History was made down by the railroad tracks in Calgary on Wednesday night.
Court Painter posing near his studio on auction night
As an endless parade of sleek black cars deposited their guests at the entrance to Court Painter’s humble studio, the casual mingling and chatting with old friends in the alley that typically precedes an evening sale was nowhere to be seen. Instead grandes dames in fur and their husbands in bespoke suits made their way briskly through the blowing autum leaves to secure their seats, only pausing for a quick double kiss here and there; that night, their friends became the competition.
Hired artists with rented car posing as attendees
Court Painter transporting self portrait to auction
Extra orange crates were jammed in wherever possible to push capacity, with 1,000 seats in total, as Jason Kenney, Hillary & Bill Clinton, Chris Cran & the ever vivacious D.Clark filed in with the stragglers. A taut silence fell over the crowd as the kilt and ascot clad lad, A Hardon MacKay, Press Attache to the Court Painter took the auctioneer’s podium setting a tone for the evening: this crowd, including those tethered to their dealers at the phone banks, were itching to make history wherever possible.
Jason Kenney poses for photo op
C Cran & the vivacious Ms. D pose with unidentified couple
AHM strikes dramatic auctioneer pose
Bidding began at a now-paltry $9. Hopefuls from the seated crowd, happy to shoot their paddles skyward when bidding stalled briefly around $15, became dejected spectators as the Court Painter’s work inched steadily higher. At 15 minutes, three tenacious bidders remained. The bids dwindled to increments of 50 cents, then down to 25. The audience, wide-eyed in disbelief, responded to AHM’s raise of the gavel like a violinist to a conductor, iPhones raised to capture the historic moment. “$35!”
Action at the auction
Dramatic photo of photo being taken by unidentified photographer
AHM called out in his sing-song Scottish falsetto, as the crowd gasped. AHM repeated the bid, as if in disbelief himself, and searched for the next price to name, though now it was impossible to predict. “At 35 and looking for . . . another bid please, Mr Cran” he said as the crowd laughed and Cran’s vivacious companion D. Clark elbowed him sharply explaining it was a joke!
Art guards Robert & Alf take their job very seriously
Minutes later, the muted whispers of minutes before yielded to audible guffaws of disbelief as AHM brought down the gavel for the final $35.50 bid from Cran who, by the way ,clutching his pet monkey has curiously changed from his tux into a smock and a moth eaten polyester cape.
C Cran & pet at moment of historic final bid
“I’ve sold four pictures over $10, broken many records, but for me this is the ultimate privilege—the absolute zenith of my career as an auctioneer,”AHM said afterwards. “I should hang up my gavel,” which, he says has sold over $100 dollars of art in its time.
Star attraction of the evening being photographed
A Hardon MacKay speculated that though the work is now privately owned, it will very likely be open to the public, at least at first as “Mr Cran likes to show off his taste. I gather that the Louvre is planning a magnificent show of the Court Painter and I would expect this painting to be loaned to that show . . . Certainly anybody that owns an original Court Painter will be intending to lend it to any major show.”
Rare glimpse of goings on in the studio
The normally unflappable A Hardon MacKay was visibly shaken as he blotted his brow and grappled with the gravity of the moment. He struggled to identify the effect a sale of this magnitude will have on the art market: “I think it’s difficult to fathom at this point. It’s fresh, it just happened,” he said. “The effect of . . . I don’t want to say a giant firecracker . . . but it’s the biggest sale ever, and I think it shows the importance of the artist. People knew this was a once in a lifetime chance. There will be no other chance, and that’s what created this moment.”
Court Painter Self Portrait (very valuable one of a kind)
AHM ended the evening, clutching his kilt in an attempt to hide the damp fact that he had peed himself from all the excitement.
Press Attache & Auctioneer A Hardon MacKay caught in moment of distress