these artworks make them an incredible addition to any discerning collection.
Harold Town painstakingly created a small number of these “eggs” and gave them as Christmas gifts. The artwork is a symmetrical collage, careful applied upon a plastic egg from which a pair of women’s pantyhose were packaged (as was the packaging used by “L’eggs” from the late 1960s until the early 1990s).
Two significant lots in the auction by Rita Letendre, a leading member of the colourist movement, exemplify her fascination with depicting speed and vibration. Momentum (Lot 2) and Danna (Lot 42) are both a testament to her artistic practice.
Multiple distinctive sculptures are featured in this auction, providing an attractive and dynamic option for a collector. Etrusco (Study) by Sorel Etrog (lot 10) is a diminutive work by the artist, measuring 4.75 x 1.5 x 1.875 inches (overall). Further sculptural works by Anthony Quinn (lot 11), Antonio Kieff Grediaga (lot 47), Roger Cavalli (lot 48, 49, 50) and Ruben Zellermayer (lot 52 and 53) are lots to pay attention to in the final day of bidding, as they are both accessible in terms of value and add three dimensionality to a gathering of artworks at home or in the office.
The complete catalogue of artworks included in the Abstractions Online Auction can be foundby following this link. For more information on our three current online auctions, how to book your private preview appointment at the gallery, or our consignment process, please contact us at [email protected] and one of our specialists would be delighted to assist you.
The Prints, Photography and Multiples auction has been an extremely enjoyable sale to put together. We started to curate the sale just after the close of the International Art auction in June and one of the early consignments was Brice Marden’s Ten Days Portfolio(lot 27). The eight etchings and aquatints in this portfolio were inspired by Marden’s travels in Greece. Often described as a minimalist, these have the same characteristics of his larger works: rectangular formats and a subdued palette, only here on a more intimate level. The provenance is excellent, having been purchased in Toronto and remaining in the same private collection.
Our Senior International Art Specialist had the privilege of spending the afternoon with Christo and Jeanne-Claude in their studio in New York just after The Gates Project in Central Park had been realized in 2005. You realize the amount of work that goes into Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects, as some of the projects are not realized for several years. When we got an email with images of the lithograph, Arc de Triompe Wrapped (A Project for Paris), we were very excited about having this work consigned. This is from the publisher’s edition of 20. ArcdeTriompe Wrapped (A Project for Paris)was issued in an edition of 150 (lot 44). It is even more meaningful as the project is finally being realized in Paris. From September 18 to October 3rd the Arc De Triomphe will be wrapped. Here is the link for the live stream on their website.
There is a fantastic selection of photography in the sale, including the iconic portrait of Winston Churchill by Yosuf Karsh (lot 64), an interesting series by Yuri Dojc titled the Last Folio(lot 7), which documents the preserved history in a school in Slovakia before World War II, as well as wonderful portraits by Arnold Newman ofPablo Picasso (lot 20),Georgia O’Keefe(lot 19) and Max Ernst(lot 18). The Max Ernst portrait is remarkable. The story behind the work, is that Ernst was drawing a lot of birds at this point in his career and when he saw the portrait, he was very excited, as just beside his face the plumes of smoke suggest the image of a bird.
There are three very special lots that begin the auction, introducing our partnership with Casey House, a hospital in Toronto which specializes in HIV/AIDS care. American photographer Cara Barer starts the auction with a striking work entitled, Heart(lot 1). Characteristic of her manipulation of books into sculptural objects, this work attracted lots of interest as the previews commenced. Vancouver artist Damian Moppett’s playful image of pieces of Lego and a balloon constructs an interesting juxtaposition between the hard and soft qualities of these objects (lot 2). David Burdeny’s striking image, Sweepers, West Lake, Hangzhou China continues his exploration of Asia and its landscape (lot 3).
We are extremely pleased to partner with Casey House in offering these lots. All proceeds from their sale will benefit Casey House Ontario’s HIV/Aids Hospital. We hope there will be many more donations of fine art that we will be able to offer through our sales. As well, we very much look forward to hosting the Art with Heart Preview for Casey House this year and broadcasting the auction live from the Cowley Abbott gallery on Tuesday, October 19th.
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