On Tuesday I went to the auction of (mostly) Canadian Art at Iegor – Hôtel des Encans. It was vaguely frustrating as less than 50% of the lots offered up for sale sold. I don’t know if that was due to reserves being placed to high, or lack of interest, or if it was more indicative of lower quality work, or something else entirely.
I was interested in it because of a bunch of items, specifically two Marcel Barbeau paintings, prints by a Johanne Corno, Alfred Pellan and Jacques Hurtubise, a Zilon painting and a Robert Roussil sculpture. Along the way there was also Vladimir Lebedev print, some Frère Jérôme stuff and three Fernand Toupins that looked kind of funky. Overall Iegor – Hôtel des Encans grossed almost $250,000. (Please take care when quoting my figures, taking notes at an Iegor auction is not an easy thing, there are numerous question marks in my notes and while I would feel comfortable using them as a rough guide, I would not trust them to be the definitive word – there is a reason why M. De Saint Hippolyte is extremely secretive).
The blockbuster, if you can call it that, was a pair of Cloisonné Qilin (Cloisonnéd Qilins?) that went for $30,353.40 with the 20% buyer’s premium and taxes included (all prices quoted here have the 20% buyer’s premium and taxes included). It seems to me that while M. De Saint Hippolyte initially made his name selling Quebecois art, he is more and more moving into the more generalized practice that really doesn’t differentiate objects that cost a chunk of change and takes advantage of the fact that most potential buyers will be first time, only time buyers from him. Emphasizing that while they know the objects in question (such as the Cloisonné Qilin in question) and therefore unlikely to overpay, there are a bunch of practices that M. De Saint Hippolyte can employ to obtain fair market value.
I’m always a large believer in taking full advantage of arbitrage, buying winter coats and boots in the middle of the summer, buying baseball cards of Tampa Bay Rays’ players in Seattle, playing Beach Boys songs in December, etc. In short going against the grain. Shorter still: Contrarian.
So you’d figure that after this much time M. De Saint Hippolyte would have figured out how to maximize sales of and on Quebecois artists. That he would have fostered and promoted collectors of Quebecois art. But as far as I can tell paintings by Stanley Cosgrove, Goodrich Roberts and others of their ilk are still selling for about $5,000, like they were a decade and a half ago. a rising tide is supposed to lift all boats, but if the tide never comes then everything just remains beached. And from where I am sitting Quebecois art has been beached and left out to rot for the longest time. If a new painting by Zilon will cost something like five figure but you can pick up an older pre-loved one for $1,793.61 like someone did on Tuesday, why in anyone’s name would you buy new?
That all being said, I will repeat myself again and say that there is sole pretty gosh darn phenomenal art being made here right now (and in the past as well) but the people whose job and responsibility it is (like M. De Saint Hippolyte, Nathalie Bondil, Simon Blais, and others) to make the rest of the world aware of how amazing, kick-ass and wonderful the art made here is are dropping the ball and screwing around big time.
Pop Shop, the one on top sold for $1,103.76.l Au bord de la mer (on the bottom) did not sell.
And then finally, if you’d like my spreadsheet of prices from the auction, download this.