Entertainment

Pachter's pop-art Canadian flag a highlight of subdued auction

The nearly $38,000 sale of Charles Pachter's patriotic pop-art Canadian flag portrait was among the high points of Joyner Canadian Fine Art's spring auction in Toronto on Tuesday evening.
Charlie Pachter's The Painted Flag fetched $37,760 at Joyner-Waddington's spring auction Tuesday night, a record for the Toronto-based pop artist's works. ((Joyner Waddington))
The nearly $38,000 sale of Charles Pachter's patriotic pop-art Canadian flag portrait was among the high points of Joyner Canadian Fine Art's spring auction in Toronto on Tuesday evening.

Amid a full room that was far more cautious than a year ago, bidders came to life for Pachter's large canvas The Painted Flag, which came up early in the sale.

Because there were several bidders in the room, a few on the phone and a host of absentee bids, "Within a minute, it was sold," Joyner-Waddington vice-president Rob Cowley told CBC News on Wednesday morning.

"We opened, I think, at $10,000 and were up to around $18,000 or $19,000 within a few seconds," said Cowley, also the chief auctioneer. "The bidding was quick, back-and-forth."

Cowley confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ont. had purchased The Painted Flag.

The painting, created in 1981 as part of Pachter's inaugural flag series, is the largest of his works ever sold at auction and fetched $37,760 — more than double the pre-sale estimate of $12,000 to $15,000.

Two other notable works the auctioneer had singled out before the sale also found buyers: A.Y. Jackson's The Abandoned Consolidated Mining and Smelting Corp. at Cross Fault Lake Near Port Radium, Great Bear Lake ($112,000) and William Kurelek's The Board Walk at Toronto's Beaches ($106,200).

Kurelek's work proved popular Tuesday night, with buyers also picking up the Ukrainian-Canadian artist's Across the River From the Capital (Unaware) for $56,640, Minnedosa Golf Course, Early Spring for $18,800 and Crows Leaving For the South for $25,960. 

Ukrainian-Canadian artist William Kurelek's The Board Walk at Toronto's Beaches fetched $106,200 at Tuesday night's sale. ((Joyner-Waddington))
Overall, 70 per cent of the 237 lots on offer sold, for a total of about $1.6 million — at the low end of what the company had expected, taking into account the current market climate, Cowley said. He had expected sales of between 70 and 80 per cent.

While the mood in the room "wasn't doom and gloom," Cowley noted, "without a doubt, bidding was more reserved than it has been in the past …and that shows in the results. Although many works exceeded their auction estimates, you had many works selling within their estimates."

Because of the Canadian art market's boom over the past decade, people have become accustomed to hearing about art selling for several times their estimates and seem shocked when pieces sell within the prices forecast.

"Whenever you have a sale that falls close within your expectations, it's certainly positive because it tells you that where you feel the market is with your auction estimates is fairly accurate," he said.

Cowley said the company will continue to search for great art and maintain cautious optimism in setting estimates and reserve prices.

He is also looking forward to the second, online auction that began Wednesday morning and will continue to June 4.

"There was a lot of interest in the online works during previews for the live auction," he said, noting that he received positive feedback both about the move to a web session for the second sale and for the well-rounded offerings in general.

The spring auction season continues in June with the Heffel's sale in Vancouver.