an interview for Canadian Art Magazine
Leah Sandals talked with Linda Rodeck about our Fall 2017 Canadian Fine and Inuit Art auctions, the global market for Canadian art, and our focus on developing new buyers within existing Canadian markets.
“The Inuit sale had a 90 per cent sell-through rate,” says Linda Rodeck, senior Canadian art specialist at Waddington’s. “We certainly see international interest in the Inuit market from France, Germany and the US.” However, when it comes to developing international market interest in other Canadian artworks, Rodeck is more skeptical about prospects. “When non-Canadians have bought [historical Canadian art] from us, it has generally been people with a sentimental attachment to this country,” Rodeck says. Like: “my granny lived in Montreal, or my grandpa worked on the railway.”
As a result, Rodeck says, she and her Waddington’s colleagues remain focused on trying to develop new buyers for Canadian art within existing Canadian markets. “Some of our biggest spenders Monday [at our fine Canadian art auction] had never bought at auction before—first time ever at auction,” Rodeck says. “Also, the average spend was $12,000, which is a significant amount of money for a decorative object.”
Among the top sellers at Waddington’s Monday night auction were works by Canadian women—many of whom are still, perhaps, relatively unknown or undervalued outside of the Emily Carr–Marcelle Ferron nexus. In the Inuit sale, Rodeck noted, there were some people specifically looking to collect women artists. Furthermore, Waddington’s set a new record on Monday of $43,200 (including buyer’s premium) for Montreal painter Regina Seiden’s Gathering Spring Bouquets (originally, it was estimated at just $6,000 to $8,000). Daphne Odjig’s canvas Walking with Donald also experienced intensive bidding to achieve $48,000 with buyer’s premium, doubling its high estimate of $20,000.
Works by Maud Lewis and Doris McCarthy also enjoyed interest—once collectors were made aware of who they were. “Doris McCarthy was actively painting for 55 years or more,” says Rodeck. And while “the people who come to the sale are educated and knowledgeable, I can’t tell you how many people … didn’t know her work, who hadn’t heard of her despite two biographies and her retrospective at the McMichael. It is interesting to me that even the Canadian art cognoscenti don’t know someone who should be a household name.”
McCarthy’s 1999 canvas Storm Clouds of Keel eventually went for $36,000 including buyer’s premium. Estimate was $20,000 to $30,000.
So where does all this leave the Canadian art market? This is an issue that will be mulled over in days and weeks to come, no doubt. For one thing, Canada’s fall auctions aren’t over yet. There’s still the Consignor sale of important Canadian art at the Gardiner Museum Thursday, and a Concrete Contemporary auction at Waddington’s this coming Monday. Add to this a passel of year-round online auctions for all of Canada’s major houses and there are plenty of shifting trends to be plumbed.
“I would certainly welcome a real international interest in what we do,” says Linda Rodeck of the Canadian vs. global market issue. But until then, she will be taking her signals from the consistent goal of “how do we keep selling great things to clients who will come back.”