Published: November 13, 2012
A sculpture by Inuit artist Joe Talirunili was the highlight of Waddingtons’ Fall Inuit Art Auction on Monday, November 5, selling for $290,656 (price has been converted to US dollars and includes buyer’s premium). The price marks a new world record for a piece of Inuit art at auction.
“The Migration” recounts the harrowing journey of the artist and other survivors on a crowded, hastily constructed skin boat or umiak, and paddling through breaking ice floes to reach safety. The artist visited this theme frequently in his work, in both print and sculpture, but this circa 1970s piece is a crown jewel among those depictions.
Bidding was exceptionally quick on the “Joe Boat,” as the lot sailed past its $100/150,000 estimate before finally being hammered down by Waddington’s President and auctioneer Duncan McLean to thunderous applause. The new record for both genre and artist surpassed the previous high watermark, achieved for another “Joe Boat” in 2006, and also sold by Waddingtons. The result also marks the highest price achieved for any Canadian sculpture at auction this year, and likely in the top three all-time.
Taking place on a chilly evening in Toronto, the price heated up bidding in the room, with artwork by famed artists Judas Ullulaq, Ennutsiak, Karoo Ashevak, Josiah Nuilaalik, Pauta Saila and Jessie Oonark all fetching values at the high end or exceeding their estimates, and driving the total for the night above the high end of presale expectation. The auction slate also featured a rare white stone Pauta Saila polar bear, selling for more than $20,000.
The auction attracted collectors and dealers from across the world. Inuit art specialist Christa Ouimet noted, “We are thrilled with the results of the sale. To have one of the most famous Inuit works in the sale, and to set a new world record for it, makes this a very special night. The results continue to speak to the fact that this is a truly remarkable art form, one that is recognized by art collectors all over the world.”
For additional information, www.waddingtons.ca/inuit-art or 416-847-6184.
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