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Testing the contemporary art market in Canada (again)

Waddington’s Concrete Contemporary sale includes works by artists such as Joanne Tod.

As artists go, Joanne Tod, Wanda Koop and John Scott don't have the widespread name recognition of Emily Carr, Mary Pratt or Lawren Harris.

But among contemporary art cognoscenti in this country, Tod, Koop and Scott are the real deal. Which is why works by them were among the 69 lots on sale last March in Toronto at what was billed as "the first truly contemporary auction of Canadian art held for commercial purposes." Results of that live sale, conducted by Concrete Contemporary Auctions, a new division of venerable Waddington's, were mixed – 32 per cent of the lots went unsold, the sales total of $241,000 well below the low-end pre-sale estimate of $307,500.

Yet they were sufficiently encouraging for Concrete founder and Waddington's vice-president Stephen Ranger to give it another try a year later. Tuesday evening Ranger is hammering down 96 consignments valued by estimate at $439,000 to $624,000. He characterizes the sale as "a little more accessible than the last – there's less conceptual work – and I think qualitatively it's maybe a little better."

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Tod, Koop and Scott are represented again, along with works by Michael Snow, Rebecca Belmore, Gary Taxali and more than 70 others. Keep an eye on Janet, a 1979 resin-and-pigment nude from sculptor Evan Penny. He's coming off a well-attended, critically acclaimed survey show at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and there may be a collector out there for whom Janet's $40,000-$60,000 estimate is more enticement than hurdle.

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James More


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