Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Morrisseau Time Machine (Part V)

When: January 1, 2008;
Where: Randy Potter Estate Auctions, Port Hope, Ontario



Randy Potter, © 2008 Robert Campbell, Dumpdiggers
/Click on image to Enlarge/


~ By Robert Campbell, published January 2, 2008

A severe snowstorm swept through Eastern Ontario on January 1st, 2008 - snowflakes the size of soda crackers fell from the sky as we drove west from Cobourg through the blizzard to buy some good Canadian Art.

This was especially unfortunate weather for Randy Potter; the auction entrepreneur was hosting a high profile estate sale this morning inside his own converted automotive garage turned auction hall at 15 Cavan Street in the snow clogged heart of historic Port Hope.

Bad weather is always good news for auction attendees, and veteran Dumpdiggers don’t think twice about sorting their way through six inches of wet snow to get at the best bargains of the year. There was certainly no snow removal service at work in Port Hope yet, and the center of the snowstorm was Whitby, Ajax and Pickering. Nobody would be commuting from Toronto today. The oversized flakes were still falling as my friend's four-wheel drive SUV found easy parking outside Randy Potter's cinder block building.

Inside this cluttered antiques arena, behind its huge garage doors and underneath the unflattering fluorescent lights, Randy Potter himself held court.

© 2008 Robert Campbell
/Click on image to Enlarge/

On Jan 1st 2008, in the middle of a severe Ontario snowstorm there was some serious early Canadian contemporary art for sale.

Presiding over the market, Randy Potter was the only man with a microphone, and two hundred spectators eagerly listened to the charismatic auctioneer (who seemed to know most of the audience by name) as he rattled off keyword specific phrases associated with each Canadian cultural object de’art on the block.

Much of this stuff sold cheap, and I was surprised to learn the true values of Canadian art deco lamps and ashtrays. My friend thought aloud about buying a crate of Lincoln Logs for two bucks (for his kids), but then seemed more captivated by the antique porcelain dolls heads, dishes, pottery and crocks that he could see on tables in the background.

This was an auction with commentary by Randy Potter, who occasionally lamented the soft prices with anecdotal remarks like, “I sold this very piece a couple of years ago for six hundred bucks…’ which he said in a tone of obvious disappointment as today's winning bid totaled less than half that amount.

Occasionally one of Randy’s assistants would rest a long stick below one of fifteen Norval Morrisseau signed acrylic on canvas paintings that were hung with care on the wall behind the podium, and the bidding would get white hot for a few minutes.

Fifteen Norval Morrisseau paintings were sold

Norval Morrisseau paintings are, in my opinion, a terrific investment. The auction staff had hoped that each of these pieces would fetch between three to five thousand dollars as Norval Morrisseau is now considered by contemporary critics to be one of the most important painters (native or otherwise) that Canada has ever produced. You would think the price of his art would appreciate handsomely after his recent 2007 death? But these market factors were not evidenced on Jan 1st 2008 in Port Hope - and consequently there were some real bargains to be had here.

© 2008 Robert Campbell
/Click on image to Enlarge/

Public apathy (from years of bad prices) and the economic realities at work in this 'age of uncertainty' continue to deflate art auction values - I suppose there's a myriad of factors that keep the prices of these beautiful pieces in the basement; most of these canvases sold for between two to three thousand dollars.

In addition to these terrific pieces there was a Roland Gissing oil on canvas, and a William Brymner painting. There was also an F. Catano water colour, a Lemoine Lionel Fitzgerald painting as well as a Lemoine Lionel Fitzgerald pen & ink; and a Charles Jones Way water colour. But above all of these respected artist's work there was one eagerly anticipated piece - a 19th century painting that was signed C. Krieghoff. Three bidders ran the price higher and higher. There were two bidders in the room, and one telephone bidder. This oil painting sold for $12,000 as everyone in the room clapped.

- -

Source: 'Canadian Fine Art sold in Snowstorm' by Robert Campbell
               /Used with permission/

>>> Reference post:
- Justice for Norval Morrisseau (Part II),

- Respecting Norval Morrisseau's art... (Part III),
- The Morrisseau Time Machine (Part I),
- The Morrisseau Time Machine (Part II),

- The Morrisseau Time Machine (Part III) &
- The Morrisseau Time Machine (Part IV).


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