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Kenojuak Ashevak's Green-tailed Enchanted Owl Breaks Record at Auction

Jan 12, 2023
by IAQ

A green-tailed Enchanted Owl by Kenojuak Ashevak, CC, ONu, RCA, sold for $138,000 at First Arts' December 5 auction, more than tripling the previous world record for this version of the print at auction. The famous stonecut, the red-tailed version of which is one of the world's most iconic pieces of Inuit art, was among many notable pieces sold in late 2022 at auctions held by First Arts Premiers Inc. and Waddington's Auctioneers and Appraisers.

Enchanted Owl was one of the works from the collection of John and Joyce Price that found new homes at the lively First Arts auction in Toronto, ON, at which an astonishing 31 records were broken. Annie Pootoogook’s Portrait of My Grandmother Pitseolak (2011) and Tim Pitsiulak’s Kinngait Town (2010), both drawings in coloured pencil, more than doubled these artists’ previous records, achieving prices of $19,200 and $16,800, respectively.


Tim Pitsiulak
Kinngait Town (2010) Coloured pencil 76.2 x 112.4 cm
Courtesy First Arts Photo Dieter Hessel © the artist

Untitled (The Inuit World), an intricate sculpture in stone and antler by Jackoposie Oopakak (1948–2015) dated to the early ’90s, and Inuttuit, a 1974 stonecut print by Hannah Kigusiuq, both represented new personal records for the artists at auction, with sale prices of $43,200 and $7,200 respectively. Spirited bidding led to a sale of a newer sculpture by Michael Massie, CM, RCA, titled Recalling His Journey (2013) for $23,000, nearly doubling its estimated sale price and setting a new secondary market record for Massie. 

Several dozen pieces at both auctions significantly surpassed their high estimates. A crowd favourite at Waddington’s December 2 auction was Man Hunting at Seal Hole in the Ice (1959), a sealskin stencil by Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU, artist Niviaxie. The small print run generated a lot of interest, and the piece sold for $78,000, nearly double its estimate. 


Man Hunting at Seal Hole in the Ice (1959) Sealskin stencil 48.3 x 30.5 cm
Courtesy Waddington's © the artist

“We’re seeing more bids from more people in more regions,” said Duncan McLean, President and Senior Specialist, Inuit Art, at Waddington’s, in an interview with the Inuit Art Quarterly. While both auctions showed a continued high regard for iconic works from celebrated Inuit artists such as Kenojuak Ashevak, McLean also noted interest in contemporary Inuit artists such as Bill Nasogaluak, whose ivory and stone sculpture Polar Bears on Vanishing Ice (2013) sold for $4,500. (A solo exhibition of Nasogaluak’s work is coming to the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2023.) Another notable piece from Waddington’s was Manasie Akpaliapik’s stone and baleen sculpture Greenland Women and Spirits (1997), which surpassed its high estimate with a sale price of $7,200.

Notably, a total of 169 lots sold at these two recent auctions would be eligible for payment of artist's royalties under the proposed Artist’s Resale Right (ARR) legislation currently under consideration in Canada. The government has signalled that ARR, which would apply to artworks that sell for $1,000 or more, would be included in proposed amendments to the Copyright Act likely to be tabled in 2023. The Art Dealers Association of Canada (ADAC) has said it would like to see the eligibility threshold increased to $3,500, in which case only 110 lots from these recent sales would be eligible for the royalty.

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