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Peter Doig painting of DVP rainbow tunnel sets auction record for the artist

Country-rock (wing-mirror), a large representation of the culvert done in 1999 by international art superstar Peter Doig.


A painting of a site familiar for decades to millions of commuters in the Toronto region has sold for almost $15.5-million at auction in London – a world record for the artist, Peter Doig, 55, who spent most of his early years in Canada. The bid by telephone on Monday, to Sotheby's London, includes the buyer's premium and surpasses the previous record for a Doig at auction – about $13-million, established last May at Christie's auction house in New York.

The record-breaking painting is an oil on canvas, titled Country-rock (wing-mirror), completed in 1999. It's a large representation, 195 centimetres by 270 centimetres, of the famous rainbow tunnel located since 1972 on the eastern perimeter of the northbound Don Valley Parkway in Toronto. The work was consigned by an unnamed collector who had held it since purchasing it from Mr. Doig's dealer in 1999.

Going into the bidding, Sotheby's representatives were hoping Country-rock would fetch "around £9-million" on the hammer – roughly $16.4-million. However, the winning hammer price, reached after about five minutes of bidding, was £7.5-million (£8.5-million if one includes the buyer's premium, the commission the auctioneer charges to the winning bidder).

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The auction record for a single work by a living British-born artist remains the £10.3-million fetched in 2008 by Damien Hirst's Golden Calf – an installation of a cow with golden horns and hooves submerged in a tank of formaldehyde.

Doig, born in Edinburgh, came with his parents to Canada in 1960 and lived here for the following 19 years, mostly in Montreal, Quebec's Eastern Townships and Toronto. Returning to Britain, he enrolled in three art schools, obtaining an M.A. in 1989-90 from the Chelsea School of Art and, four years later, a Turner Prize nomination. Trinidad has been the artist's primary residence since 2002, its terrain informing much of his painting since, including many of the works displayed recently at a well-received Doig survey held earlier this year at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. But it's been his dream-like Canadian-themed paintings that have fared best in the resale market. For instance, a 1991 painting of the Toronto residence of Eaton's Centre architect Eb Zeidler, titled The Architect's Home in the Ravine, sold for just over £7-million (U.S.) in 2013 at Christie's London.

Doig, sometimes labelled a "radical traditionalist," has painted three vistas on canvas of the DVP rainbow from a highway perspective. But the painting sold Monday is the only version to include a portion of the car providing that perspective within the picture frame and the first iteration to be presented for auction.

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