In another high-achieving auction on December 1st, art auction house First Arts has smashed 9 world auction records, bringing in $1.8 million across 158 lots. Works from Jessie Oonark, OC, RCA, John Pangnark and Marion Tuu’luq were among the record-breakers, setting new highs both for the artists and, in some instances, for their communities.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the auction was closed to a public audience, with collectors placing absentee, online and telephone bids instead. Despite the restrictions, however, strong sales propelled a Jessie Oonark wallhanging, Untitled (c. 1974/5), to a price of $156,000, a new record both for the artist and for her community of Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), NU. The highest price previously paid for an Oonark wallhanging was set in a May 2018 auction at Walkers Auctioneers and Appraisers, when another untitled wallhanging sold for $110,000.
Alongside this new record for the artist’s overall sales, one of Oonark’s stonecut and stencil prints, Favourite Daughter (1985), also achieved its highest ever price, selling for $7,200.
Sculptures by Pangnark, Lucassie Usaitaijuk and Henry Evaluardjuk all doubled records previously held for each artist’s work; Pangnark’s Figure (c. 1973/4) sold for $108,000—also setting a new record for work from Arviat, NU—eclipsing the $41,300 record set in a 2017 auction at Walkers. Usaitaijuk’s Mother and Child (c. 1975) also hit $108,000—a new high for another community, Salluit, NU—blowing past the $64,900 record from a 2013 Walkers auction. Evaluardjuk’s Fisherman (c. 1963/4), meanwhile, sold for $55,200, breaking the $24,000 record set at a Waddington’s auction in 2008.
Other new career records for artist work include for Tuu’luq, whose drawing Drum Dance (c. 1976) sold for $6,000; Arnaqu Ashevak, whose print Tattooed Woman (2008) sold for $6,600; Luke Anowtalik, whose sculpture People of the Caribou (c. 1999) sold for $21,600; and Mark Tungilik, whose sculpture Muskox (c. 1978) set a new record both for the artist and his community of Naujaat (Repulse Bay), NU, selling at $9,600.
This auction also tied the highest price at auction for Judas Ullulaq when the sculpture Excited Fisherman (c. 1984) sold for $54,000. In 2019, Waddington’s sold his Shaman’s Face (n.d.) for the same amount, doubling his previous high of $25,000.
This is the second auction First Arts has held during the pandemic which has achieved strong results; in their July auction, ten records were broken for Indigenous artists, among them a print by Kenojuak Ashevak, RCA, CC, and a muskox by Barnabus Arnasungaaq. For the second year in a row as part of their commitment to bolstering Inuit, First Nations and Métis arts communities, First Arts is pledging funding to the Inuit Art Foundation, as well as Indspire.