Borduas, Kurelek among postwar Canadian artists to headline auctions

Works by Canadian postwar artists Paul-Émile Borduas and William Kurelek are among the highlights at auctions being held in Toronto this week.

A 1972 painting by Kurelek will hit the auction block Tuesday with an estimated value of $150,000 and $200,000.

The evocative and joyful painting Hot Day in Kensington Market is one of 21 works in Kurelek’s Toronto series, says Rob Cowley, president of Consignor Canadian Fine Art.

The series depicts life in the city where the Alberta-born artist found commercial success and raised a family. 

The Consignor sale will also feature notable works by Emily Carr, the Group of Seven, Bill Reid, Daphne Odjig and Marcelle Ferron. 

Kurelek’s well-known 1972 painting Hot Day in Kensington Market is being offered at auction for the first time. (Consignor Canadian Fine Art )

On Wednesday, a work by Quebec-born abstractionist Borduas is the headliner of the Heffel spring sale.

The 1956 Figures schématiques could fetch between $3 million and $5 million, challenging Borduas’s best price at auction, which was a canvas sold for $737,500 in 2015.

“It’s a wonderful Borduas painting, very rare and quite spectacular,” auction house vice-president Robert Heffel told CBC News.

At roughly 1.3 metres by 2 metres, the canvas is the largest of Borduas’s black-and-white paintings in private hands, he said, linking Figures schématiques to the National Gallery of Canada’s Borduas canvas 3 + 4 + 1, “which is one of their cornerstone pieces of their post-war, contemporary Canadian art collection.”

Fine art in VR 

The global appeal of the Quebec artist, who later lived in Paris and New York, made Figures schématiques a natural choice for Heffel’s first foray into virtual reality. The auction house teamed up with Alchemy VR studio to create an immersive, virtual gallery experience highlighting Borduas and Figures schématiques to new audiences and for those unable to attend an in-person preview.

Borduas was a teacher… I think Borduas would have loved the educational element of [the VR experience].– Robert Heffel

“We wanted to look at new media in new ways to educate people about great artworks,” Heffel said.

“Borduas was a teacher: he was [artist Jean-Paul] Riopelle’s teacher and influenced that generation of artists. I think Borduas would have loved the educational element of it.”

The Heffel auction will also feature eight works by the Group of Seven’s Lawren Harris, a portrait by Emily Carr and a Tom Thomson painting that was recently recovered from an Edmonton grandmother’s basement.

Another Borduas is also a highlight of a third art sale taking place in Toronto this week. ByDealers auction house, a newcomer to the market with headquarters in Montreal, is offering a smaller black-and-white Borduas canvas from 1965 called Untitled/Sans titre. It’s estimated to fetch between $800,000 and $1.2 million.


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