Canadian artist, Alexander Colville’s 1976 canvas Dog and Bridge highlighted Vancouver-auction house Heffel’s contemporary art sale on July 15, realizing a total of CAD 15.3 million ($11.4 million) across 112 lots. The work sold for more than CAD 2.4 million ($1.8 million) with buyer’s fees, doubling its pre-sale high estimated value of CAD 1.2 million ($890,000).
The sale comes in just over last year’s total for the May equivalent sale that CAD 14.1 million ($10.5 million), marking a solid recovery for the regional vendor from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the past several months.
The record Colville sale marked the first time the painting had come to auction after being held privately for several decades by its sole owner in a private Ontario-based collection. Colville, a military artist deployed with the Canadian army during WWII—whose wartime images have met with controversy—is known principally for his hyper-realistic depictions of animals and human figures.
Heffel has developed a solid market for Canadian masters, and Colville is among their recurring performers continually achieving newer highs. In the Fall, after a protracted bidding war, Alex Coville’s Harbour (1975) sold for CAD 1.8 ($1.4 million), the artist’s previous record, more than doubling the estimate of CAD 500,000 to 700,000. Last week’s figure comes in at a 33% increase over the fall 2019 price. Mainly dealt by Fischer Fine Art in London, Colville’s works have received new attention in the resale market following his 2015 retrospective at the National Gallery of Canada.
David Heffel, President of the Canadian house tagged Dog and Bridge as one “among the most outstanding and recognized examples by the artist to ever come to market” in a statement following the sale.
“Major works by Colville are extremely rare to market. There are less than 100 in private hands, and collectors who own his works tend to hold onto them” said Heffel. Colville’s works have been showcased abroad in Europe and Asia and works by the artists reside in prominent institutional collections such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Vienna’s Museum der moderner Kunst and Berlin’s National Galerie.
In 2010 at a Heffel contemporary auction, Colville’s Man on Verandah from 1953 sold for CAD 1.29 million ($960,000) to a European buyer, besting its pre-sale estimate of CAD 400,000-$600,000 and establishing the second highest price for the Canadian painter’s work.
Other points in the sale saw works reach over their high estimates. Joan Mitchell’s untitled small-scale triptych sold for nearly CAD 1.2 million ($890,000), surpassing its estimated price of about CAD 500,000. Quebec artist and Mitchell’s long-term partner, Jean Paul Riopelle’s monumental abstract from 1970 “Le reveil” went for CAD 1.2 million ($890,000), reaching over the pre-sale value range of CAD 700,000 to 1 million.