Published Articles

In the past years of my private art dealing life I have found the time most dealers don't have to visit many exhibitions, art fairs, private and public galleries.

It is that "time" which has provoked me to write about art in my non - critical, hopefully informative manor. Certainly I do not profess to be a"writer" but I do feel some things need to be seen and discussed more in the Canadian and world art scene. If nothing else I do my small part.

My auction reviews for upcoming and past sales merely present my opinions and are not meant to be purely investment concepts, but again attempt to present art and sales in a "public" light.

Douglas Maclean, Canadian Art Gallery, 2012.


Auction Review, Fall Season.

November 6, 2011

The best part about the fall season of sales is that they all are in one place, Toronto, it makes the previews and sales easier to take in. That immersion starts on November 20 to the 27th, with Sotheby’s evening sale November 28 closing the auction season.

 Heffel’s, Canadian Post War Art followed by Fine Canadian Art on November 24, are kicking off the first in a line of three sales, its not be a bad position and possibly could set the tone for the week to come. Will the current economy have an effect? Will collectors, buyers be selective and wary? All remains to be seen.

The contemporary art in the sale features some gems, look for works by Painters 11, Toronto Painters, and prominent Quebec abstraction. In some cases, names well known from my previous reports. Artists and artworks of note, #3 Tom Hodgson, Toronto Painters group, possibly the most eccentric of the Issacs gang, is certainly an artist to see. The group as a whole is yet to realize full potential.

Michael Snow’s, #7 & #19, from his “Walking Women” series, made their first appearance in New York City, finally are coming home, #19, “Sideway” 1962, is a sculpture of museum quality and worth seeing, the other #7, is a radical “hanging” canvas painting circa 1960. Jack Bush’s work Sing, Sing, Sing, 1974 looks to be one of the very best we have seen, originally sold at the David Mirvish Gallery, his prime dealer. With a clear provenance it may indeed burst any market bubble for his works. Rita Letendre’s 1961 “Micromegas”,#13, a small colour and texture painting, has a fine gallery history. Originally sold at the Here & Now gallery in 1962 during Rita’s first show. Imagine that time in Toronto? Charged with avant - garde energy that created the galleries, art, artists, and music of the time. Quebec is represented by numerous works of importance throughout the sale, note #18, Jean Paul Lemieux, “Nineteen Ten Remembered” 1962, a painting with a huge provenance, book publications, museum, and world exposure in exhibitions. If you need to ask the “estimate” you must do so in person as it’s not listed, a significant indication of the possible sale value! Jean Paul Riopelle, #20, 1952, painted in Paris, entitled “Grande Fete”, could prove to be a stunning work from his most exuberant period.

Throughout there are excellent examples of Harold Town, Jean McEwen, Gordon Smith, Yves Gaucher and others.

The Heffel sale will continue at 6 p.m. with the Fine Canadian art sale, gems of history that still catch people’s attention. On the heels of the Group of Seven exhibition in London, expect some fresh bidders in the audience. Watch for prime examples of A.J. Casson, Lawren Harris and J.E.H. MacDonald.  Emily Carr’s  #110, “war canoe” watercolour, is one of her most stunning depictions of Haida culture. The Maurice Cullen paintings from the private collection of Mr. Francois Dupre’, are among the best to come to auction. Of special note is a waterfall watercolour by W.J. Phillips #156, rare to see, illustrated in Turbulence and Tranquility (his most important biographical tome), and a rare Alfred Wesley, totem #168, is in incredible condition the colour and carving are exquisite.

Joyners sale at the new Waddington’s building on King Street East, will be previewed on the 20th of November. The sale will be small and concise with 206 artworks being offered. Note the sale will commense at 10 a.m. on Friday the 25th. This sale, although less prominent, always features some very strong lots. Make sure to note and see the Joyner preview, the company has deep roots in the business and is supported by loyal collectors. In this sale watch for excellent works by, Frederick Varley, #14, Andre Bieler #43, Lawren Harris #50, and Ontario artist W.J. Wood. Robert Cowley (assistant director) continues to find interesting lessknown works of historical quality that surprise me, and it is these that I search for. Figurative gems, historical landscapes and artists who may have been passed by other auctions are often setting new values at their sales. In the contemporary modern component of the sale note artworks by, William Kurelek #116, Doris McCarthy #131, #140, and Sorel Etrog, #151. Not your usual list of contemporary art but well worth noting, in my view collecting should involve a large spectrum of value and quality. With that concept in mind look at Walter Yarwood #155, an excellent example of his sculptural expression, known as a painter first with the Painter’s Eleven, he eventually turned purely to sculpture. One work by Ken Lochhead of the Regina Five shows up, #188 this western abstract group is worthy of attention. Joyner’s will be a welcome expedient sale. Don’t forget they did achieve the record price of the spring sales with a Lawren Harris into the million plus mark.

Sotheby’s previews commencing November 24 and sale November 28, all take place at the R.O.M. This is one sale not to pass, Sotheby’s has managed to pull out wonderful works from the “consignment closet” illustrating that collectors still believe in fair competition. The sale includes very a very strong contemporary / modern component, starting with a Jacques de Tonnancour, 1969 painting (lot #1) and stepping right up with a great Dennis Burton #3. I pick these two out to represent not only artists of note, but possible “buys” with future interest. Burton was one of the instigators of the Toronto Painters, and part of the Issacs Gallery scene. Carry on through the sale and find important works by Oscar Cahen #5, the primary force behind the Painters Eleven, #8 Tony Sherman, a great example of his figurative expression, (in my opinion his best work). Paul Emile Borduas shows up very well with one important painting #14, and  Marcelle Ferron #9, is certainly one of the best of the season. As usual, look for the best in David Milne’s work here at Sothebys, they have great respect for the artist, and some quiet connections!

In the “new contemporary” stand out works from Kazuo Nakamura #17, #64 John  Meredith, Otto Rogers #59, and David Bolduc, #20. A rare beauty by one of Canada’s earliest abstract painters Bertram Brooker #22. Alex Colville is certainly well represented with 6 works.  His hand made prints are under valued in my opinion. Finally although odd, but not to be missed is a crazy fabulous “nail” sculpture by Toronto artist David Partridge #21.

Sadly there are never enough pages or words to tell you all my interests in these pieces of Canadian art. All I can do is suggest a list of notables, my picks from catalogues so far and hope you can enjoy your own “picks” and discoveries in the Canadian sales and previews this fall. Remember “previews” are your private museums. Good works come around only once. Note the important collections being sold and the provenance of quality art works, it is the story of good collecting. Great Canadian Art is proving itself to be rare and valuable, and the world is taking note.

Douglas Maclean, private art dealer, Canadian Art Gallery, Canmore, Alberta

Galleries West - Auction Review

Nov. 27 2011

After what has been called an “incredible, amazing”, auction season in New York, with the major sales generating hundreds of millions, collectors buying major contemporary art, it seemed the “world economy” was just fine. With the major Canadian auctions taking place in Toronto, at the end of November they could only hope this wave of optimism could carry over.

As usual Heffel Fine Art auctions grabbed the front spot with their two part sale taking place on November 24. After previews across Canada featuring the post war and fine art collec- tions, the 9 Jean Paul Lemieux works were generating a buzz. The featured lot, catalogue cover, Lot #18, “Nineteen Ten Remembered” had a provenance and exhibition history, that took up three catalogue pages. It sold for 2.2 million with premium, a record price for the art- ist. Was it my pick, hardly matters, but no, of the 9 Lemieux works I had two strong favour- ites, #32 Le Croisement, 1967, a more adventurous abstracted landscape, and #29 Les Voyagers 1964, the more mysterious figure painting. Of course the sale of #18 did not hurt and the values for good Lemieux works went up across the board.

My absolute favourite of the contemporary works in the sales was #19, Michael Snowʼs Walking Woman, first shown In 1962, at the Issacs Gallery, this museum quality work sold for $175,000. The Walking Woman series is an iconic statement made by Snow well in ad- vance of the “fabricated” art movement, which of course includes many POP artists and all the way up to Jeff Koons today. The modern post war sale did well across the board with a few misses. Jean Paul Riopelleʼs “Grande Fete” 1952 work with a very confident estimate of $900,000. passed, surprising since the pass was not about the quality, a friend calls these kind of estimates “sit up and beg” to buy, these are auctions not retail sales, lessons learned, (not likely). The over all sale was robust and no doubt generated a good portion of the over all total of 16 million sold ion one night. Two strong contributing factors figured prominently in the Fine Canadian Art sale, commencing at 6 p.m. The first of those two be- ing #110 Emily Carr, War Canoe, Alert Bay, wisely bought by Mr. Ernest E. Poole of Ed- monton, from Dominion Gallery, (back in the day) this small powerful, detailed study for a major painting was sold at 1 million, 200 hundred thousand, easily a record price for Carrʼs work on paper.

The other hefty price came from a panel painted by Lawren Harris, Mount Robson, his works certainly are a constant contributor to value in the Canadian Art sales and this one did not disappoint, it sold for 1 million, 800 thousand. Some very good estates and art works owned by prominent collectors helped Heffel gain substantial ground.

Stand out historical works of interest to me were, Kay Daly Pepperʼs Catskill Mountains, a rare early major canvas, J.E.H. MacDonaldʼs, Snow Lake OHara, a small beauty evoking the quiet, thick atmosphere of the day, captured with sparse brush and colour, a Lawren Harris, Aftermath of a Storm, bright, bold, with strong colour this painting danced the line be- tween pure abstraction and landscape, all good reasons to attend previews, once they are sold of course they are gone.

Waddingtonʼs, Torontoʼs major large auction house packed up the whole operation this past summer and moved east on King Street, into new second floor space. Along with the move of course, came the Joyner Fine Arts sales group. The new building features a good viewing room for Joynerʼs down sized sale of 200 lots. The plan for future sales is smaller live sales and larger online presentations, obviously drawing attention to quality important works. The sale conducted by Robert Cowley, auctioneer and Canadian Fine art specialist, took off at a pace that would not slow over the next two hours. Cowley is a master at selling quickly and smoothly with little hesitation, loose your concentration on a piece of interest and it will be sold. At 96 lots per hour this sale was easy to take in. The feature lot in the sale was an odd Lawren Harris work, done as an illustration in 1911, this overly sized ambitious “night” painting was certainly interesting to see and know the history. A small drawing by Frederick Banting done in 1927 with A.Y.Jackson during their arctic voyage was really a beautiful rare piece, and thankfully garnered a lot of interest selling for $5000. Joynerʼs al- ways has an eye for finding the off beat art works, they may not generate huge values, but show the integrity and individualism of Canadian Art. The perfect examples of this for me were, #45 Randolph S.Hewton, Woman Sewing, 1921, a watercolour featuring high colour and abstract forms yet revealing a beautiful image of the woman quietly sewing. #47 Franz Johnston, this tiny small panel done in gouache paint, likely on site in Jasper, still had all the fresh colour and light of that day looking at Mt. Edith Cavell. #89 William John Wood, The Grocery Store, 1914, this small work had the mystery of an Edward Hopper, Wood worked in Ontario, although not widely known his etchings and paintings are great things to know. As with all the major auctions a portion of Joyners was dedicated to Post War, Contemporary. A tiny (5 x 6”) Jack Bush, study gifted to the artist York Wilson and consigned from his estate jump started this sale with a selling price of $17,000. The star modern work catching lots of attention was a Jock MacDonald, Lilt of Songs, my thought was “this is museum” quality a rare, beautiful work in my mind a steal a the hammer price of $50,000. I had an idea of pre sale value of at least $80,000. It is always a surprise when a rare high quality work is “put way” at such low value. Doris McCarthyʼs, Iceberg Reflection, proved to be a vintage, rare and no doubt was a pre - cursor painting to her most beloved series, the “Iceberg Fantasies”. An interesting work, this double sided oil, likely generated after her first trip north. It work was hammered down at $26,000. Joynerʼs also had in my opinion the very best small Rita Letendre offered in the fall sessions,Le Cri, 1962, was light & lively, full of raw aggressive colour, and yet again a painting that should have been 30k seemed to fall well short of the low estimate. The contemporary collectors and market is a fickle one apparently, which bodes well for keeping oneʼs eye on the works you like. Joynerʼs first sale in the new premises, may be suffering from a move and a lot of change, but it went reasonably well, good works sold, and no doubt they will maintain a spot in the auction calendars.

Sothebyʼs was third in line, and not a sale to pass quickly through. The preview had been really busy, well attended. The opening evening of champagne and great finger food was so busy the art was a second take. Once again some strong contemporary works caught the eye. On entry I was confronted by a powerful work by John Meredith, this huge paint- ing, energetic, vital and no doubt an excellent example of this Issacs Gallery gang member of the 1960ʼs through the 70ʼs. Turn the corner and a Dennis Burton 1958, a gutsy full ab- stract expression of his true Lethbridge spirit . Wonderful to catch these moments again. The “ modern” proved to be over all special, possibly a bit more spark than the other sales. Curating the preview, and consignments are a huge factor in generating sales, if there was problem with Sotheby's the overall installation needed better “sales” attention. On the history side of the catalogue collection, there were some odd gems of note. David Milne etchings in pristine condition, kept for all the years in a file, all the Milne works came form one collection, an astute buyer back in the 1950ʼs managed get his eye and head around Milnesʼ eccentricities. Alex Colville represented by two major paintings and one spectacular screen print of “Cat on a Fence”.

A Lawren Harris abstract painted in Santa Fe, during the height of his abstract visual spiritual quest rolled in late for the catalogue but did not disappoint, the quality of light was perfect , the forms oddly egyptian. J.W. Morrice was represented by two larger canvases rare to see in any sale, one quiet un assuming, the other almost monochromatic but with his trade- mark sparse figures. A work by Canadaʼs Newfoundland image expert David Blackwood, was a nice surprise, in a group of works on the back wall hung a triptych etching done in 1967, this vintage beauty I was sure would gather huge attention, rare subject and full of his characteristic fisherman, and a foreboding tale.

So Monday night finally rolled around after a busy weekend of previews, galleries, value discussion and all the usual rumours and chatter following big sales. At one point a So- theby's person made sure I had registered and handed me a VIP pass, well nice I thought! But it turned out the be a way to scoot through the throng of protesters (not occupiers!) but teamsters from as far as New York city, protesting wages, cuts and the usual union com- plaints. Of course it s the 1% buying, and buying big, and these people get no breaks ap- parently. It was a quick hustle through the mob and into the sanctity of the R.O.M. Right away the contemporary works took off, #1 was a good Jacques DeTonnancour, $11,000. on the hammer and we were off, doing well with good things at decent value, the stellar mo- ment being John Meredithsʼ work selling at a whopping $160,000, hammer price, great news, and well deserved, proving excellent quality gets value. Jack Bush was not to be out done and a smaller lively 1965 work brought a quick $160,000. on the hammer. Jean Paul Lemieux, hit another million bid with his “Country Club” a somewhat joyous work, the path of Heffelsʼ Lemieux sales was well followed. The night hammered on auctioneer Hugh Hemsley deftly handing hits and misses through the modern and right into history. Colville did not disappoint, the best of two a small painting sold for a bid of $360,000. The right image and right work. The monotone but evocative Morrice gathered some attention, ap- proached 1.3 million and got hammered down. The best Milne watercolour sold for $210,000. again sending signals that quality gets attention, never the less it never ceases to surprise me what “passes”. Fine if it work of not much consequence or poor quality, but odd if it is something as good as a rare Lawren Harris, Yves Gaucher, or even Christopher Pratt. Proving the right collector has to see the works, make the decision and bid, based on solid knowledge. If I have one suspicion of why works donʼt sell, its that the auction never starts I.e. the estimate is too high for interest in the first place, again these are auctions not retail gallery walls. In my humble opinion, all the auctions not only need to define the quality, display the “sellers” and get the estimates where people want to enter the fight.

So a final over all on the Sotheby night, it was certainly a positive step jumping high over the spring sale, the Buddha domination (mentioned in spring review) seemed to be com- placent with all these apparent members of the 1% in the room.

A quick summary of the season, modern, contemporary marches forward, good to great quality works gaining ground, pay attention if your interested, historical works come out not as frequently, but great works are still achieving huge value in a supposed depression. Ca- nadian Art has ground to cover to reach an international stage, but slowly positive steps are taken, great art is collected and recognised.

Douglas MacLean
Canadian Art Gallery

ART MARKET REPORT - Spring, 2010

According to all the news Canada’s economy has “spring “ in its step and hopefully that bounce will carry through the upcoming auction season. Offerings by prime auction houses in Canada are numerous this season with great Canadian art collections are coming to market in addition to other notable art works.

Private art collections are also revealing. They provide insight into a collector’s interests, devotion to culture, and of course support of artists, many of whom barely survived on sales or exhibitions. Often benefactors of fine art in Canada had personal connections to the artists and truly believed in our young nation’s art. Integral to this process are also the art dealers who took a chance in representing these artists, supporting them and eventually connecting the collectors to the artists and their art works. This season we will see at least four examples of private and corporate collections, worthy of attention.

HEFFEL FINE ART AUCTION, Vancouver, May 26, 4 p.m.

This sale promises to be the “big number” sale-of-the-season, the auction house and staff have done the “impossible” yet again and have come up with two major private collections and numerous individual offerings.

Heffel offers “Post War Contemporary” in the first part of the sale, then moving on to “Historical” works in the second part. (7 p.m.) The Post War selection is amazing, representing most of the important groups of modern artists in Canada.  The sale includes the private collection of architect Arthur Erickson and within this visionary collection are great examples of the west coast abstractionists – B.C. Binning, Jack Shadbolt, Takao Tanabe and his great friend Gordon Smith. Erickson designed and built the house Gordon Smith still lives and works in. Interest in Vancouver abstraction is certainly on the rise, and worthy of attention.

More familiar might be the artwork from Montréal’s Automatists: Paul-Émile Borduas, Jean-Paul Riopelle, and other members of the Refus Global movement (late 1940’s). This includes an incredible group of rare and excellent paintings by Rita Letendre, (a Governor-General award winner this year), Jean-Paul Armand  Mousseau, Pierre Gauvreau and Fernand Leduc. In addition, works by the Painters Eleven, Jack Bush, Ray Mead, William Ronald,Tom Hodgson show the strength of this independent bunch working in Toronto in the later 1950’s and 1960’s. And if all of these are not enough to excite one’s interest, try the more contemporary important works by Gershon Iskowitz, Claude Tousignant and for the first time at auction, Chris Cran, Calgary artist, controversial, humourous and well-regarded within the Canadian art world. A seminal 1985 oil and acrylic on canvas by Cran is up for auction Other notable gems include a great E.J Hughes, full of his best expression of colour and life on the West Coast, a Jean Paul Lemieux that represents his stark, emotional figurative work of the 1960’s, and great examples of Bill Reid’s silver work and sculpture.

Heffel’s have done an excellent job in bringing contemporary art to a broad public in Canada, digging out artworks that are fresh and new to the auction market.

All of the auctions houses have followed that lead, and we are seeing a substantial increase in value of post-war Canadian art. There is no doubt that this art is highly individual and deserves our attention. It has been for far too long under-priced and under-valued in comparison to works of a similar period in U.S.A. and Europe.

One note of caution and advisory, when buying, always know the condition of the work, make sure the work is “prime” period, know its size and “visual power” of the art piece. Don’t buy by catalogue visuals alone.

At 7 p.m. the Heffel sale will change to the historical catalogue. In this sale is the collection of Theodosia Dawes Bond Thorton of Montreal. It is unbelievable that this collection has come intact with original invoices, (on Heffel web site), and is in vintage condition. The story of Ms. Bond Thornton is fascinating, buying art at a time when many did not and having an “eye” for quality that is second-to-none. Although many of the artist’s names might be familiar, note the quality of the artist’s works. There are far too many “perfect” examples here to name individually but I do think there are some hidden gems, possibly under the radar but worthy of attention. Another great story in this sale is the small collection of Emily Carr’s monkey walker, Mr. Twinky Todd!

From Vancouver we move to Toronto, the succession of sales is: BONHAMS, Monday, May 31, at the Park Plaza; JOYNERS, June 1, on Bathurst at Waddingtons; SOTHEBYS, June 2, at the ROM, and, occurring simultaneously, HODGINS, May 31& June 1 in Calgary, and WALKERS, June 2, in Ottawa.

My notes on these sales in detail are likely too numerous or lengthy to include in this brief report. Starting with BONHAMS, this could be a long and possibly tedious sale to investigate. My advice is to go directly to the Canadian Art portion (later). There are some very good contemporary works offered. Bonhams represents auctions at their best and their worst; digging through material to find the hidden gems is par for course.

JOYNERS’ sale has some of the usual suspects in Canadian Historical art, again finding some special pieces. Of special note is the wonderful large early A.J. Casson painted in Glen Williams, Ontario.  Worthy of attention throughout the sale are collected artworks by NOVATEL. These works represent some brilliant examples of contemporary art in Canada, and, for note, are there to be “sold” ( this is confidential information). So my advice is if you’re interested, do not miss previewing and noting the Joyner sale. SOTHEBYS, certainly has some interesting historical items including Arthur Lismer’s study of Sheeps Nose (Ontario). Heffels has the large work done from this study. Honestly, I feel there are some good works within the Sothebys sale and certainly worth attention. But when the bar is set so high by the collection offered in Vancouver, Sothebys are the come-from-behind-team. Unfortuanely, their web site is one of the weak connections to this sale, it needs some serious up-dates. HODGINS, Calgary, features some more works from the collection of Evelyn Fisher, (first offered in the fall), by no means are these second rate. Mrs. Fisher was a forward thinking, excellent collector of note in the community. Late in the sale is one of the best collections of W.J. Phillips wood cuts I have seen in some time. The personal nature and quality of collection is apparent. Finally, WALKERS, always worthy of note as Ottawa does have some established collections and families, possibly something to do with it being a government town! Never-the-less these collections and history are worthwhile investigating as often quiet gems show up. The established nature of Walkers over the years has consistently presented surprising results of benefit to current collectors.

Back to my original statement that there must be some “spring” in the economy to support all of these auction sales of Canadian art. My feeling is a lot of money will be spent in Vancouver, records will fall by the way for many important artists and by the time everyone arrives back in Toronto, there may be some advantageous buys to be had especially in contemporary art and historical too. It certainly is possible that the buoyancy of the earlier western sale could move east.

A last notable tidbit: in later June watch for an online sale of works from a “Prominent Corporate Collection”. The sale will take place June 14 to 23, online bidding only at JOYNERS, Toronto. There is in this collection numerous excellent artworks primarily by noted living artists, many still working across the country. This art is there to be sold, I believe there is excellent value in many of the art works. As corporate operations change in Canada, we will see more of this secondary market trading.

Please always use some caution buying at auction, my advice is always to examine and have good knowledge of market values, quality and provenance. Most web sites provide excellent information and background on works offered, but use caution when buying from image only.

I sincerely hope you can enjoy this up coming season of the Canadian auction market, it is certainly worth taking the time to become familiar with.

Douglas MacLean
Canadian Art Gallery

Current State of theArts Update, Fall 2009.

Before we get to the Fall Update, first, a few things that are on my mind.  I was lucky enough this summer to go around the world, starting in London, and ending in Hong Kong via the Trans Siberian, Trans Mongolian and Chinese National Railway. In all the major cities my wife and I pursued art, historical and contemporary. London was highlighted by a visit to the new Saatchi Gallery. An exhibition titled, American Abstraction, was Saatchi’s latest collecting venture on view with many strong young abstract artists of painting and sculpture part of this huge exhibition. My thought was about Charles Saatchi’s generosity in giving these artists international exposure. But, how many of them will be with us and part of the next American market is a big question. Overall, American Abstraction, is a huge investment in a still-developing scenario of new abstract art. In London as well, The Tate featured a Richard Long retrospective, one of the great  “land artists” of our time with much of his art sited in the landscape itself.

St Petersburg, Russia was next with historical art and especially western European examples prevailing at the world-famous Hermitage. Located in the former Winter Palace of the tsars, the Hermitage is great, and requires one good long day at the minimum. The other must-see is the Russian Museum in St.Petersburg which is also located in a magnificent palace and is a pleasure for its beauty, its art and lack of large tour groups. Moscow is throbbing with art and is vastly under-rated for its cultural and historical sites, varied architecture and museums. We did a great deal of walking, used the subway system (as English only tourists) and in general found culture always in view. There is much to marvel at in both cities and good restaurants are not difficult to find.

While in Moscow, we also visited a newly-opened, privately-owned (but non-profit) art gallery located in an architecturally significant bus garage built in the late 1920s. Called The Garage (or CCC Garage), a portion of Gucci’s Francois Pinault’s contemporary art collection was on view and made an incredibly strong statement about the value of private collections and private museums. From London to Moscow to Beijing, art collectors of both substantial and more modest means are making a case for a significant role in a country’s cultural make-up. Canada has a way to go in this area.

Beijing’s art district, “798”, located in a communist-era factory area, features a large selection of  galleries, cafes, clubs, and artist studios. “798” is certainly  forward thinking, and amazing in its size and scope. One of the high-profile museums, UCCA, at “798” is privately owned and once again shows the  incredible value of personal vision. From there we went to Hong Kong,  a city that features art and public art every where you look. The  Soho art area mixes history with contemporary all within a stroll  through the tight streets of Hong Kong Island.

Back to Canada and the current state of the market and the fall season. We may have thought that the economy would have a huge downward impact  in the world art market, but this is not necessarily turning out to be true. In New York, we have seen a thorough shakedown of galleries, many closed over the  summer, not due to the quality of art but because of the high rents of  the heady past. There has also been a noticeable drop in art fair  attendance by galleries and audiences. Yet, Christies, September 23, held an auction titled First Open, Post War and Contemporary Art, featuring some of the most challenging young artists in the world today: Tracy Emin and Gavin Turk amongst many. The success rate of the sale was very positive with record figures recorded. What this tells me is that people with an interest and specific artists in mind are still there.

In Canada, although somewhat quieter, important contemporary works are still being sought after and collected through private dealers and galleries. Our problem is so few works of particular merit are coming to market. This, however, tends to generate greater interest, and therefore values for artists and art that just a  few years ago, was under the radar.

Examples of this growth are, important works by Painters  Eleven, Regina Five, Automatistes, Plasticiens, and significant works by aboriginal artists. To add to the list I would include a number of the western abstract artists who  although more independent are following close behind the leaders.  Artists such as, Marion Nicoll, of Calgary; Otto Rogers, originally of  Saskatoon, now Kingston; William Perehudoff (Saskatoon) and Gordon Smith of  Vancouver, to name a few. My belief is that the independence of most  of these artists, the quality of work, and the relative periods of  the work produced are all positive factors in the overall increase values. We need to  realise that great art only happens occasionally, and to collect that period from an artists output is key.

So what to watch for this fall in Canada, a quick list of must see’s  would start with the Toronto International Art Fair, (TIAF) October  22 / 25. It is the best way to catch up on the current state of art  in Canada, great lectures and tours, and of course very strong  gallery representation. In London, Ontario, there is the exhibition of Ron  Moppett at the Michael Gibson Gallery. Moppett, I believe is one of  the best examples of contemporary painting in Canada, and is  easily followed by Harold Klunder at the Clint Roenicsh Gallery in  Toronto. This senior Canadian abstract painter also stands on solid  ground. John McEwen at Olga Korper’s, Toronto, is brilliant, he is one of Canada’s most important sculptors. Moving west in Calgary, the Nickle Arts Museum is featuring a retrospective of  Ron Spickett, one of the city’s original abstract artists, too long  forgotten, but now revived in this important overview. (A book has been published on Spickett by the University of Calgary Press) And finally to the west coast, Gordon Smith has proven again that he is an imaginative and evocative senior abstract painter. Seems to me it’s a Fall of male artists showing prominently but I am sure it will change!

In addition, auctions are always on the list, and this fall will prove to be a  very interesting season indeed. The collapse of Ritchies/Sotheby’s  (in Toronto) partnership was a shock to the Canadian auction market.  On the plus side it made surviving auctioneers evaluate their positions, on the negative side, it made clients and consignors wary.  Certainly Joyner/Waddingtons benefited from the break-up, as they  have some very strong consignments for the November 24th sale in  Toronto. Joyner will feature a terrific Lawren Harris panel of Consolation Lake, and a J.E.H. MacDonald from the fabled Lake O’Hara that once again confirms his brilliance  for capturing as he said “the most beautiful place in the world.  Being the first off in a possibly tight market never hurts. Heffel’s fall sale November 26, (in Toronto), will no doubt be the highlight sale of the season as they have landed the very important Band  collection. The Band family collected masterpieces of Canadian art, and the remaining works to be sold in this sale are prime examples. In between these two kick-off sales in Toronto, will be the Walker’s sale of Canadian art in Ottawa, they may be smaller in size but often have some gems turning-up from important collections in-and-around  Ottawa. Bonhams of Toronto will be next up, November 30, with Canadian art.It’s bound to be a good sale, as Jack Kerr Wilson is another auction house director who has benefited from a long and honest history in the market.  Sotheby is apparently going to pull a sale together for early December, possibly the  3rd. We are waiting  on that information. One final auction to watch carefully is Hodgins of Calgary, planned for early December. This sale will feature a very important group of works from the Evelyn Fisher collection. Mrs. Fisher was a very strong collector of contemporary art in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s; some rare and high quality works will be up for sale.

Although we may not be out of the woods yet with our rebuilt  economy, I think the Fall season of art, auctions and fairs is an  exciting one. There is no doubt that collectors of important art in Canada are still active, and the pursuit of rare and quality pieces is still apparent. Art that has crossed my desk recently which is either sold or about  to be, are works by Harold Town, (opened at Ingram Gallery, Toronto), Marion Nicoll, Roy Kiyooka, Ted Godwin, Alex Janvier and Claude Tousignant . I mention  these few to point out that there is still demand, and with caution and good advice one can find and collect well in Canada, at far less value for great works than in many other markets of the world. On a final note, remember the auction house previews are always free, and even if one is not in the market to buy, the review of Canadian  art is a great way to update knowledge of works that may never be  seen again.

Douglas Maclean
Canadian Art Gallery

FINE ART IN CANADA - The current state of the market .

May 30, 2009

In brief, some facts about me and my business.

I have been involved in the Canadian art market since 1976. During this time, I have handled historical, modern and contemporary works of art by Canadian, American and some European artists. I have also overseen corporate collections, commissions and evaluations of public and privately owned collections.

My first step into the business of art was in Toronto, with the Mira Godard Gallery – an excellent learning experience and, at times, a trial by fire! Nonetheless, I have not looked back since. My  experience includes working for Joan Murray at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa) and at the Walter Moos Gallery, (Toronto, Calgary). In 1982, after running my own art consulting practice in Calgary, I bought into the long-established Canadian Art Galleries (1949), becoming the principal owner in 1992, and finally closing the gallery retail space in 1999. With rising rents in the downtown area and opportunities offered by digital communication, I made a decision to operate Canadian Art Gallery (its new legal name) in a different manner. 

Currently, I live in Canmore, Alberta - a Rocky Mountain community about an hour’s drive from Calgary - and run the gallery online. As an online operation, it’s not so much about the website but about the constant and, sometimes instant, communication I have with artists, collectors, art dealers and the art world in general. In this “man in the middle” position, I am able to interact in the art auction market and with commercial (or privately-operated) art galleries across the country.  I serve on the Art Dealers Association of Canada board of directors - over 18 years experience- and of course, am interested and in touch with art across the country including public art galleries.

Current climate and the 2009 Spring auction season:
As one of my very good clients says: “Doug it’s a different world” and indeed it is. Although the recent media coverage of the sales in Toronto were brief and critical of the sales and values achieved, one must always realize the media misses much of what is important in the auction sales of Canadian art. A gravitating pull towards big values in Group of Seven and their associates often leads the media to ignore or, more likely, not even know about, some of the special gems either offered or sold.

What follows is a brief description of the auctions as they happened and what was interesting to me.

My most important point about auctions is that one should not totally rely on the catalogue. One should attend as many free previews as possible where you can see the art - especially before it is acquired by a commercial gallery where, by the time you see the work again, it is at double the price. Art auction previews can also be an opportunity to see art that, if acquired privately, will likely not be seen again for a long while. They can be inspiring places to view people’s interest in collecting Canadian art.

Sotheby’s, Monday June 25, 2009.

The preview revealed a situation of ‘slim pickings’ in consignments. It’s no surprise, in this current climate, that consignors do not want to risk works of art. There are though still estates that need clearing, bankruptcies, galleries ‘cleaning house’ and a variety of other  situations that bring in consignments. The catalogue also gave a picture of a mediocre sale. But just as you cannot judge a book by  its cover the same goes for a sale of Canadian art. Things that  surprised me in the sale include:
Walter J. Phillips, four watercolours, with good provenance, that showed-up in Toronto. Phillips is a western artist with strong associations with Winnipeg, Banff and Victoria. Three of the watercolours were prime period works of high quality. Marc Aurele Fortin, a very pretty work from 1935 that was good but in my view a bit of a “cake box” work as it was almost too predictable.  Obviously someone liked it a lot as it sold for$110,000 plus house premium (important to remember that premium). A Paul Peel watercolour from 1884, of great quality and significance, a rare treasure to see.

In the sale was an Emily Carr work on paper, bought at the height of the art boom when there were very high values for any kind of Carr. Although good quality, which is not always the case, with her works on paper, (be very careful), it was worth a $100,000 at best. But, it was purchased for $300,000 which seemed like a mistake to me. Other works of historical interest, a small and rare J.W. Morrice pastel, in prime condition. Sold well at $60,000. A wonderful undiscovered Lauren Harris mountain work, cheap at $140,000, even though in the catalogue it had little appeal. A different story when seen in the real.  Probably the best-kept secret of the sale, was a large René Richard work, created from a sketch in the 1930’s, when he crossed northern Canada by canoe, dog sled and pure will! It was rare enough to attract a bid of $47,500.

Secrets are worth knowing, and discovering when and where they appear. In the contemporary art section at Sotheby’s, there were some lesser-known but significant works. From the estate of Harold Town, a 1954/55 work of great energy and imagination. A Joe Fafard bronze of Renoir. Fafard’s work is well known and currently, an exhibition of his bronzes, ceramic sculptures and works on paper is traveling the country. A very rare sculpture by Painters Eleven, Walter Yarwood, was a wonderful surprise. Finally, one of the best Takao Tanabe works from his more recent Vancouver Island series, painted literally out his studio window, sold for only $22,000. A very reasonable price - had it been in Vancouver it would have hit closer to retail at $40,000.

Out of a small concise sale of 142 objects, you can see I found my ‘gems’. For a variety of reasons, I do not discriminate against any kind or style of art, except when it’s poor quality art, over-valued or in bad condition. My criterion is to look, understand and “see” the work; evaluating what possible historical value the work has had or will have in the future.

Bonhams, Monday June 25 , 2009

The main reason to note this sale was the very important, albeit, dark moody and menacing 1976 work by Alex Colville. In my view, a Colville needs to provoke to in order to be good, this one possibly too much, especially in current times of guns and mass murders. But that possibly is the essence of this work, of a man with a gun, the artist was prognosticating about the future. It did not find a buyer, and will return, I imagine, to the collector. Colville, I believe to be one of Canada’s most powerful and idiosyncratic artists. The other reason to keep watching Bonhams is their interest in  Canadian history as a whole. In this sale for instance, they had a Victoria Cross and related Canadian medals. Thankfully, the medals will stay in Canada, although buyers from across the pond were interested enough to drive the medals up to $200,000 plus. Who knew! The sale also had some wonderful early examples of Canadian hand-made silver from Quebec, some dating to the later 1700’s, incredible to see! The art side of the sale was lacking in great consignments, and the  sales numbers reflected that fact. My interest was in a early and authentic Norval Morriseau work on  paper. I had $5000 to buy it and it went for $9000. Such is the battle of knowing what's good, and not getting or having enough money to buy. I am very cautious with Morriseau works.

Joyner, May 26, 2009.

The final sale of Toronto, most read the catalogue and saw the lack of important names and pictures, which, to a certain extent was true, but there were a few hidden things worth noting.

And if you don’t go you can’t know! The highlight of the sale, Charles Pachters’ Canadian flag, was not on my highlight list, as the artist is very Toronto-centric, and I don’t believe most of what I see of his art. Nevertheless, it sold for a record price, and someone is  enjoying a painted Canadian flag. The highlights for me were a couple  of very good William Kurelek’s, a Toronto beach scene, and a more a quiet “walk in the fall” painting. Kurelek was one of Canada’s most individual artists, never to be repeated. Most of his work is remarkable. Another great work was Ronald Bloore’s, 1966 Untitled. A member of the Regina Five, this was a prime work, very sculptural, inventive, and most important all “white” in the overall palette.

There were other contemporary works scattered throughout the sale of mostly average artists and average works, some of which were good, selling at decent prices.

The media did not treat Joyner kindly, but the fact was is that the audience was lively in the bidding, they sold a lot of art, in a time, when as we know, things are slow. Of all the sales, I have to say Joyner sales must be previewed, one cannot rely on a catalogue.

To close, the big star sale of spring will be Heffel’s in Vancouver, June 17. They have some stellar material, in contemporary and historical, but caution should be taken as prices achieved could  be ‘stellar’ too. By all means investigate the website and catalogue, to know what the stars are, and take in the preview in Vancouver if you’re there, the education is free!

Finally, the one work never reported in the media, that achieved the highest auction value so far of the spring sales, which so far totalled a so-called meagre 8 million dollars, was sold in Calgary. Hodgins Art Auctions, sold a Carl Rungius painting, 24 x 30 inches, good condition, later period, for a whopping $400,000. Was it the Rungius I would recommend? Not really, but someone loved it and that's all it takes.

I hope you have enjoyed my view which is, of course, based on my opinions and  years of experience in the art business.. The best thing you can do is enjoy Canadian art, contrary to some nay sayers, we are young country with  incredible creativity and some great art.

Douglas Maclean

Abstraction, A Bold New Face: March 5, 2006

Years ago in the mid 1970’s when I was a student at Ontario College of Art in studio practice, my interests included abstract painting. The line at that time was “painting is dead” so even though I had produced some very good work with a floor polisher as my brush, I stayed away from regression and moved on into video work. I reveal this story primarily because of course painting never died, it certainly has had its “ins and outs” “ups and downs” but never completely died. Recently in my travels and investigations I have found painting is again alive very much so in the major cities and studios across this great land.

With this discovery I decided to investigate in particular abstract work that is emerging, and is the Bold New Face as I see it in pure abstraction. In this review I will  not try and present a critical investigation, more a selective survey from which the reader can grasp some of the activity of fresh, bold, new colour and experiments on behalf of these few artists.

So who are the artists that to me represent this Bold New Face, and possibly will be the influences for future young painters? Two artists who first grabbed me, made me look harder, are Marie Lannoo (Saskatoon), and Jonathon Forrest, (Saskatoon). These two were recently part of Spell, very good exhibition investigating current painting at the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon (2005). The curated exhibition featured 12 painters in general exploring abstraction, but showing new faces of that concept and practice. Another artist exhibiting in Spell was Clay Ellis, (Medicine Hat) his combination of materials , sculptural quality, and colour is very inventive and alluring.

Closer to home, two who are presenting this Face are John Eisler, (Calgary) and Mark Mullin, (Calgary). Mullin who recently opened a major exhibition of new work at the Paul Kuhn gallery, is working with bold paint movements combined with solid forms, presented on box like structures (over size stretchers), they are powerful and full of energy. John Eisler creates paintings that give me the feeling of our high speed society, with all the technology of fast cars, high speed internet, and music downloads.

The last two artists who fall into my view of this new approach are Bryan Ryley, (Vernon, BC) and Camrose Ducote, (Vancouver) In my view these later two artists show the influences of previous abstract artists, which I see as a positive. To say something is “brand new” in abstraction is very hard to do.

Now that you know who I am looking at, I will attempt  to give you an idea why. How do these seven (why is that always a number in Canadian Art?), (and I won’t be tempted to say the word “group”), show the change in abstract ideas?

When I see in Jonathon Forrest’s new work, the bold new colour “slabs” of paint laid onto canvas revealing all the edges of pure paint they feel fresh, saturated colour shows some joy and celebration. The deep haunting colour transparencies created by Marie Lannoo, make me want to swim into her space. The use of colour reflection and edges that transfer that colour onto bare walls exhibits a sensitive approach, but  experimentally bold. Both are represented at the Newzones Gallery, Calgary. Clay Ellis working in plastic mediums not known to art previously, creates huge volumes of thick rich colour.  They sometimes are contained in a frame and sometimes hung in sculptural fashion displaying an elegance that one would not think possible. His “ jazz ” series exhibited at the Vanderleelie Gallery, combine in this incredible medium the joy of jazz and the freedom of painting. They are sincerely beautiful works. Previously I mentioned the energy of the work of John Eisler, and that is where they catch me, speeding along with just enough time to stop and enjoy the surface and riot of colour screaming across the smooth surface of his work. Mark Mullin explores palettes of new colour, mixtures of hard and soft paint surface and finally challenges us by pushing the whole for forward with box like canvas structures. Moving west from Calgary,  is Bryan Ryley of Vernon . Recently I saw his large cross paintings at the Paul Kuhn Gallery, and although I can draw references in these works, to previous art and artists, it is his pursuit of “form subject” (crosses) that intrigues me. There is for certain a new “feel” in his drawn flat lines, over laying of colour and again strong experimentation. Camrose Ducote, is likely the quiet one of this group, the appeal of the work is in the drawing, the surface of muted colour with shots of pure colour, certainly reminds me of art from the past, (Twombley, Tapies). The works are etching like in quality but yet work as large format paintings. The most recent exhibition at the Atelier Gallery featured “split” panel works, full on energetic and aesthetic paintings.

In all this “new” abstraction of course I can draw references, to artists from Canada and certainly the United States, does that make them less original? Not in my view, influences are there for the learning, and successful artists realise the benefits. Take Jonathon Forrest, who has seen the work of Perehudoff(Saskatoon) and Christie (Saskatoon), flourish and wane, and yet survive, certainly his devoted colour exploration owes some reference to their influence. Possibly we can connect Clay Ellis to Larry Poons and Olitski, or maybe Graham Peacock (Edmonton). But is that a negative, not to me, it instead further extends painting concepts and opens the doors for new ideas. In Ryley’s work we can think about the Quebec painter Jean McEwen, who worked with cross formats in the sixties. The marks made by Cy Twombly or Antoni Tapies that appear for me in the work of Camrose Ducote, are really a blessing, both of those artists were brilliant in the drawing of paint, and if indeed these are people she has looked at and admired, that is fine. If anything we can re-visit the history and learn the success’s and failures of abstract painting by knowing influences of the tried and true.

Search out these new works by artists that inspired me to look again, gather energy and feel that there is a “Bold New Face” This is certainly a small part of a larger re - look at painting in general, which in my books is not a bad thing.

Doug Maclean
Canadian Art Gallery

ALBERTA: Lily of the Valley: Attila Richard Lukacs, Still Life Paintings / Helen Lukacs, Garden

Feb 16 – May 11, Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff

A couple of things to refresh the collective memory of Attila Richard Lukacs. He is a brilliant painter, as revealed in his work of the late 1980s into the early 1990s, in major exhibitions mounted by the Musée d’ Art Contemporain in Montreal, and Calgary’s Illingworth Kerr Gallery. At the time, his art dealer Diane Farris produced two important catalogues and many exhibitions of his challenging work.

In all his paintings, the subjects were tough, but they had a strange beauty, subjects included. He painted skinheads, monkeys, fauna and flora. His brush interpreted each topic with aggression, energy and experimentation. When he left his home base in Canada in the late 1980s, he headed for Berlin. Arriving in New York in the late 90s, he began a project called Pony Boi, a conceptual mix of music and performance art, partially to exit the past and gain entry to the future. Thankfully, as the new millennium got underway, a re-evaluated Lukacs arrived back in Canada and started working again. I see the works in Lily of the Valley, a series of paintings based on the flowers in his mother, Helen’s garden, as part of a process of recovery. There is nothing like a mother’s garden to rebuild connections to family.

The exhibition will puzzle many. Look at the works – Lukacs’s handling of paint, his subjects, the quiet notations of familiar Lukacs language. I see all these subtle things in the rich layering of deep umbers, the delicate touch in the lilies, the abstract control of paint to reveal realism. The clarity of a glass vase floating in space yet representing perfect form, and the use of words in the art, an element common to his painting, then and now.

References to history abound in the paintings. Some of the works are more successful, some fall short and are mere images. The success is in the fluttering butterflies and crawling caterpillars that capture light and the organization of subject. My favourites are the lily paintings, not just in technique, but because of the story of how he got to them. After receiving a bouquet of lilies from his mother, he manipulated the title of his first painting into the word L.O.V.E. (Lily Of the Valley).

For viewers who miss the “old” Attila and are looking for reminders of the angst, check the painting, Tondo with Fauna and Silver Helmet. It references Lukacs’s known history, examination of subjects and edginess. In the romantic Untitled (monkey with golden landscape), the gold surface attracts the eye, but a closer look reveals tears in the monkey’s eyes, and a magnifying glass reflecting the figure and small dog. Monkeys have been popular subjects for Lukacs in the late 80s. The tears of this monkey bring to mind a comment Lukacs made in 2001 when he was starting to move away from the subject: “ I killed the monkey”. Its still hanging around - look high on the walls for the two sconces. There’s no doubt the depth of the artist makes these paintings work. Stay tuned Attila Richard Lukacs has not left the studio yet.

Douglas Maclean

TORONTO: Toronto International Art Fair

November 3 - 7, 2005, Toronto Convention Centre.

At the centre of Canada — and jokingly at the centre of the universe — Toronto is the only Canadian city that can support an event of the size and scope of the Toronto International Art Fair. For a fair to thrive, critical mass is essential, but so are its location and dates. Moving the fair into the bowels of the Toronto Convention Centre this year was a negative. Changing its timing to dates when other important international art fairs were being held was a double negative. Nevertheless, an estimated 12,000 people attended opening night. Over the next four days, however, attendance was somewhat thin and, although a few booths sold out, sales in general were less than remarkable.

After descending three escalators down into the TIAF exhibition centre, viewers were greeted by a fabulous series of multi-media installations presented by INTERACTIVE 05. These video, sound, electronic, and live projects, curated by Clara Hargittay and Thom Sololoski, were indeed “the culture of our future today.” Nearby, Catriona Jeffries showcased Jeffrey Farmer, who also had an installation at the Power Plant Gallery. Jeffries is a veteran of art fairs worldwide and proudly presents her visions, artists and gallery. Next to her booth, Equinox Gallery exhibited great examples of Canadian art history — Jack Shadbolt, Gathie Falk, Gordon Smith — along with the fresh paint of Etienne Zack, the winner of the 2005 RBC Canadian Painting Competition.

A group of fifteen galleries from Montreal presented examples of senior photo-based artists, such as Genevieve Cadieux (Galerie René Blouin), as well as new sculpture by John Latour (Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain). To see the strength of this work from Quebec was a valuable experience.

The only Calgary gallery to appear consistently at TIAF has been Trepanier Baer. This year they featured stunning new work by Christian Eckhart. Glossed with very bright colour, his trademark fastidious metal surface was more sculptural than in previous works and very exciting to see. They also brought along Chris Millar,  my favourite new painter from the 2005 Alberta Biennial, and some great new soft sculptures from Luanne Martineau.

Other memorable stops amongst the Canadian booths included Miriam Shiell Fine Arts, which showed a Milton Avery, a Sam Francis to die for, and a huge, incredible Riopelle. Mira Godard, as usual, pulled out all the stops, showing recent paintings by Christopher Pratt, Tim Zuck, Stephen Hutchings and a wonderful J. P. Lemieux. The Douglas Udell Gallery, of Edmonton, Vancouver, and soon in Calgary, had a new work from Dean Dreever that bluntly asked questions of “art” and “buying,” as well as a great small painting by Natalka Husas that brought me back to the booth several times (luckily, it sold to someone else!). Nicholas Metivier Gallery exhibited John Hartman’s latest work in his Rivers/Cities series, some John Scott drawings, and an outstanding new work by Joanne Todd.Always bringing an intriguing selection of work to TIAF, the Ingram Gallery showed a strong representation of figurative art by Barker Fairley, Rachel Berman, and Brian Burke. At Jane Corkin’s booth I was thrilled to see Iain Baxter’s light box, Wallace Neon (1967-2002), and a vintage Barbara Astman from her RED series. Last but definitely not least, the contemporary glass shown by Sandra Ainslie Gallery highlighted the astounding new directions this medum is taking.

From outside Canada, New York’s Praxis Gallery presented a standout display of tough but beautiful work by Ignacio Iturria (who also had a simultaneous exhibition at the Power Plant curated by Wayne Baerwalt). A European gallery tht caught my attention was Gallerie Lausberg from Dusseldorf which showed very hip, extreme colour paintings. China Rising, an outstanding installation of contemporary art, was the most compelling view of Asian art today. 

The opportunity at TIAF to see all these new works emphasizes why it is so important to attend art fairs to keep up to date on what’s being done across the country and around the world.

Douglas MacLean

ALBERTA: Form-Space-Concept-Metaphor: Contemporary Alberta Sculpture

Triangle Gallery of Visual Arts, Calgary.

.Often I think the best comes out in summer, contrary to the popular belief that galleries go to sleep. A perfect example is Triangle Gallery’s venture to tell us the story of sculpture in Alberta. Jacek Malec is fast proving to be one of our best, hard-working, investigative curators; his depth of discovery for this exhibition is available at

Form-Space-Concept-Metaphor is ambitious, endeavouring to bring us, in one swell swoop, an overview of sculpture in our province. Malec even mixes in masters of sculpture — it is not often we see the works of Moore, Caro, Lipschitz and Arp combined with some of our local familiar names, but Malec rightly tries to connect the dots. Possibly a bit ambitious, but education is the key, and learning is there for the asking. A wonderful quote is presented in the statement for the exhibition: “the history of sculpture, is the history of innovation.” Keep that in mind; it reveals itself.

One moves through the oddly sculptural space of the Triangle Gallery seeing how each artist uses physical definition through various mediums to define their personal concept within space. The exhibition is quite large, but slowly each work evolves and one can easily pick favourites. Is it cast bronze, new experimental mediums, welded steel, sculptural aluminum or clean soft wood? The variety is all there, professionally handled and presented. It’s an incredible adventure in visual art, possibly conservative in some eyes because of the lack of projected images, words and visual screens, but still completely relevant.

The works I prefer are many, by people I have followed for years plus a couple of surprises. The biggest and one of the best works is by Alex Caldwell, a secret artist toiling away in Southwest Calgary. Is it influenced by Frank Stella? Look at the curious quiet ‘table’ work by Catherine Burgess, always subtle, beautiful and odd. It’s great to see Malec pull in Faye Heavyshield, giving us a piece of her world, and Tim Watkins, from upper New York state, with his quirky movement machines. The innovator of Alberta College of Art & Design sculpture, Katie Ohe, is represented with Mr.Upman, a cast aluminum work that she told me was “impossible” to build, yet there it is — finished and wonderful.

Hope you can take in this timely exhibition of art that is usually squirreled away in sculptors’ studios. People need to see more and know more about these artists’ incredible process-orientated devotion to materials and ideas.

Douglas MacLean