35th Art Auction sales top $80,000 – Bateman goes for less than it is worth.

By Pepper Parr

February 7, 2014


Auctions are both a form of entertainment and a chance to learn more about art, see what you like and decide if you are prepared to pay the price the auctioneer has worked the audience up to.

Friday evening, Nello Romagnoli pulled  $80,000 from a room that was packed.

Earlier in the week, an event that usually draws 250 people did manage to get 150 hardy souls to the CIBC Wood Gundy private reception in weather that had the city cancelling all its public events as Burlington buttoned down to weather yet another winter storm.

Robert Bateman’s Coyote on Mt. Nemo was certainly the draw and for the most part the crowd pleaser but it didn’t pull what it should have pulled in the way of price. The bid came in by telephone – they got a deal.

The draw for most was a very recent and much different Bateman than they’d seen in the past.  Robert Bateman, who is in his 83rd year, has done a piece that is much closer to his Burlington roots.  Titled Coyote at Mt. Nemo, the 30 x 43 cm oil on board resonates instantly with those who have taken the paths to Mr. Nemo.

The rock formations are identifiable not only to the eye but to the heart-strings as well.  It is as if one was taken back to an old, familiar, comfortable place and there, almost in the shadows, is a coyote looking at a crevice between two rock formations and deciding if he can make the jump from one side to the other.  Between the two sides of the crevice the green branches of trees are visible – that’s our Mt. Nemo.

Art Centre Executive Director relays a telephone bid for the Bateman. Best he could do was pull in $13,000. A deal at that price.

The painting is given a market value of between $15,000 and $19,000 – Executive Director Ian Ross had his phone pressed against his ear as the unknown clients settled at a bid of $13,000.  That buyer got a deal.

The Bateman piece was one of 120 pieces of art that are part of the live and silent auction – the 35th put on by the Burlington Art Centre that will be going through a re-branding once the city budget is approved.  John Duffy, who has done some impressive work in the past, has taken on the task of freshening the image of the Art Centre.

Auctioneers are at heart psychologists – they bring an ability to read a room as well as read a person and know if they can entice a higher bid.  They can spot a bottom feeder a mile away and usually know when a bidder is about to top out.

Hundreds of people dropped by the Art Centre to take their time and see what was in the catalogue and decide what they liked. Several excellent pieces went for well above the Estimated Market Value – eight items were withdrawn.

A good auctioneer will ease a bidder up an additional $100 and the moment he has pulled that from you – he is off to the next person to see if he can entice them to take the price up $50 and if he does he will be back to the first person trying to coax an additional $50. – all the while casting his eyes about the room looking for that furtive hand that flicks its fingers – the sign that there is life and a wallet the auctioneer can get at.

Good auctioneers learn where the laughs are in the room and will choose people, often couples that he can use as foils to advance the bidding.  Watching a good auctioneer is a little like watching a play – one in which the bidders are not just the audience but get drawn up on stage to play a small part.

A Helen Griffiths piece went for less than the Market Value and will hang in the home of Burlington MP Mike Wallace. Good taste in art.

So – who bought what?  Well Burlington MP mike Wallace was seen walking out with three shrink  wrapped pieces , one of which was a Helen Griffiths still life of six coffee cups.  Griffiths is a local artist whose work will appreciate in value.  Her portrait work is well worth looking for.

Someone asked Mayor Goldring if he was buying, and he replied that he was buying the pier.  There was an “encaustic on panel” of the pier by Hamilton artist Ron Eady that went for $1600, but it didn’t look as if the Mayor was the buyer – so perhaps he meant he wanted to purchase the pier itself.  Should he somehow manage to do that – well there are $50 million lottery tickets sold – the citizens of the city would be forever grateful, re-elect him for certain and probably name the thing after him to show their eternal gratitude.

Hillside Homes went for its Market Value – most didn’t make that level.

There was one art matron who held up her catalogue displaying her bid number more than once and on each occasion the auctioneer managed to coax an additional hundred dollars or so from her – then dart away to see if he could do the same thing to someone else.  On at least two occasions this matron was the top bidder who just wiggled with delight at her purchase.  For this woman it was the pleasure of the piece she was buying that moved her.

“Fly Fishing” was struggling at the $200 level when the auctioneer scowled at the audience and informed them that a fishing license costs more than the bid.  He managed to get it to $250 and had to settle for that.

A Life’s Journey by Doug Mays went for a little less than the Estimated Market value – a fine piece of work.

Most of the final prices were considerably lower than the Estimated Market Value shown in the catalogue – which may have been deliberate.  A total of eight pieces were withdrawn when the bids did not reach the minimum the artist had set.  The price a piece is sold for determines the value the market places on a work – for budding artists there is a level they do not want to go below – if that isn’t reached they exercise their right to withdraw a piece.

For some artists, usually people who do not see themselves as full-time professionals  will donate a piece to see just what value the market places on their work.

Frank Myers has a capacity to discover old buildings which he photographs – producing often evocative images.  He did a tour of parts of Pennsylvania a number of years ago and came back with a very intriguing collection of pictures.  His Turtle Rock photograph sold for more than the Estimated Market Value.  William Warren, another NAME photographer, didn’t do quite as well with his Peace Lily Quintet

The surprise of the evening was Jodie Hart’s January Sunlight with Five Celementines, which went for more than $1000 over the Estimated Market Value.  The buyer of this piece was very excited over her purchase; her friends can expect to be invited over for a private viewing.

Those who wanted to catch the auctioneer’s eye sat in the front rows, placing heir bid numbers on their seats.

Some local corporations buy a row of seats and use the occasion as a Staff appreciation event.  One local architectural firm did this; they also bought a few pieces for their corporate collection.  The delightful part of this was that one young couple bought their first piece of art.  For those that understand how art enriches life – it is a pleasure to see young people buying something they like,

Was it a great auction?  Watching an original Bateman go for less than $20,000 is disappointing, but it was a good auction for the Burlington Art Centre.  It’s an annual event – something everyone should take in at least once in their life time.

The reception hall buzzed with a very healthy crowd.  CIBC Wood Gundy has been the lead sponsor of this event since 1995 – that is more than commendable.

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