‘Antiques & The Arts Weekly’ asked for our perspective:
Northern Perspectives: Canadian Auctioneers Assess The Market
Linda Rodeck, Canadian Fine Art Specialist, Christa Ouimet, Inuit Art Specialist, and Sean Quinn, Decorative Arts Specialist weigh in on the discussion.
Questions posed to Linda Rodeck, Canadian Fine Art Specialist
Q: Beyond the Group of Seven, what Canadian artists are of interest to collectors?
A: Because of current demand, we are seeking works that resonate for two discreet audiences. One core group is focused on the distinct history of Canada and chases mostly Nineteenth Century topographical works. The other focus of top collectors is great Canadian masters from the 1950s through to the early 1970s, painting primarily in a non-representational style. Quebec artists, in particular Les Automatistes and Les Plasticiens, are currently du jour.
Q: What percentage of your business is online and how much do you see that changing?
A: Currently about 35 percent of our revenue is generated by online sales. However, in our view, online sales cannot replace the live experience. Waddington’s will continue to act opportunistically – live and online sales, themed or seasonal sales – adapting each to suit the potential of the material being featured.
Q: To what may we look forward to in your live auction of Canadian art scheduled for November 20?
A: The fall Canadian art catalogue sale should comprise about 140 lots in total. We have already accepted 45 lots, more than half of which are Group of Seven pictures. The Group pictures are solid bread and butter for us, but my associates and I will soon be hitting the road in search of those rarities that transform a seasonal sale into an event. Stay tuned.
Questions posed to Christa Ouimet, Inuit Art Specialist
Q: How long has your firm been a major player in the Inuit art field?
A: Waddington’s was the first auction house to have a dedicated department for Inuit art, and we are now approaching our 40th anniversary of holding standalone Inuit art auctions. We handle mainly Canadian Inuit artwork, with some Alaskan and Greenlandic work, primarily sculpture, prints and textiles from the 1950s to the 1990s.
How much education is still needed to familiarize buyers with Inuit art?
A: We have clients and consignors all over the world, but, as with all art forms, education is key to developing and nurturing new collectors. Our website, www.waddingtons.ca, offers the most comprehensive searchable database of artists and artwork. We also manage the companion website www.katilvik.com, which lets users search Inuit art and artists, and even translate syllabics as they may appear on their artwork. Canada’s incredible public art galleries and museums also foster appreciation for the broad and deep tradition of Inuit art.
Q: Has the push for an international ivory ban changed what you do?
A: Waddington’s policy is to not accept consignments of post-World War II elephant ivory or any rhino horn, and we fully abide by the CITES international convention regulations when handling materials from plants or animals that may be threatened or endangered. All of our catalogues, for many years, have included a compliance statement to this effect. So the recent push on a total ban on ivory really fits into our longstanding policies in place. Of course, ivory, mostly from walrus, is still a common medium for artists working in the North and would be procured by the Inuit artists themselves or by Inuit hunters. The ivory used for carvings is a by-product of traditional hunting for food. If one of those pieces is purchased by a collector outside of Canada, the appropriate permits would be secured prior to export.
Questions posed to Sean Quinn, Decorative Arts Specialist
Q: What went into your June 27 Canada 150 sale?
A: This sale was a collaborative effort between several departments within the company. We had great luck when we put out a call for consignments, but many things came in by fortuitous happenstance, like the cast iron border marker, which sold for $18,000 CAD. A woolly mammoth tusk from the Yukon did $9,000. Two silver Canadian Peace Medals did $15,600 and $13,200 respectively.
Q: Where do you see the market heading?
A: It seems there are fewer collectors who like to amass large quantities of similar things. I think today people tend to decorate with one or two good pieces of silver, or a Victorian microscope, rather than 70 Royal Doulton figurines. I love the unusual and tend to get excited about interesting things I don’t see every day. I’m especially interested in science and medicine, natural and Canadian political history and antique weaponry, among other things.
By Laura Beach, Antiques and The Arts Weekly