Whoops and vigorous applause greeted the winning bid Thursday in Toronto for a classic Emily Carr canvas consigned to Vancouver-based Heffel auctioneers.
The sale of The Crazy Stair, to a telephone bidder for close to $3.4-million – a record for a Carr at auction – was the indisputable highlight of the auction which saw about 125 lots sell for almost $13.6-million, including buyer's premium. The result was against a pre-sale estimate of $8-$10-million.
Painted between 1928 and 1931, The Crazy Stair had never been sold at auction before as it was held for decades by the Vancouver Club. The oil was one of a total of eight Carrs up for bidding; two were declared unsold at evening's end. The previous auction record for a Carr, $2.16-million, was set in 2009, also by Heffel, for the oil Wind in the Tree Tops (1939).
Heffel had one other seven-figure winner at its fall sale, a 1915 oil-on-board sketch by Tom Thomson. Canoe Lake, painted at the Algonquin Park site that would claim the artist's life in 1917, went into bidding carrying a $400,000-$600,000 estimate. It sold for almost $1.7-million, making it one of 10 sketches by the Group of Seven progenitor that have sold at auction for $1-million or more in the last six years.