Group of Seven painting expected to fetch record at auction in Toronto
Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa
Published Wednesday, November 23, 2016 5:06PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 23, 2016 6:58PM EST
The eyes of the art world are focused on Toronto tonight for what could be a record-breaking sale on the auction block. It's a Lawren Harris piece from the Group of Seven expected to fetch more than $5-million dollars. If you're Canadian, you are probably familiar with the works of the Group of Seven, Lauren Harris among them. But it is an American who has helped focus international attention on Harris' work; funny man and actor Steve Martin.
What is driving the interest is a beautiful painting by Group of Seven member Lawren Harris called “Mountain Forms”, widely anticipated to fetch as much as $5 million dollars at auction tonight in Toronto.
“Our estimates tend to be conservative,” says David Heffel, with the Heffel Fine Art Auction House, “it could sell for much more than our estimate. This is fantastic piece.”
Who is driving much of the interest is comedian and actor Steve Martin, a self-proclaimed art aficionado who has taken a great interest over the years in the work of Lawren Harris.
“Because I loved his work,” Martin said and I felt I was the only one who knew of him.”
Clearly, he quickly discovered the secret was out long ago in Canada about Harris.
The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is home to a sizeable collection of the works of the Group of Seven. The Gallery's director says it's not auction houses, though, that determine the success or failure of artists; it's institutions like the Gallery of Canada.
“Museums put artists in context,” says Marc Mayer, Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada, “they make the arguments for who artists are, who are representative of the best of our culture and the highest expression of intelligence and sensibility and the auction houses reap the benefits of our good work. That’s how I see it.”
Today at the National Gallery, it is indigenous painter Alex Janvier representing the best of Canadian culture, who says it is still a bit of a shock to see all his works on display.
“Well if Trump can get in as president, why not me in the National Gallery,” he quips.
The collection includes 150 works of art, exploding with color, documenting the 81-year-old's journey through life. Janvier's pride in everything Canadian carries through to his thoughts on tonight's auction of Harris' Mountain Forms.
“We have the best country in the world,” he says, “and produce the best people in the world.”
How much are people willing to pay for a piece of that Canadiana? Well, millions clearly and it is strongly suspected that it will be an American buyer who puts down that money.