Commuters driving along Toronto's Don Valley Parkway pass it daily — an otherwise nondescript underpass adorned with a bright painted rainbow in its archway. That same view inspired artist Peter Doig, whose canvas featuring the populist landmark could fetch millions at auction this month.
Scottish-born, Canadian-raised Doig's Country-rock (wing-mirror), which Sotheby's called "one of the most important works by the artist ever to appear on the market," will be offered at its auction of contemporary art in London on June 30.
The British auction house announced the upcoming sale on Instagram Tuesday, noting that the work was valued "in the region of £9 million (about $16.5 million Cdn)."
In the painting, the rainbow tunnel is seen from the passenger seat of a car. The artwork's title references the music the artist was listening to during that particular trip.
"The rainbow tunnel is one of the most prominent and resonant motifs in Doig’s oeuvre,” Cheyenne Westphal, co-global head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, said in a statement.
"For lovers of Doig, it has a supreme status."
The painting, which Doig created in London in 1999, is part of his nostalgic, dreamy Country-rock series of three works highlighting the same vista of the DVP. A second work from the series is held in a private European collection and the third is at the PinchukArtCentre in Kiev.
Colour along the highway
The mural mysteriously appeared above the pedestrian underpass in Milne Hollow near Lawrence Avenue East, alongside the DVP in 1972 and, over the years, was doggedly repainted dozens of times by “vigilante” painters whenever officials covered it in grey.
Norwegian-born muralist Berg Johnson was eventually identified as the originator. The artist created it to bring a little colour and cheer to downtrodden commuters and as a memorial honouring a friend who died in a car accident nearby.
Finally accepted by the city, the mural is now sanctioned as public art – maintained by volunteers and a non-profit art restoration group. After years of harsh weather and extra graffiti, it was officially given a revamp and fresh coat of paint in 2012.
"Undeniably redolent with nostalgia and hippy romanticism, this story is the perfect vehicle for Doig’s portrayal of Canada as a creative realm of free imagination," the auction house said.
In recent years, Doig has joined the ranks of artists highly coveted at auction by international art collectors, with many buyers seeking his canvases that harken to his childhood and teen years in Canada.
His 1991 landscape Road House fetched $11.93 million US at a Christie's auction in New York in May, while the same auction house sold another of his Toronto-inspired works — Jetty — for about $10.5 million Cdn. in London in June 2013.
The current record-holder for a Doig work is yet another Toronto painting: The Architect's Home in the Ravine, which sold for £7.7 million (about $14 million Cdn) in London in February 2013.