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Colville’s Dog and Bridge has its day at Heffel’s live sale in Toronto

But fewer than ten buyers physically attended the auction, with most bidding done over the phone and in the “digital salesroom”

Alexander Colville's Dog and Bridge (1976), made $2m ($2.4m with fees)

A record was set for the Canadian artist Alexander Colville, whose Dog and Bridge acrylic painting from 1976 made $2m ($2.4m with fees) at the Heffel spring sale in Toronto on Wednesday, its first live sale since the coronavirus pandemic temporarily closed the sale room. Colville’s previous high mark was for Harbour, which took in $1.6m ($1.8m with fees) in 2015—and also featured a dog.

Colville loved animals, especially dogs, and had a fascination for bridges harking back to his days as a war artist, so Dog and Bridge was a natural tie-in for him. The work’s sale at double its estimate ($800,000-$1.2m), was celebrated by company president David Heffel, who called it “well deserved”.

Another big-ticket item was Joan Mitchell’s triptych Untitled, which made $975,000 ($1.2m with fees), easily surpassing its high estimate of $600,000. Two callers jostled for the piece before it was finally hammered down. Later in the evening, a Picasso oil about half the size of the Colville barely topped $1m, accompanied by a smattering of applause.

Though the virus has had a lesser impact in Canada, fewer than ten potential buyers physically attended the sale, some happily sipping champagne. “We wanted to make it special for them,” a Heffel spokeswoman said. Most of the bidding was handled over the phones or online, through what Heffel termed its “digital salesroom”. There was a strong international response, with some $15m realised over the two sessions.