Through the November and December live and online auctions, Cowley Abbott achieved strong results for consignors, with multiple records broken, while connecting collectors at all levels with artwork of quality and rarity.
The Cowley Abbott Fall Live Auction of Important Canadian Art drew a standing-room only audience to the Gardiner Museum on Tuesday, November 19th, the gallery packed with collectors who drove bidding to record levels in several instances through successful sales of select work by Canada’s celebrated historical, post-war and contemporary artists.
Jean Paul Lemieux’s Basse messe, dimanche, an expansive and immersive museum-level canvas by the key figure of Canadian modernity, captivated visitors to the Cowley Abbott gallery during the weeks of previewing that led to November evening sale. When bidding concluded, the artwork had fetched $330,400, a solid result for the mature work which was featured on the front cover of the fall auction catalogue.
From the moment of publication of the auction online, excitement surrounded Molly Lamb Bobak’s Highland Games, Fredericton, a large and energetic canvas, portraying a celebratory and energetic scene, a subject which has proven to be Bobak’s most popular with collectors. When the artwork reached the podium, it did not take long for feverish bidding to push competition well beyond pre-sale expectation. When the gavel finally fell, a new auction record had been established for the painter, the final bid reaching $100,300 (all prices include the 18% Buyer’s Premium), more than tripling the pre-sale estimate.
The work of William Kurelek also drew strong attention during the fall live auction season. Two paintings appeared at auction with Cowley Abbott for the first time, consigned by the original Toronto collector, who owned them for almost fifty years. The quality and rarity of the pair of paintings led to Pioneer Homestead on a Winter’s Evening fetching $82,600 (exceeding the high-end of expectation) and Brothers selling for $95,000. The strong results continue Cowley Abbott’s tradition of success in the sale of important work by the Ukrainian-Canadian artist.
The November live auction witnessed solid prices for a wide range of historical Canadian works of art, including the work of: Cornelius Krieghoff (Hudson Bay Trader fetching $47,200); André Biéler (The Market Stall almost doubling the high-end auction estimate to sell for $29,500); Frederick Banting (Inlet, French River selling for $28,320); Clarence Gagnon (La Mare, Baie St. Paul, a 1920 sketch related to a canvas in the National Gallery of Canada, sold for $23,600); and P.C. Sheppard (St. Lawrence Market fetching $23,600), among many others.
A variety of Post-War and Contemporary offerings also drew competitive bidding during the fall catalogue sale, notably: Jean McEwen’s Rose traversant les jaunes (the canvas fetching $88,500, more than four times the opening bid); Gordon Smith’s West Coast #2 (exceeding the high-end of expectation, selling for $40,120); Autumn Foothills by Takao Tanabe (selling for $37,760); Sorel Etrog’s Small Chair (Hand) (fetching $28,320), Marcel Barbeau’s 1947 Dents de sable à cran d’acier(in excess of the auction estimate’s upper range, selling for $23,600); and Ronald York Wilson’s Untitled (the large canvas almost doubling the auction estimate, achieving $22,420).
The success of the November live auction continued in the subsequent November and December online sessions, where bidders across Canada and beyond competing for a wide range of work that catered not only to seasoned collectors, but also to new and intermediate clients, continuing to establish their collections.
Franklin Arbuckle’s True Lover’s Leap, Newfoundland inspired great excitement nation-wide when the canvas was added to the Cowley Abbott website. The rare and dramatic east coast landscape by the celebrated painter had remained in the same private collection since 1964, Alfred Upton delighted to receive the painting as a retirement gift from Dominion Life Assurance. Upton loved the painting and requested the painting when given the option to choose a token of appreciation when his time with the firm finished. The painting had been purchased by Dominion Life in 1949 to be featured in their yearly calendar that annually featured the work of a different Canadian artist. The work was chosen, in consultation with A.J. Casson, for its quality and also to commemorate Newfoundland joining confederation. True Lover’s Leap, Newfoundland had been exhibited in the 1949 Royal Canadian Academy showing at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and was not only reproduced in the exhibition’s catalogue, but was also noted in a Gazette article which discussed the annual show. The debut of the canvas at Cowley Abbott once again had the painting drawing media attention, with a two Newfoundland Telegram articles (found here and here) that followed its record-breaking performance during the auction. The artwork sold for $30,680, more than five times its opening bid and more than double the previous auction record for Franklin Arbuckle’s work.
Rita Letendre’s Antares Glows also excited collectors during the online sessions to end the year, the dramatic 1969 canvas selling for $28,320 (exceeding the high end of expectation). Online bidding was furious through the two auctions, leading to stellar prices for artist across the many periods, schools and associations through Canadian history, with results of note including the work of: F.M. Bell-Smith, Frank Armington, A.J. Casson; Frederick Loveroff; Mary Wrinch; Manly MacDonald; Stanley Turner; M.A. Fortin; Malcolm Rains; Jean Paul Riopelle; Art McKay; David Urban; Ron Bloore; Doug Morton; Ken Lochhead; Ted Harrison; Chris Pratt; Maud Lewis; Allen Sapp; and Joe Fafard.
We extend our thanks to the clients, bidders and buyers who helped to ensure that 2019 was another very successful year for Cowley Abbott. We are already preparing a very exciting schedule of sales for 2020 and look forward to sharing it with you.