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Collecting Art

The Heffel Fine Art Auction House spring auction.

Brothers David and Robert Heffel grew up in a home filled with art, and have followed in the footsteps of their father, Kenneth Heffel, transforming the Canadian art business. Since its first auction in November 1995, Heffel Fine Art Auction House has sold roughly $350-million worth of fine art. At the fall 2013 auction, Emily Carr’s The Crazy Stair (The Crooked Staircase) brought in $3.39-million, the largest sum ever paid at auction for a painting by the Canadian artist.

The spring 2014 auction, which takes place next month, features another notable selection of works. David and Robert have selected eight key pieces to watch for when the gavel falls in Vancouver on May 28. “Personally I have too many favourites to list them all,” says David. “But in particular Heffel is very honoured to have our two feature cover lots in our line-up for the passionate Canadian Art market: Lawren Harris’s stunning, spiritual Lake Superior Sketch LXI for our Fine Canadian Art sale, and internationally-acclaimed Jean Paul Riopelle’s action packed, vibrant Pleine saison in our Post-War and Contemporary Art sale.” Harris’s work is now estimated between $500,000 and $700,000, and Riopelle’s between $400,000 and $600,000.

Robert echoes his brother’s sentiments: “Our team in our offices across Canada have put together an extraordinary collection from Important Estates and Private Collections too. Many of the artworks have not been seen by the public for years.” One of these is Alexander Young (A.Y.) Jackson’s Mazinaw Lake, March, Bon Echo (1924), estimated at $125,000–$175,000, which Jackson painted while in Bon Echo in south-central Ontario, near the waters of Mazinaw Lake. There are few works extant from his time there—only nine oils are known to exist, seven of them on sketch panels. This oil on canvas work up for sale is thus exceedingly rare. “Its unknown whereabouts were lamented in the book The Art of Bon Echo,” explains Robert. “The authors described it as being ‘the most important Mazinaw painting’.” Another piece to watch for will be the Edwin Holgate oil Grand Manan. “It was recently discovered in a Morin Heights, Quebec garage sale and acquired for two dollars. It’s now estimated between $15,000 and $20,000,” says David. “It will be interesting to see the return the Cinderella collector realizes.”

As for advice for the novice collector: “Focus on a certain area, one that really appeals to you,” Robert says. “Become expert in that area. Buy good names. Buy pieces you really like by those names. That’s how we’ve seen buyers do well over a long period.”