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The Globe and Mail

$3.39-million sale of Emily Carr painting sets auction record

A detail from Emily Carr's "The Crazy Stair" is shown in an image made available on Thursday November 28, 2013.


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).

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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.

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