Who Cares About Sovereign debt: Let the Sales Begin

May 24, 2010 ~ Globe and Mail by James Adams

Economic fears aren’t deflating art auction prices as Heffel, Joyner Waddington and Sotheby’s all prepare for big seasons

The financial markets remain jittery and there’s real concern the troubles in Europe could send the world’s economy into a tailspin. But all that seems to have little impact on the resale market for fine Canadian art.

The country’s largest fine-art auctioneers are going into their spring sales with more inventory than auctions last fall, including consignments from significant estates. Moreover, of the almost 800 lots on offer over the next two weeks – on Wednesday in Vancouver (Heffel Fine Art) and June 1 and 2 in Toronto (Joyner Waddington’s and Sotheby’s, respectively) – at least 65 are carrying estimates in the six figures. One painting, a large oil done in the early 1930s by Group of Seven founder Lawren Harris, is expected to earn at least $1.5-$2.5-million, excluding buyer’s premium.

Heffel, of course, has the Harris consignment. The “of course” is a reflection of the company’s strong sales performance in the last six or seven years and its ascendance as the go-to auctioneer for consignors with potentially big-buck works and buyers with sufficiently deep pockets. Last fall, in the midst of the Great Recession, Heffel earned a total of $20.8-million, including premium – the second highest total by dollar value for a single auction in Canadian history. Going into that auction, Heffel’s wares were valued at an estimated $11-million to $15-million. Going into its sale Wednesday, the total estimate for the roughly 220 lots is a bullish $12-million to $15-million – more than twice the estimate Sotheby’s has on its 139 lots. Clearly records could be broken. Read More…

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