NEW YORK - In 1967, Sotheby’s hosted its first auction outside of the United Kingdom in Toronto, Canada. Old Master, Impressionist and Modern works of art crossed the Atlantic for the occasion, and Sotheby’s has continued to serve the Canadian art market ever since. Up until 2012, our auctions of Canadian art set benchmarks across all tiers of the collecting category (including the record price for a Canadian painting, Paul Kane’s Scene of the Northwest), and Sotheby’s continues to help Canadian collectors access the broader market by offering their property in our international salesrooms in New York, London, Paris and Hong Kong.
Sotheby’s is uniquely positioned to bring the best works of art to the world’s most passionate and enthusiastic collectors, and we are now honored to bring a group of exceptional paintings, sculpture, prints and photographs by Canadian artists to the international market in New York for the first time in our organization’s history.
Françoise Sullivan's Danse dans la neige.
Canadian Abstraction brings together some of the best examples by the Automatistes, Plasticiens, and Painters 11 – Canadian art movements that are known internationally. Fittingly, works for this exhibition have come from across North America and Europe. Lot 1 in our sale, a jewel-like watercolor by Jean-Paul Riopelle, comes from a New York private collector who acquired it in Paris from the sale of the Estate of André Breton, clearly illustrating the connection between the French Surrealists and the Automatistes. Riopelle is well represented by five works in the exhibition, including another watercolor, a sensational and rigorously painted canvas from 1950, a monumental early mosaic painting from 1954 and a sculpture from 1962. While Riopelle is perhaps the best known of this movement, the exhibition includes an important work by his teacher, Paul-Émile Borduas, in addition to works by his peers Fernand Leduc, Marcelle Ferron and Françoise Sullivan, including the portfolio of photographs documenting her much-celebrated 1948 performance, Danse dans la neige (lot 11), which was recently exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Marcelle Ferron’s Untitled.
These artists were pioneers in their native Quebec, and blazed a trail for other artists in Canada. Sullivan continues to create and exhibit her art to this day, as does Claude Tousignant, whose iconic works figure prominently in this show. In fact, two of Tousignant’s paintings in the exhibition have been consigned directly from the artist's personal collection, Champ Jaune (lot 20) and Accélérateur Chromatique (lot 21).
Claude Tousignant’s Champ Jaune.
Two joyful canvases by Jack Bush from 1969 and 1970 highlight the Painter’s 11 section of the exhibition. Bush’s market has been gaining momentum in recent years with record-breaking results at auction and strong private sales in both Canada and New York. Buzz around the artist is at an all-time high and a major retrospective of his work is scheduled to open at the National Gallery of Canada later this year. The exhibition also features two large-scale works by Harold Town, and first-rate examples of work by Oscar Cahén, Alexandra Luke, Ray Mead and Kazuo Nakamura.
Connections can easily be drawn between all of the artists featured in Canadian Abstraction and their international contemporaries, notably the parallels between Jack Bush and Helen Frankenthaler, Charles Gagnon and Hans Hoffman, or Fernand Leduc and Zao Wou-Ki. Our aim is to renew a dialogue between these artists and create a segue for Canadian art into the international market.